Tempranillo is often referred to as the noble grape of Spain. It is a black variety, widely grown to make full bodied red wines that match the very rich dishes of the peninsula.
Wine was introduced in the Iberian area by Phoenicians, in the 8th century BC, so it is different from the French varieties we all know. And the grapes known as Tempranillo (or as Ull de Llebre, in Catalonia, or as Tinta Roriz, in Portugal, to name just a few from more than 50 different names) have been cultivated here ever since.
Tempranillo is native to northern Spain, and mainly grown in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès – La Rioja has been producing this tremendous wine since the 11th century, mainly from this early-ripening, black-hued grape. The wine is aged in French or American oak, adding a layer of vanilla to those characteristic dark fruit and cherry flavors.
Tempranillo pairs well with all types of food because of its savory qualities. Regional Spanish cuisine, which includes roasted vegetables and cured meats, like the lusty jamón ibérico de bellota creates an awesome pairing.
We’ve tasted and would recommend:
A Young Tempranillo
A young Tempranillo has a juicy and slightly spicy style. It typically receives one year of aging – like Celeste Crianza, obtained from grapes grown at 895 meters altitude – or less, like Picaro.
We’ve read about, and will try:
Bold high tannin wines that embellish Tempranillo’s best qualities are aged for several years in oak and bottle. The aging softens the variety’s spiciness and flavors become almost sweet and dried. The extended cost of aging explains why this style typically costs more. Keep your eyes peeled for Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Ramón Roqueta, for example, is a winery that started in 1898 in Manresa, right in the center of Catalonia. The wines are D.O. and their Tempranillo 2012 seems to be a very good choice.
Fruit: cherry, plum, tomato, and dried fig
Other: cedar, leather, tobacco, vanilla, dill, and clove
Oak: typically aged 6-18 months in American or French Oak
Tanin: medium-plus tanin
Acidity: medium-minus acidity
Major Regions: Spain (over 80% of vineyards worldwide), Portugal, Argentina, Australia, USA
Synonyms: Tinto del Toro, Tinta Fina, and Tinto del Pais (Spain); Tinta Roriz & Aragonez (Portugal) – there are over 70 various names for this grape, depending on the region of the Iberian peninsula – from Albillo Negro, Aldepenas and Aragonez to Valdepenas, Verdiell and Vid de Aranda.
What Does Tempranillo Wine Taste Like?
A 100% Tempranillo wine delivers contrasting flavors of leather and cherries. The finer the wine, the more balance there is between earth and fruit. The finish is typically smooth and lingers with the taste of tannin on both sides of your mouth. Tempranillo can be characterized as either a medium- to full-bodied, with red fruit characteristics.