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The Tempranillo
Wine Grape:
The Great Red of Rioja

Tempranillo Wine Grape

The Tempranillo wine grape has not developed the household name in the U.S. that Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir has, yet is one of the world's fine red grape varieties. Confusingly, it is grown in a variety of regions under a variety of names, although its overall worldwide production is far smaller than its more well-known fine red grape brethren. It is best recognized as the backbone of the great Spanish red, Rioja.

The History of Tempranillo

Tempranillo is an ancient Spanish grape variety, whose name appears in writing dating back to the 13th century and even previously. Tempranillo was the main grape grown in Northern Spain for many centuries where production was largely focused in the La Rioja region as well as Valdapeñas.

Qualities of the Tempranillo Grape

Clusters are very darkly pigmented with thick skins. Tempranillo requires warm to hot days followed by cold nights to reach its maximum potential, and for this reason does best at high altitudes where nighttime temperatures can drop drastically. It is highly susceptible to pests and disease making it more difficult to transplant.

Tempranillo Wine Characteristics

Body: heavy
Tannins: medium to heavy
Acidity: medium to low
Flavors: mix of red and black fruit, such as strawberry and plum, as well as earthy and herbal notes adding complexity

Regions Where Tempranillo is Grown

- Spain's Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions
- Portugal's Douro and Alentejo regions
- Popular in South and Central America, including Chile, Argentina and even Mexico
- Not grown in many parts of the U.S. but there are pockets experimenting with this varietal in California and Oregon, as well as New Mexico and Texas

Tempranillo Fast Facts

- Tempranillo is rarely bottled as a single-varietal wine. Typically blended with Grenache, Carignan or even Syrah, Cab and Merlot
- Bottled by regional name in Spain ('Rioja', 'Ribera del Duero')
- In Portugal, bottled by local varietal name ('Tinto Roriz' in Douro or 'Aragonez' in Alentejo)
- Bottled by the traditional varietal name outside of Spain and Portugal
- Famous Producers: Marqués de Cáceres, Vega Sicilia,
- Some vintages can be drunk young, but wines can also have excellent aging potential: 10 - 20 years

Tempranillo Wine & Food Pairing

- Delicious paired with hearty cheeses and meats, especially those with a bit more 'gaminess' to them such as lamb
- Easy Food and Wine pairings with Tempranillo:
    Homemade Chouriço Sausage Pizza
     Beef Wellington

Here are some of our favorites:

  2006 Orobio Tempranillo, Rioja 
Peppery and ripe, with fig-like flavors and a bit of rustic earthiness in the aroma. ($18)

  2001 Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja Reserva 
Softened with age, this wine has a creamy richness that echoes the buttery pastry and sauce. ($20)

Next Variety:   Zinfandel Wine Grape




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