Tempranillo

Thrives at high altitudes with contrasting day and night temperatures

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History of the Tempranillo grape

Native to Spain, Tempranillo is well known for being the main grape variety in Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines. Its name derives from “temprano”, Spanish for early, which fits the nature of this variety whose grapes ripen earlier than other Spanish varieties. It has many names within the Iberian Peninsula including: Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, Tinta de Toro in Castile and Leon, and Cencíbel in Aragon. All are actually the Tempranillo grape, although different in name.

Key Wine Information

Location

The Tempranillo grape is native to Spain but it’s grown in other regions including Portugal where it’s known as Aragonêz or Tinta Roríz, but also in the 'New World' in countries including the USA, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and even as far afield as Australia and South Africa.

Grapes

The Tempranillo vine thrives exceptionally well at high altitudes where there’s a big contrast between day and night time temperatures. These two conditions can be found in the Ribera del Duero region in Castile and Leon. Grapes are relatively thick-skinned and grow in bunches that are compact and cylindrical in shape. Tempranillo grapes are very susceptible to droughts and pests. One of the most amazing feature is the change in colour of its foliage in autumn as it turns bright red.

Wine

Tempranillo wines can be bottled as a varietal but are most often blended with other varietals including Garnacha, Mazuelo (aka Carignan), Graciano or Cabernet Sauvignon to add more acidity or increase the alcohol content. Tempranillo's main flavours are strawberries, cherries, leather and tobacco leaf which can make the wine rather savoury. The wine made from Tempranillo grapes has great potential for aging.

Styles of Tempranillo wine

In Rioja, wines follow a strict ageing system where they take some of their aromas from oak barrels, traditionally American but nowadays more and more winemakers are opting for the subtle French variety.

Young:
Not aged and are meant to be drunk within the first year of bottling.
Crianza:
6 months in oak barrels and 1 year in the bottle.
Reserva:
1 year in oak barrels and 2 years in the bottle.
Gran Reserva:
2 years in barrels and 3 years in the bottle.

Reserva and Gran Reserva are not necessarily produced every year as they depend on the vintage quality.

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