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The Tempranillo Grape


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About Tempranillo

(Synonyms: Aragón, Aragones, Aragonez, Arauxa, Boton de Gallo, Cencibel, Chinchillana, Chinchilyano, Escobera, Garnacho Foño, Grenache de Logrono, Jacibiera, Jacivera, Negra, Negra di Tinta de Nava, Tinta del Pais, Tinta de Toro, Tinta Madrid, Tinta Monteira, Tinta Monteiro, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Santiago, Tinto Aragónez, Tinto de Madrid, Tinto de Rioja, Tinto de Toro, Tinto del Pais, Tinto Fino, Ull de Liebre, Valdepeñas, Verdiell, Vid de Aranda)

Background

Map showing the Iberian peninsula

Tempranillo is a red-wine grape originating millennia ago in the Iberian peninsula (today comprising Portugal and Spain). It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes. Today, it is still a major grape in its homeland, but is also planted in nontrivial amounts in many other wine-making regions globally. It is often described as the signature grape of Spain, which may be an exaggeration, considering some of the others.

As with almost all wines of the Old World, monovarietal bottlings were traditionally rare; Tempranillo, however, has often been a dominant element in those regionally named blends in which it appears. Tempranillo wines are typically somewhat low in both sugar and acid, which is why other varieties are often blended with them. In the modern world, however, with emphasis shifting (especially in the New World) from regions to specific varietals, monovarietal bottlings are more common than formerly.

Tempranillo does not do well in hot climates, which is why it has long been cultivated mainly in the northern regions of Spain and Portugal. The main Spanish appellations for Tempranillo-based wines are Rioja and Ribera del Duero, though with the varietal’s increasing popularity, plantings elsewhere in Spain are appearing. In Portugal, it is not quite as major a player, but participates in the wines of central Alentejo and Douro. In the U.S., Tempranillo is emerging as the signature grape of the rapidly developing Texas wine industry; it is also grown in the usual other places, California, Oregon, and Washington State. Extensive plantings also exist in the wine-making countries of South America, Argentina and Chile, as well as in the emerging Mexican wine arena.

Tempranillo wines are typically quite dark in color. Its aromas and tastes are those of a major red wine: berry, tobacco, leather, vanilla, herb. Blends tend to make wines that are intended to be somewhat more fruity.

To quote Elizabeth Schneider, “Though most places in Europe focus on terroir or the soil and the flavor that derives from the vineyard, Rioja is more about the process of making it – the grapes used and how long the wine stays in a barrel determines quality.” Spanish Tempranillo wines have labelling that describes how the wnes were treated, which is usually a good clue to how well the vintner thought of them. Those are:

At least in the Rioja appellation, whence much Spanish Tempranillo, there is now a significant divide between wineries making Tempranillo in a “traditional” manner and those making it in a “modern” manner, which some might call “internationalized”. You should try some of each style to see what your preference is.

Factoid: Tempranillo appeared in Iberia in the time of the Phoenician colonies there; the Phoenicians spread winemaking knowledge throughout their expansive culture.

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Some Descriptions of Tempranillo Wines

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Some Tempranillos to Try

(About this list.)

Artadi “Viñas de Gain” Rioja

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
  (CellarTracker has two separate listings for this wine.)
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



La Rioja Alta “Viña Alberdi” Reserva

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Bodegas Antidoto Ribera del Duero
(Do not confues this with any of their named bottlings, such as “La Cigarra”.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Bodegas Obalo “Crianza”
(This is not their “La Tarara” Crianza.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



LAN Reserva Rioja
(Don’t confuse this with any of their numerous other Rioja bottlings.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

Our nomination is the CVNE “Imperial” Gran Reserva Rioja. (“CVNE”—more properly C.V.N.E.—is the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, a regional winemaking co-operative; CVNE is also sometimes rendered CUNE, as if it were a word, to make a pronounceable acronym—said ‘coo-nay’—out of an unpronounceable initialism.)

This wine is typically about 85% Tempranillo cut with a few other Spanish reds, such as Graciano and Mazuelo (which latter is actually Carignan).

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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This page was last modified on Thursday, 23 January 2020, at 12:54 pm Pacific Time.