Tempranillo is a grape grown in Spain and can be found as a single vareital, or as the dominant grape in blended reds, such as in a Rioja. When young, Tempranillo is fruity and fresh with cherry and dried fig flavours, with peppery notes. Yet this wine can be oaked and age, revealing complex flavours like cedar, leather and tobacco, along with grippy tannin, making this a treat for serious wine fans.
Classifications of Tempranillo
Tempranillo range from having little oak to 18 to 24 months of oak aging, plus four years of bottle aging.
Robel/Tinto is your least expensive and least aged Tempranillo and are wines that have been aged in oak for a couple months, but not enough to meet regulatory requirements.
Crianza are released after two years of aging, with a minimum of one year in oak barrels.
Reserva are sold after three years of aging, and it must spend 1 year in oak.
Gran Reserva are released after 5 to 7 years of aging, and a minimum of two years in oak. Furthermore, these wines are only made when there is an exceptional vintage, so they do not come out every year. You’ll pay much more money for this bottle.
Tempranillo and Food Pairings
The age of your Tempranillo will determine the best pairing. For example, younger Tempranillo have less complex flavours, so they aren’t suited for heavy or complicated meals.
For Young Tempranillo that are fresh and fruity, we’d recommend chicken wings, turkey sausage, bacon, ham, scalloped potatoes, beef burritos, beef tacos, chili, sole, vegetable stew, pulled pork, roasted eggplant and grouper.
Gran Reserva, with the complexity of this red, we’d recommend it as an after dinner treat, or as a meal itself. Sit back and mull over the leather, dust, tobacco, cinnamon, and chocolate flavours. If food pairings are a must, again we’d go Sirloin Steak, or Lamb Chops as they are tried and true pairings.
Where Else will you find Tempranillo?
Common to Spanish wine, Tempranillo will be found in Rioja and Navarra regions and are perhaps most popular due to their cherry and subtle cinnamon notes. However, Reibera del Duero, Toro, Cigales are three other regions that are common, and you’ll find that these reds have grippy tannin. La Mancha and Ribera Del Guadiana aren’t as popular worldwide, but still offer fantastic Tempranillo reds at an affordable price.
Portugal grows Tempranillo to add to port, however single varietals exist, usually under the name Aragonez.
Argentina, California, Oregon and Texas are toying around with Tempranillo. I’ve never personally tried Tempranillo from the new world, but if I’m ever in Oregon, I’m will be certain to stop into Raptor Ridge as I’ve heard excellent things about Southern Oregon Tempranillo.