Tempranillo Wine: What Is It?

Tempranillo Wine oenologist

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Tempranillo is an incredible wine known for its complex tasting notes. If you’ve ever tasted a bottle of Spanish red wine, you can confirm that the taste is an experience to behold. It can be surprisingly fruity and fresh – this is what wine lovers crave.

Read on.


Tempranillo is native to Spain. Since the grape is hardy, the most famous producing regions are Ribera Del Duero and Rioja. Approximately 80% of Tempranillo production is in Spain, with the remaining percentage occurring in Australia, Argentina, Portugal, and the US. For a well-rounded flavor, the grapes require a cool climate and moderate heat.

Spain’s Ribera Del Duero experiences hot summer days and cool breezy nights. During the day, the temperatures average 80 degrees F, and night temperatures can drop to 40 degrees F. The medium warmth contributes to the rich flavors, while the rocky terrains add some mineral notes. Tempranillo is often blended with other grapes but constitutes over 90% of the blend.

Northern Spain has a large diurnal temperature difference (day and night). This allows the grapes to ripen when hanging on their acidity. After harvesting, they are prepared to result in ruby-colored wine.

Tempranillo is derived from Temprano, a Spanish name that means early. This is because the grapes ripen before other varieties.

Some research also suggests that Tempranillo is an old wine that originated in the Iberian Peninsula. Later, it spread to the Spanish-influenced world like Mexico. It’s also worth noting how Tempranillo has been received in other locations – outside Spain. This type of grape thrives in Texas Hill County in the US because the soil and climate are the same.

Tempranillo grape information

Unlike grape varieties like Teinturier or Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo features a thin skin. It determines the viscosity of the wine and plays a crucial role in fermentation. If you like wines with complex flavor (not syrupy), then Tempranillo is a sure bet.

What does Tempranillo taste like?

Since Tempranillo comes from different grape varieties, it can exhibit a black fruity flavor. The most prominent ones are leather and fruity.

It can also have complex flavors with woody and tobacco qualities. These savory tasting notes also come from the age of the wine. For the best quality, Tempranillo is aged for at least 12 months. Generally, the aging process removes the tannings to make the wine more palatable.

The Spanish have developed a system to help wine enthusiasts know the age of the wine. A blend that is aged for more than two years is called a Rioja. Bottles aged for one year are referred to as gran Reserva while younger ones are known as Crianza.

An old bottle offers the fresh fruity flavor of cherry and fig. The younger Crianza focuses on mild fruity aromas, while Reserva presents a deeper black fruit aroma of tobacco, dried leaves, and the iconic leather taste.

Keep in mind that the type of barrel used to make the wine affects the final flavor. For example, American barrels produce sweeter wine than their French Oak Barrels. Since Tempranillo is made in American oak, it produces aromas of coconut, caramel, and vanilla.

If you’d like to taste red dry wine with some earthy notes, you should try the signature Tempranillo wine.

What type of wine is made with Tempranillo grapes?

While there are different varieties of wines, the common ones are blended with red wine. In Spain, Tempranillo is used in a blend that includes Graciano and Garnacha. But these grapes only add the body to the wine.

In Portugal, Tempranillo is used to make Port. The red grapes are blended and fortified – the range of colors depends on age.


Since Tempranillo has some unique spice notes, it pairs with different cuisines. For instance, it goes well with grilled meat (shoulder cuts of beef), braised pork ribs, and fillet mignon. You can also add some vegetables as a side dish.

Tempranillo is also an ideal companion to Mexican dishes like burritos, tacos, and nachos. Some wine enthusiasts like to pair with corn-based dishes. If you love older bottles (they complement intense flavors), you can pair them with a lamb.

Lighter-bodied Tempranillo goes well with seasoned poultry, especially duck and chicken. You can also pair it with oily fish such as salmon. Avoid the white ones. To maximize Tempranillo flavor, you can pair it with cheese risotto. The moderate acidity and tannin go well with spice-laden foods too.

It’s worth mentioning that younger bottles have fresh fruit qualities, so they go well with light pasta dishes.

Before you enjoy your Tempranillo wine, you may want to chill the bottle for a few minutes. This will improve the distinct characteristics and enhance the overall taste. If you’re serving Tempranillo with multiple pairings, you may want to serve it before the more structured reds.

Tempranillo winemaking techniques

The process begins by crushing hand-picked grapes from the vines. After pressing them, they are placed in stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Next, the wine is kept in oak barrels for aging.

Temperature requirements

Before the aging process begins, the barrels are charred at temperatures between 200 to 300 degrees F. This imparts a unique flavor profile that can easily be detected in the finished wine. As the wine ferments, the temperature must be kept between 68 and 86 degrees F.

Types of barrels

While the oak barrel is commonly used to age the wine, it also works well with American and French barrels. The shape and size of the barrel also matter. According to producers, small barrels age better than large ones. They also impart more vanilla flavor notes.

The most famous Tempranillo wine producers use oak barrels to produce the finest vintages. Some regions prefer to use hickory or maple. Another advantage of oak is that it contains tannins that soften when exposed to oxygen.

Where is the best Tempranillo made?

The best Tempranillo wine comes from Navarra Province in Spain. This area is known to produce the finest wine in the world. The second best area is the Penedes region in Northern Spain. Still, you’ll find quality Tempranillo wine from the Extremadura region and Castilla-La Mancha (northern Spain).

What to look for when buying Tempranillo

First-time buyers should pay attention to the labels and understand how they affect flavor. The aging is often listed on the bottles.

Crianza – these wines require two years of aging and are much stronger than other varieties.

Reserva – these wines are aged up to three years to bring out the rich, round flavors.

Gran Reserva – these are phenomenal vintages are aged at least 5 years. Today, most producers will do up to three years in an oak barrel to bring out the rich flavor.

Vin Joven – it’s released and consumed right away.

These designations denote the age of the wine and how long it has aged in the barrel or cask. Any Tempranillo wine enthusiast can admit the best age-worthy wines are made in Rioja. For a full-bodied taste, the producers allow the wines to age more than the recommended period.

Tempranillo vs. other wines

While Tempranillo wines may be identical to Sangiovese, there are some differences. It boasts a more balanced flavor and has more tannin. Tempranillo is also different from Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes have the same flavor but the alcohol content, acidity, color, and sugar levels differ. In addition to that, Sauvignon has a higher concentration of anthocyanin and is more red-colored. One difference between Tempranillo and other wines is the low alcohol content.

Which wines are similar to Tempranillo?

Tempranillo shares common qualities with Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet. Merlots are full-bodied and tend to have a complex color that ranges from purple to ruby. And just like Tempranillo, it has a softer mouthfeel. The only difference is that it has low tannins. On the other hand, Cabernets are heavy-bodied and have a lot of oak influence. They also come from cold climates – this is not the case with Tempranillo wine.

Pinot Noirs are full-bodied wines with fruity aromas of plums, cherries, roses, raspberries, and blueberries. But again, these wines tend to be a little savory and fruiter.

Tempranillo blends

Tempranillo is blended alongside other varieties along the lines of Garnacha or Merlot. Such wines add some complexity and appear more neutral to the palate. Once you taste this wine, you’ll notice its uniqueness compared to varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

What makes Tempranillo wine different?

Tempranillo blends invoke savory notes of raspberries, cherries, blackberries, as well as tobacco. The banquet also combines ripe fruits, herbs, flowers, and woody scents.

This wine is family-friendly, so you can enjoy it on special occasions like anniversaries, Easter, and Christmas. As mentioned earlier, it goes well with different dishes like grilled meat and seafood recipes. Because it’s a full-bodied wine, you can use it alongside chocolate desserts. If you want to impress your guests, this is the type of wine to serve them. Tempranillo is also an excellent sipping wine.

Wrap up

Tempranillo wine delivers the contrasting flavors of cherries and leather. The finish is smooth, and you get the perfect balance of earth and fruit characteristics. This wine is also medium to full-bodied. If you’re craving something different to satiate your taste buds, then this wine can be a great choice. It also works well for folks looking for medium-bodied red wine.

Give it a try!

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