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Everything you need to know about tempranillo wine

Learn the ins and outs of tempranillo, and then get it delivered to your door in under an hour like the wine wizard you are.

Learn the ins and outs of tempranillo, and then get it delivered to your door in under an hour like the wine wizard you are.

Ever heard of the grape or wine variety called tempranillo? If not, it’s time you do. Why? Because it’s a dang good wine that is used on its own and in all sorts of blended wines. So we’re here to tell you all about the goodness that is tempranillo.

What is tempranillo?

Tempranillo is a red wine grape that’s known for being the variety to make the spanish wine, Rioja. It has the structure (read: tannins and acidity) of the cabernet sauvignon grape, and the taste of the grape can really change as it gets older. When a tempranillo  grape is young, it has a fresh and fruity flavor. As it ages (especially in oak barrels,) there’s more flavors of dust, tobacco and leather. Since it's so versatile, it works well in blends, and as a matter of fact, tempranillo is actually one of the top varieties blended into port in Portugal.

You'll mostly find tempranillo is in the wine regions of Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Australia and the US. Depending on where you are in the world, tempranillo may be called something different. For example, if you find yourself in Ribera del Duro, Spain, tempranillo is mostly known as tinto fino or tinta del país, but in Portugal, you'll hear it called tinta roriz.

History of the tempranillo grape

Tempranillo is a veeeery old variety. The earliest mentions dating back to 1807, but it’s theorized that this wine grape was introduced to Spain and Portugal by the Phoenicians around 3,000 years ago. Today, it’s one of the most-planted grape varieties in the world and is considered one of the nine red noble grapes.  If you’re unfamiliar with the noble grapes, there are 18 total, nine red and nine white, that define the range of wine flavor from clear whites to deep reds.

Styles of Rioja

As we mentioned, tempranillo is the main grape used in Rioja wines. There are four different styles of Rioja based on level of aging and price point:
  • Gran Reserva: 2+ years in oak; 3 years in bottle. Most expensive.
  • Reserva: 1 year in oak; 2 years in bottle. Second most expensive.
  • Crianza: 1 year in oak; 1 year in bottle. Second least expensive.
  • Rioja: Low or no oak aging; 1-2 years in bottle. Least expensive. Formally called "vin joven" which means "young wine".
  • Flavor profile of tempranillo

    Tempranillo wines usually have dominant flavors of cherry, dried fruits, cedar and tobacco. The older they get, the more the flavors will change from fruity to more robust. Keep in mind though, each wine will taste a little different depending on the terroir,  influenced by the location of the vineyard. For those who are big fans of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignons, tempranillo is up your alley.

    Varietal characteristics:

  • Flavor: cherry, plum, tomato, fig, vanilla
  • Oak: yes, typically tempranillos are aged for up to 18 months in American or French oak
  • Tannin: medium+
  • Acidity: medium-
  • ABV: ~14%
  • Body: medium to full bodied
  • Food pairings

    Since tempranillos have savory flavors, they tend to go well with a broad amount of good. Since it is a spanish wine, naturally there are a number of spanish dishes it pairs with. But like we said, this wine had range. Don’t be afraid to try it with that pizza you just ordered, your taco night or bring it to a barbecue.