Learn about Tempranillo — taste profile, popular regions and more ...
Tempranillo is Spain’s premier and most planted grape variety, accounting for around 20% of all Spanish plantings. Tempranillo translates to “a bit early” in Spanish and its name refers to the grape’s growing cycle, since it both buds and ripens early. Tempranillo is the base of many of Spain’s iconic wines and it is highly regarded by winemakers because of its tremendous versatility and adaptability. Tempranillo wine is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions and important throughout most of Spain. Depending on location, it takes on a few synonyms; in Penedès, it is known as Ull de Llebre and in Valdepeñas, goes by Cencibel. Furthermore, in Portugal, known as Tinta Roriz, it is a key component both in Port wines and the dry red wines of the Douro. The New World regions of California, Washington and Oregon have all had success with Tempranillo, producing a ripe, amicable and fruit-dominant style of red.
Tempranillo Tasting Notes
Tempranillo is a dry, red wine and produces medium-weight reds with strawberry and black fruit characteristics. Depending on growing conditions and winemaking, it can produce hints of spice, toast, leather, tobacco, herb or vanilla. Tempranillo is extremely sensitive to both its growing environment and to winemaking techniques, which makes it difficult to list the most representative aroma descriptors.
Tempranillo Food Pairings
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained soft tannins and good acidity make it extremely food friendly. Tempranillo wine can be paired with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew or paella. Tempranillo also pairs well with traditional dishes from Castile and León (Castilla y León) like roasted lamb or sucking pig (lechazo and cochinillo respectively) or pork chops Sarmiento style (chuletillas al sarmiento). The young wines, in which Tempranillo dominates, offer bright red fruit and licorice flavors that are a good match for the many vegetable dishes that La Rioja de Navarra has to offer.
Sommelier Secrets for Tempranillo Wine
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a naming system is in place to indicate how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release. Rioja labeled Joven (a fresh and fruity style) spends a year or less in oak, whereas Gran Reserva (complex and age-worthy) must be matured for a minimum of two years in oak and three years in bottle before release. Requirements on Crianza and Reserva fall in between.
Bodegas Muga Reserva 2004Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
Cayuse Impulsivo Tempranillo 2004Tempranillo from Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington