A closer look at Spain’s premier grape – Tempranillo

On November 12 people around the world will celebrate Tempranillo Day, and it only makes sense that we do a quick profile of this wonderful, if not overlooked varietal. While not as dominant in the marketplace as Cabernet or Merlot for example, Tempranillo enjoys broad appeal thanks to its forward flavors and wide range of food pairing options.

Its flavors range depending on the style, but in most cases you can count on rich earthy red fruit, dark leather, baking spice and sweet tobacco flavors.

Tempranillo

Where it’s grown

There are 500,000+ acres of Tempranillo planted worldwide but Spain is the grape’s stomping grounds, accounting for at least half that acreage. Two regions in Spain dominate the production – Ribera Del Duero and Rioja. Despite their close proximity, the style from both these areas differs significantly. Just like we see in the Left and Right Bank of Bordeaux, in Rioja the wine shows off a more refined style with lighter color, more acidity, and brighter red fruit like strawberry and cherry. In Ribera you can expect more concentrated dark red fruit flavor and a fuller body with less acidity.

Tempranillo Wine Grapes Photo © VinoFamily
Tempranillo Wine Grapes | Photo © VinoFamily

Although Spain is the predominant region for Tempranillo, it also extends its roots in other places like Portugal, Argentina, Australia and United States.

Four classifications of Tempranillo in Spain:

Vin Joven does not see much oak and is released young. This is a Spanish table wine meant for immediate enjoyment.

Crianza needs at least two years aging, with six months in oak. Many producers use French or American oak to impart a greater depth of flavor.

Reserva must spend three years aging, with at least one in oak. Because of the extra time in wood, Reserva has even larger flavors, more tannin, and shows off a bolder side of the grape.

Gran Reserva is warranted if a particular vintage is deemed good enough. This classification requires five years of aging, of which 18 months in oak is necessary.

Vega Sicilia is a collector favorite
Vega Sicilia is a collector favorite, and their Gran Reserva is usually released 10-15 years after the vintage.

Pairing Food With Tempranillo

Thanks to its savory character you can pair Tempranillo with plenty of foods, from hamburgers and lasagna to braised meats and pizza. It goes particularly well with mildly spicy Cajun or Indian style dishes.

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Try some of these recipes:

Hanger steak with shallots and mushrooms

Cajun Jambalaya pasta

Rosemary braised lamb shanks

Moussakka

Past Tempranillo Offers

Tinto Figuero Tempranillo Ribera del Duero 12 - 2011 is beautifully balanced, never heavy, loaded with silky red fruits, lavender, hot cocoa, that really awesome Australian licorice with some vanilla on the back end.
Tinto Figuero Tempranillo Ribera del Duero 12 – 2011 is beautifully balanced, never heavy, loaded with silky red fruits, lavender, hot cocoa, that really awesome Australian licorice with some vanilla on the back end.
Tejada Tempranillo Reserve 2006 offers a robust profile of maraschino cherry, crushed fresh black cherries, sweet tobacco and earth and some spicy, exotic oak notes (smoky herbs, clove....) all in a perfectly soft, savory, round mouthfeel.
Tejada Tempranillo Reserve 2006 offers a robust profile of maraschino cherry, crushed fresh black cherries, sweet tobacco and earth and some spicy, exotic oak notes (smoky herbs, clove….) all in a perfectly soft, savory, round mouthfeel.

Resources:

Find out about Spanish Wine on Catavino.net
Tempranillo on wikipedia
Mike Meisner

Mike Meisner

Mike is the resident content creator for the Last Bottle blog. When he's not spilling wine on his keyboard he can be found wandering the aisles in the warehouse with a Coravin in hand, whispering to bottles "This will only hurt for a second".
Mike Meisner

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