Tempranillo is a diverse food-pairing wine with a similar tasting profile to Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon. The name “Tempranillo” translates to “little early one” because it ripens earlier than most other major red varieties, such as Garnacha, Monastrell or Cariñena.
Tempranillo, the reigning indigenous red variety of Spain, produces wines of medium-full body, medium-high tannins and medium acidity that fully expresses the taste and character of the terroir it grows on. While there are several options for young Tempranillo, the grape ages very well, and it can be aged in new American or French oak, giving flavors of vanilla, coconut, and baking spice.
Rioja is the most well-known region for Tempranillo, and it is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Occidental. Known for its strict ageing and oak treatment requirements, Rioja produces wines of great ageing potential.
Tempranillo is also known as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais in other regions of Spain. Thanks to Ribera del Duero’s warmer climate and intense sunlight, the wines tend to be darker and more powerful than the red-fruited, high-toned wines of Rioja
Ull de Llebre is the Catalan name for Tempranillo, and it literally translates to Eye of the Hare. Tempranillo from this region, with its varied mix of soils and climatic conditions, boasts incredible versatility and ranges the gamut from light to intense .
When purchasing Tempranillo, it is helpful to understand the labeling requirements and how each affect the flavor. With Tempranillo, there are four legal ageing terms that are listed on most bottles:
• Joven – Rarely aged in oak, released young and meant to be consumed soon after release
• Crianza – Require two years of aging, with six months in oak
• Reserva – Aged three years, with one year in oak. Reserva’s tend to be high in quality and have rich, round flavors!
• Gran Reserva – Aged a minimum of five years before release with 18 months of oak aging, although most producers age the wines for even longer.
In honor of International Tempranillo Day, we’ve put together a list of dishes that pair exquisitely with Tempranillo wines. Enjoy!
• Dishes with tomato-based sauces – Lasagna, pizza, ravioli, pastas!
• Barbecue grilled-meats or smoky dishes including Jamón Ibérico!
• Grits, polenta, and dishes with corn as a major ingredient or as a base
• Delicious Mexican food! Tacos, nachos, burritos, and chile rellenos