Wondering if Tempranillo wine would be a good addition to your fine wine collection?
Tempranillo (pronounced “tem-pra-NEE-yo”) is the wine grape used to produce one of Spain’s most admired, age-worthy red wines.
Tempranillo wine has the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, the nature of Carignan, and is a red wine you just have to experience!
Where can you find Tempranillo today? How does it compare to other red wines? What food goes best with this red wine?
In this article, explore all about the grape varietal and the wine, including eight fabulous Tempranillo wines you can add to your wine cellar. You’ll also discover the easiest way to buy a bottle of Tempranillo wine.
This article contains:
(Click on the link to jump to the section)
- What Is Tempranillo?
- Tempranillo Characteristics
- Fun Facts About Tempranillo
- Food Pairings With Tempranillo Wine
- What To Look Out For When Buying Tempranillo Wine
- Best Tempranillo Wines To Buy in 2021
- 2004 Bodegas Contador - Benjamin Romeo 'Contador', Rioja DOCa, Spain
- 2018 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain
- 2010 Teso La Monja, Toro, Spain
- 2014 Dominio de Pingus 'Pingus', Ribera del Duero, Spain:
- 1999 Bodegas Valduero 12 Años Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain
- 2016 Dominio de Es 'La Diva', Ribera del Duero, Spain
- 2015 Vatan Arena Tinta de Toro, Toro, Spain
- 2012 Marques de Riscal Frank Gehry Selection, Rioja DOCa, Spain
Let’s get started.
What Is Tempranillo?
Tempranillo is a grape used to make a variety of full-bodied red wines predominantly in Spain. Known as Spain's noble grape, its name comes from the Spanish word “Temprano,” which means “early.”
Tempranillo grapes ripen several weeks earlier than any other popular Spanish red grape. Tempranillo grows in tight clusters of thick-skinned black grapes on the vine.
The grape is most popular in the Spanish and Portuguese regions, which include Rioja, Navarra, Douro, and Ribera del Duero. Today you will find it being grown in Old World and New World wine regions as well.
A Brief History Of Tempranillo
Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the times of Phoenician settlements. Legend has it that the Cistercian monks left Pinot Noir cuttings at the monasteries during their pilgrimage in Spain during the 1100s. (Although this implied that Tempranillo is related to Pinot Noir, genetic studies recently disproved it.)
Some believe that the grape was introduced to the rest of the Western Hemisphere in the 17th century by Spanish conquerors.
In the 20th century, Tempranillo started making its way around the world. Frederic Bioletti, a University of California professor in Viticulture, brought Tempranillo to California in 1905. With prohibition around the corner, it was only in the 1980s that Tempranillo flourished in California.
Meanwhile, in Spain, Tempranillo only started to shine in the 1990s. Around this time Spanish growers started cultivating the Tempranillo grape outside the Rioja region as well. (The cultivation of the native varietals Graciano and Mazuelo in Rioja started much later.)
Today, outside of Spain, you’ll find Tempranillo grown in Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Southern France, and the United States.
Tempranillo grapes need warm days and cooler nights and are best grown at relatively high altitudes. To get it’s high sugar levels, thick skins, and dark color, Tempranillo needs the sun’s warmth during the day.
The grape grows well in soils rich in calcareous clay, limestone and chalk. When Tempranillo is grown in clay-based soils, it produces higher tannin levels and has a deeper color.
The continental climate that it grows in makes Tempranillo grape juice flat and neutral. To help enhance the flavours of Tempranillo, the winemaker ages the wine in oak barrels for a couple of years. (More on the oak aging in a bit.)
Let’s take a look at the primary flavors and taste profile of Tempranillo.
Taste Profile and Primary Flavors
Depending on how long Tempranillo wine has been aged in oak, you will find slightly different flavors in each bottle, including fruit, leather, and cherry. Other flavors include figs, plums, and sometimes tomatoes. In a more earthy Tempranillo, you’ll find notes of cedar, tobacco, and cloves as well.
Depending on the winemaking techniques, Tempranillo wines range from a medium to full-bodied wine with medium tannins and low-medium acidity.
You can expect chunky tannin or high tannin levels and a noticeable acidity in pure Tempranillo wine, as these will complement each other.
The overall taste of a full-bodied Tempranillo will remind you of Cabernet Sauvignon.
