Tempranillo is the grape varietal, also known under a variety of other names. In Spain, where it is most widespread, the names include Tinto Fino, Ojo de Liebre, Tinto de Toro, Tinto Madrid, and Cencibel. In Portugal, Tempranillo is often called Tinta Roriz and Aragonez. The origin of this grape is unclear, though many wine experts believe it originated in southern France, as a hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Tempranillo grape is the dominant grape varietal in some of the finest wines of Spain, for example, Rioja, or Ribera del Duero wines. Consequently, these wines are grown primarily in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of Spain. Substantial quantities of Tempranillo grape are also grown in the Penedès, Navarra and Valdepeñas regions of Spain. The grape varietal is extensively grown in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, and in the last 100 years it has been planted in USA, South America, South Africa, Canada and Australia.
Tempranillo vines have a short growing season and this early ripening factor explains the origin of the grape’s name: tempranillo means “little early one”. It prefers a cooler climate, as in hot climates the fruit tends to develop indistinct flavors and some undesirable characteristics.
Tempranillo grape produces medium to full-bodied red wines which are characterized by lower acidity and full fruit flavor. Tempranillo wines are relatively high in tannin due to their thick skins. These wines have typical flavors of plum, cherry, and strawberry with a hint of spice and tobacco. Its aromas and flavors often combine elements of berries, fruit, herbs, vanilla, earth and leather. Tempranillo tends to produce wines of exceptionally dark color. It is often blended with other grapes varietals to create fine richly flavored wines.
Oak aging tends to generate increased complexity and harmony in Tempranillo, adding some vanilla and coffee nuances to the taste. Everyday drinking wines fall under the category of “Crianza”; they are to be drunk young. “Reserva” wines are more complex and concentrated, and “Gran Reserva” denotes the most intense wines, made only in the best vintages, suitable for special occasions.
Tempranillo wine will go perfectly well with Spanish style dishes: tapas, olives, jamon, Chorizo sausage, etc. Grilled or roast lamb, sheep milk cheeses, vegetable casseroles would be complemented by a glass of one of the Tempranillo wines. On the whole, Tempranillo wines are one of the most food friendly ones.