Today we’re going to be looking at — and hopefully tasting — the quintessentially Spanish Tempranillo. This grape is primarily grown in Spain and Portugal and is a common ingredient in other wines such as Rioja and Syrah. While not particularly common, Tempranillo is also made into a single varietal wine.
Over 80% of Tempranillo production takes place in Spain with the remaining 20% occurring in Portugal, Argentina, Australia, and the United States. The grape itself is fairly hardy and can handle hot dry climates, making it an ideal crop for the Spanish countryside. The resulting juice is fairly flat and neutral so the wine is often aged in oak barrels in order to enhance the flavor.
The most prominent flavors in a bottle of Tempranillo are earthy and fruity, most notably leather and cherry. Other fruit flavors include plum, figs, and occasionally tomatoes. On the more earthy side of the spectrum, expect to taste notes of cedar, tobacco, and cloves.
When it comes to acidity and tannins, Tempranillo falls right in the middle with a medium amount of tannins and a medium acidity. The wine is full-bodied with an overall taste and temperament that puts one in mind of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tempranillo is a pretty easy wine to pair with food thanks to its strong earthy and savory notes. The wine is particularly good when paired with grilled meats and vegetables, as well as smoked foods. The wine is an ideal companion to Mexican food: tacos, nachos, burritos, and chili all go very well with Tempranillo. Additionally, the wine pairs well well with corn-based dishes.
Wines to try
Tempranillo wines are less common than Riojas but it’s not impossible to find a good bottle for as little as $10.
Hacienda López de Haro Rioja Tempranillo ($9)
A wonderfully rich bottle with well-balanced flavors and a pleasing finish.
Bodegas Pascual Buró Ribera del Duero ($20)
Intense dark fruits and a spicy finish are the prime characteristics of this Spanish wine.
Matsu El Picaro 2015 Toro ($9)
A wine for fruit fans, this bottle has strong berry notes with a pronounced amount of tannins.