How are the two grapes similar or different from each other?
Tempranillo Vs Cabernet Sauvignon
Tempranillo is to Rioja what Cabernet Sauvignon is to Bordeaux. Both are used as the dominant wine blended with other wines to plump up the fruit taste or to add body and character to the blends.
But, unlike the aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo has a neutral profile.
Tempranillo is usually blended with Grenache and Carignan, or extensively aged in oak to give the wine its flavor. While Tempranillo is not as rich as Cabernet, it is very complex with layers of flavors.
Fun Facts About Tempranillo
- There is a white mutation of Tempranillo grapes called Tempranillo Blanco, and it has tropical fruit flavors.
- Tempranillo is the fourth most planted grape variety globally, even though 80% is grown in Spain.
- Tempranillo is among the world’s nine red noble grapes.
- Tempranillo vines are easy to identify because of their deep-lobed and uneven leaves.
- Tempranillo grape turns a brilliant red in the fall.
- Tempranillo is a grape variety that’s often used in Port wine blends in Portugal.
- This red wine has many synonyms. Aragonês, Cencibel, Tinta de Toro, Tinta del Pais, Tinto Fino, Aragonez, Alentejo or Tinta Roriz, and Ull de Llebre - they all refer to Tempranillo wine.
- Tempranillo is often blended with Garnacha - another hardy grape varietal grown in Spain. Garnacha adds body, and its signature raspberry notes to the red wine.
Food Pairings With Tempranillo Wine
Since Tempranillo has savory qualities, it pairs well with different types of food.
A great bottle of aged Tempranillo will pair well with steak, gourmet burgers, and a well-cooked rack of lamb. Younger, fresher Tempranillo wines, however, pair well with baked pasta and other tomato-based dishes.
What To Look Out For When Buying Tempranillo Wine
When you buy a bottle of Tempranillo, look at the labels closely. Understanding these four terms from the wine labels will help you choose a flavor you want.
- Vin Joven: Vin Joven (meaning young wine) is the former name of Rioja wine. These wines are rarely aged in oak and are released young. These are intended to be consumed straight away and are difficult to find outside of Spain.
- Crianza: Crianza refers to red wines that are aged for two years, with six months traditionally in American oak barrels. (American Oak is much stronger than French Oak.)
- Reserva: These red wines are aged for three years, with one year in oak. This aging gives the wine rich, round flavors because of the minimum oak requirement.
- Gran Reserva: This label is reserved for exceptional vintages. They are aged for at least five years, with 18 months of oak aging before release. Some producers aged their Gran Reserva for 20-30 months in an oak barrel to enhance the flavor.
Key Producers of Tempranillo wine
These winemakers are known to produce great bottles of Tempranillo wine:
- Bodegas Emilio Moro
- Bodegas Roda
- Bodegas Vega Sicilia
- La Rioja Alta
- Viña Otano
Here are three things to look out for when you buy your next bottle of Tempranillo wine.
- A youthful, higher quality Tempranillo will have a ruby-red hue and bright red rim.
- Look out for flavors that include red cherry, black cherry, raspberry, and a subtle savory note of dried tomato and red pepper.
- Go for a Tempranillo wine that has been aged in American or European oak for at least 12 months.
Now, here are eight fabulous bottles of Tempranillo that you should add to your wine collection!
Best Tempranillo Wines to Buy in 2021
1. 2004 Bodegas Contador - Benjamin Romeo 'Contador', Rioja DOCa, Spain
From making wine in his father’s garage in 1996, Benjamin Romeo has now become one of the world’s most respected vintners.
This 2004 Benjamin Romeo 'Contador' has a nose of black and red fruit, with hints of black chocolate, balsamic notes, and baking spice. This Rioja wine has velvety tannins and a round, never-ending finish that your palate will thank you for.
Price of a 2004 Bodegas Contador - Benjamin Romeo 'Contador': $2158
2. 2018 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain
The Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero is the signature of Vega Sicilia and is usually released 10 years after the vintage. Some Gran Reserva del Duero bottles may not be released for up to 15 years.
The 2018 Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in sandy soil plots.
This Ribera de Duero wine undergoes one of the longest aging for any red wine. It spends most of its time in various American oak and French oak barrels and then three years in a bottle.
