Tempranillo

A Spanish red variety that has its origins in the vineyards of the Rioja wine region in Northern Spain. Medium to full-bodied with a mix of red and dark berry flavours. With firm and chewy tannins, many winemakers see it as a alternative for the cabernet sauvignon drinker.

What kind of wine is tempranillo?

Tempranillo (pronounced temp-rah-nee-yo) is Spain’s number one grape, which produces a medium-bodied red wine with medium tannin and medium acidity. This perfectly middling profile makes it an accessible choice for novice wine drinkers, but it’s important to not mistake accessibility for simplicity – tempranillo is a far more complex character than all this medium talk might suggest. Tempranillo is known for its versatility, being the perfect partner to any number of dishes. It also offers serious value – you can get a quality bottle of imported Spanish tempranillo for a steal, although there’s every reason for you to be more patriotic, as Australian tempranillo is as good as any on the planet.

What does tempranillo taste like?

Tempranillo is a fruit-forward wine, with the red and purple flavours of plum, cherry, tomato hitting hard, while dill, cedar, leather and tobacco notes pop up later. It’s a very smooth wine, and the tannins will have its delicious taste hanging in the mouth for just the right amount of time. Tempranillo is often described as having the structure of cabernet sauvignon, but the fruitiness of grenache, and as a general rule Australian tempranillo is fruitier than the more earthy Spanish variety. But in reality, declaring the taste of tempranillo is like declaring the length of a piece of string. This grape is famously neutral and terroir-expressive, so the soil, climate, production methods and barrel that it’s exposed to will have a real effect on the final taste of the wine.

What food does tempranillo go with?

You name it. The smoothness and neutrality of tempranillo makes it an excellent companion to almost any food. The earthier Spanish varieties are most famous for their ability to accompany red meats (both cured and grilled), while fruiter Australian styles do their best work next to mushroom, eggplant, ham, lamb, vegetable stew and anything chicken.

What temperature should tempranillo be served at?

Medium-bodied reds like tempranillo are best served slightly below room temperature, at around 15-16C. This can be achieved by putting the wine in the fridge for 30 minutes before drinking, or for those ready to get down on one knee and make a firm commitment to wine, by buying a purpose-built fridge.

Is Rioja just another name for tempranillo?

Rioja is to tempranillo what Burgundy is to pinot noir and the Barossa is to shiraz – simply the grape’s most famous region. This does see the term ‘Rioja’ being used as a synonym for tempranillo, however, which can be confusing for new drinkers (particularly when the entire label is printed in Spanish). Keep an eye out for other common tempranillo synonyms, including Cencibel, Tinta Roriz and Tinto del Toro.

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