My guest John Rivenburgh is the new president of the Texas Hill Country Wineries association. I’ll talk to John about his history in the Texas wine industry, the wine incubator he’s running at Kerrville Hills Winery, his passion for the Tannat grape, and more. I’ve also got a rundown of everything you need to know about Tannat, one of the top 10 red grapes grown in Texas.
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All About Tannat
13 Facts about Tannat:
- Tannat is one of the most tannic, robust and deeply colored wines. It has the highest polyphenols (antioxidants) of all red wines. That sounds to me like Tannat is the healthiest red wine you can drink.
- Tannat is native to Southwest France. There’s also a bit grown in Italy. Tannat is widely grown in Uruguay. In fact, it’s the signature grape of Uruguay. Tannat from Uruguay is often more lush, with more elegant tannins than those from France.
- In the USA, you can also find Tannat in California (especially Lodi and Paso Robles), in Virginia and several other states.
- Tannat was recognized in the US as a wine grape for varietal bottling for the first time in 2002. Tablas Creek winery petitioned the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to recognize tannat as an approved wine grape. Tablas Creek uses it as both a blending grape and as a single varietal bottling.
- In the vineyard, Tannat is said to be one of the easiest varieties to grow. The berries have thick skins which makes it somewhat disease resistant. The biggest challenge is that the stems are thick and cling to the berries tightly which makes de-stemming difficult.
- In Uruguay, Tannat is commonly paired with their popular local asados, wood fired BBQs using high quality beef. Other high fat dishes are also good matches.
- Common flavors in tannat are various black fruits like black currant and black cherry, chocolate, espresso, and smoke.
- Tannat can benefit from age, so don’t be afraid to lay it down for awhile. Wine Folly says the drinking window is from 5–25 years.
- Texas producers that have recently won medals for Tannat include Ab Astris, Augusta Vin, Rustic Spur, Bending Branch, Cicada Cellars, Longhorn Cellars, and of course Kerrville Hills Winery.
- In addition to making dry red wines, Tannat can be used to produce rosé and even sparkling rose. One of my favorites is a sparkling rose of Tannat by Bending Branch.
- Tannat can even be part of a blend. Cicada Cellars has won awards with its blend of 50% Tannat and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. This is common in France. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Tannat to open it up some and make it more approachable.
- In Texas, Tannat grows in the Texas High Plains and in the Texas Hill Country. Texas Wine Lover website lists 37 different vineyards that include Tannat plantings. If you’ve stood in the William Chris Vineyards tasting room, you’ve probably seen Tannat from their Hye Estate growing right in front of you.
- The last report on Texas vineyards (2019) reported that Tannat is the #10 red grape in terms of planted acreage. There are about 120 bearing acres of Tannat across the state, and production off those acres was about 350 tons. Tannat is showing significant growth in the state. Between 2015 and 2019, about 92 acres of new Tannat started bearing fruit.
Sources: Wine Folly Magnum Edition, Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible, Tablas Creek Website, winery websites, 2019 USDA Texas Wine Grape Varieties.
Interview with John Rivenburgh
John is owner and winemaker at Kerrville Hills Winery and president of Texas Hill Country Wineries.
Shelly’s Wine Education Website:www.toastwinetalk.com
Thanks to Texas Wine Lover for promotional help! For the latest information on Texas wineries and vineyards, visit Texas Wine Lover