Interestingly, Tempranillo is simply called Tinto Fino or Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero.
Price of a 2018 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva: $1574
3.2010 Teso La Monja, Toro, Spain
Produced by one of the leading Spanish winemakers, Sierra Cantabria, this wine presents a thick texture, well-integrated tannins, and a gentle acidity.
This rich, soft red wine leans towards the sweeter side and offers plenty of plum and dried cherry fruit.
Price of a 2010 Teso La Monja: $1,419
4. 2014 Dominio de Pingus 'Pingus', Ribera del Duero, Spain:
Domino de Pingus is a small wine producer in the Ribera del Duero region. This winery immediately developed a following in 1995 after the vintage got rave reviews from Robert Parker.
This Ribera del Duero is a great wine with an aroma of fruit, including blackberries, plum sauce, and tobacco. It has notes of dark fruit and tannins at the forefront, followed by cassis, currants, plums, and tobacco leaf. It’s easy to see why this Ribera del Duero red wine is known as one of the best wines in Spain.
Price of a 2014 Dominio de Pingus 'Pingus': $1148
5. 1999 Bodegas Valduero 12 Años Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Another rich and intense red wine from a Ribera del Duero vineyard, this wine is made in Bodegas Valduero wine estate.
This concentrated Ribera del Duero red wine has complex aromas of ripe black fruit, menthol notes, leather, and tobacco. With its velvety beginnings, the wine lover in you will be left with a long-lasting finish.
Price of a 1999 Bodegas Valduero 12 Años Gran Reserva: $956
6. 2016 Dominio de Es 'La Diva', Ribera del Duero, Spain
Produced by the winemakers of Domino de Es, this red wine has a silky texture, great harmony, and an elegant taste.
This Ribera del Duero vintage is 17% white Albillo Mayor grapes fermented with Tempranillo with indigenous yeasts in a small oak barrel. This wine has a cherry red color, a nose of black fruit, plums, and just a hint of red fruits. The 2016 ‘La Diva’ also has notes of balsamic and spice, and a significant concentration of fruit.
Price of a 2016 Dominio de Es 'La Diva': $581
7. 2015 Vatan Arena Tinta de Toro, Toro, Spain
The 2015 Vatan has a saturated color and sensational notes of blackcurrants, dark chocolate, melted licorice, smoked earth, and violets.
This full-bodied, rich Spanish Tempranillo has a flawless balance, smooth tannins, and a fabulous finish that will tantalize your palate.
Price of a 2015 Vatan Arena Tinta de Toro: $435
8. 2012 Marques de Riscal Frank Gehry Selection, Rioja DOCa, Spain
Produced by one of the oldest and most famous wine estates in Rioja, this red wine takes its name from one of the greatest architects of modern times, Frank Gehry.
With its intense and complex nose, you will discover notes of ripe, dark fruit and balsamic nuances. Your palate will love the polished tannins and toasted notes from the aging in oak casks (in new French oak.)
Price of a 2012 Marques de Riscal Frank Gehry Selection: $346
Now, what’s the best way to buy the finest Tempranillo wines?
Buy And Store Your Tempranillo Wines Perfectly Through Vinovest
Want to open a Tempranillo wine at the next party with your wine enthusiast friends? Vinovest will deliver it straight to your doorstep to enjoy.
How It Works
Investing in wine with Vinovest is easy. Follow these four easy steps:
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- Track your fine wine portfolio online and watch it grow!
Here are eight reasons why you should choose Vinovest as your partner to buy, sell, and store your fine wine.
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Vinovest also makes sure your wines are packed and delivered safely to your home (if you want to open it) or to a buyer (if you sell it).
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Invest wisely with the help of Vinovest’s expert sommeliers and data scientists. They will use a proprietary financial model to help you build a high-performing portfolio.
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Sleep easy and know that all of your wines are being taken care of 24/7. Also, when you use Vinovest for all your wine needs, every bottle is covered for breakage or loss.
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- Every Bottle Is Yours
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- Low Overall Costs
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Tempranillo is the perfect red wine for a cozy dinner and will also age beautifully if stored under perfect conditions.
The easiest and smartest way for you to buy and store Tempranillo, any Spanish wine or Pinot Noir is to use Vinovest’s intelligent online wine investment platform.
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