Knowing a little about some things is much more useful than knowing a lot about others. But it’s the things you know things about, not what you know about them, that makes it important.
For example, I think it’s far more impressive to be an ungraceful hack on the piano than it is to know everything about, say, human biology. Sure, one might save your life but nothing says ‘most popular guest’ than being able to slide in front of a piano at a hundred o’clock at night and knock out a set list where everyone gets a husky line.
The same can be said for cooking. Knowing how to reduce a sauce, make a jus or whip up a simple pasta with whatever is in the fridge is far more fetching than knowing the particulars of Australian tax law.
Then there’s language, perhaps the most impressive half skill to have. To dance confidently across French sayings, to pronounce Italian dishes mellifluously and, when wandering through Spain, saying ‘un Poquito Espanol’ (a little Spanish) when asked if you speak the native tongue, is a truly enviable half skill to have.
Knowing more than most of my friends about wine is the only decent half skill I have. Friends rely on it, I run with it, and lately, I’m encouraging everyone to have ‘Un poquito Espanol’ in the form of Tempranillo, the native Spanish grape variety that makes a luscious, savoury red wine to accompany you through the wiliest of winters.
Here’s what I tell those whose half skills lie outside of wine …
It’s Spanish – Tempranillo is the King of Spanish varieties. I know it’s a long leap to say that if you drink European wines you will be more sophisticated but it’s true. Sort of. Oh come on, deep down we all think it. Like this one, the 2006 Telmo Rodriguez M2 De Matallana from Ribera del Duero ($90). The pointy end of the style, it’s a mix of stylish perfume, dark fruit and structural harmony, stitched up in the lovely savoury Tempranillo package.
Same same, but different – As a slab of land, Spain has quite a bit going on climactically, continental interiors, scorching days, bracing nights, hills, flatlands, rocks and soils. As a result, not only are the Tempranillos good, with acid and flavour, they have diversity. Take something like the deliciously juicy, biodynamically grown 2008 Atardi Estate Rioja ($38) up against the more savoury 2009 Cillar De Silos El Quintanal Joven from the Ribera Del Duero ($36). Both Tempranillos, different offerings, both delicious.
It travels well – Though native to Spain and one of its most well known exports along side Pablo and Salvador, Tempranillo is made well outside of Spain. Brown Brothers ($17), who have been experimenting with all sorts of emerging varieties in its mini kindergarten winery, has made a top Australian version of the variety.
It sounds fabulous – It’s not as hard, nor as easy, as it looks, but when it’s pronounced right, it dances off your tongue like a tango and sounds you like you can half speak the language. Work with me, “Temp-rah-nee-yo”. Never lose eye contact. Say it with confidence.
Tempranillo has a galaxy of merits not least of all that it is Spanish, something I firmly believe everyone should have in their life, even if it is, ‘un poquito Espanol’.
The Spanish Acquisition – www.thespanishacquisition.com
Brown Brothers – www.brownbrothers.com.au