Grape Varieties: Tempranillo


The Tempranillo is Spain’s most important indigenous red wine variety. In many places, the vine is therefore even referred to as “Spain’s answer to the Cabernet Sauvignon”. Tempranillo serves, among other things, as the basis for the world-famous Rioja wine. Monks from the Cistercian order probably planted the first vines after the reconquest of Spain from the Moors in the Rioja. In general, the grape variety produces dark, elegant and long-lived red wines. The name Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word “temprano” for “early”. Literally translated, Tempranillo means “premature baby”, which refers both to the early ripening of the grapes – especially when compared to the main blend partner from the Garnacha / Grenache grape variety – as well as the small size of the berries.

Tempranillo: one vine, many names

The Tempranillo is cultivated in numerous wine regions on the Iberian Peninsula – but always under a different name. It is also called Cencibel (in Valdepeñas and Almansa), Ull de Llebre or Ojo de Liebre (in Penedès) or Tinto fino (in Ribera del Duero). Tempranillo is the only originally Spanish grape variety that is also cultivated in neighboring Portugal: here it bears in the Douro– and Dãotal the name Tinta Roriz and is an important part of the large port wines. The Tempranillo vines in the Portuguese Alentejo are again called Aragonez, which means “from the Kingdom of Aragon in Eastern Spain”. 

But no matter what the vine is called, one of its characteristics is that it is comparatively robust. Due to its short growth period, it is suitable for growing in somewhat cooler areas. In the Rioja wine region, of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, where the climate is somewhat harsher due to oceanic influences.

Wine full of depth

The grape is often blended into cuvées, for example in the typical Rioja wines with Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. The classic Riojas captivate with their elegance and finesse. They are generally lighter and fruity than Tempranillo wine, which has been developed from a single variety. The old Rioja tradition of expanding the cut in old oak barrels gives the wines their very own vanilla aromas. The Tempranillo itself has a high tannin content and a dark color. Pure wines are low in acid. You can often taste strawberries, plums, and undergrowth and leather in older wines.

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