December 2010

Tempranillo (temp-ruh-NEE-oh)

Grape that Reigns in Spain

Most often associated with Spain, Tempranillo is the backbone of wines made in the well-known Spanish regions Rioja and Ribera del Duero. On the scale of light to heavy, Tempranillo leans on the light side. It tends to be higher in acid and lower in alcohol – common for Old World wines, and perfect for matching to food. Tempranillo is Spain’s candidate for greatness. It gives wines deep color, low acidity, and only moderate alcohol. Modern renditions of Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero region and elsewhere in Spain prove what color and fruitiness this grape has. In more traditional wines, such as those of the Rioja region, much of the grape’s color and flavor is lost due to long wood aging and to blending with varieties that lack color, such as Grenache.

Notable Facts
As a flavor profile, red fruits like strawberries and cherries can predominate – but with a rustic edge. Many wines made from Tempranillo will spend a few years in barrel and bottle before reaching the consumer. Spanish wine laws are very specific about ageing wine and oak is a big part of that. Many Tempranillo-based wines see a few years of oak – add that to a few years of bottle and the wine can give a subtle – and occasionally not-so-subtle – leathery mouthfeel. The combination of the tart fruit and tannins make this wine very food friendly. Tempranillo is also a popular blending partner for Garnacha. In Ribera del Duero in particular. It lends a nice structure to the more plush Garnacha grape. Some winemakers in Australia are also experimenting (quite successfully as we’ve tasted) with Tempranillo plantings and blending with Grenache and Syrah .

Summing it up
Successful Sites:
Spain; Rioja and Ribera del Duero, more recently, Australia

Common Descriptors:
red fruit, cherry, plum, tobacco, leather, herb