What is the Tempranillo Wine?

Are you looking for a food-friendly red wine aside from the usual Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon? If yes, it’s time to try the Tempranillo wine, Spain’s gift to wine lovers across the globe. What is Tempranillo wine? You’ll get the answer and much more in this article.

Getting to Know the Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo (tem-pra-Nee-yo) is a deep-colored wine grape that hails from Spain. Winemakers use it to produce full-bodied and fruit-forward wines with savory and citrus notes. The name of this typically oak-aged wine comes from the Iberian word ” Temprano,” which means “early .”

It describes the grape’s characteristic of ripening several weeks before its other red wine grape counterparts. Spanish manufacturers label their Tempranillo wines as “Rioja .”It denotes the region where it originated. On the other hand, Portuguese Tempranillo wines carry the “Tinta Roriz” label.

The Origin of the Tempranillo Wine


The origin of this Spanish noble grape dates back to the Phoenician settlements. The first Tempranillo grape was cultivated in the Iberian Peninsula during this time. There are many stories surrounding how this grape came to life.

One legend reveals that in the 1100s, Cistercian monks left some Pinot Noir cuttings at a monastery during a pilgrimage to Spain. It may have implied that Tempranillo and Pinot Noir are distant relatives, but recent genetic studies have debunked this claim.

Another origin story of the Tempranillo reveals that in the 17th century, Spanish conquerors brought this wine grape to the Western Hemisphere regions.

Meanwhile, the 20th century witnessed how this wine flourished around the world. A University of California Viticulture Professor introduced Tempranillo wine to the state in 1905. However, due to prohibition laws, it only gained popularity in the 1980s.

It took a bit longer for the Tempranillo wine to establish a following in Spain. It was only in the 1990s that Spanish growers cultivated the “noble grape” outside Rioja. Presently, growers in Australia, Mexico, Southern France, Argentina, and the US grow the Tempranillo grape.

Interesting Facts About the Tempranillo Grape

  • The Tempranillo vines are easy to spot amidst a lush vineyard because of the leaves’ unique characteristics. It’s deep-lobed and jagged on the edges.
  • During autumn, its leaves turn bright red. A Tempranillo vineyard is a sight to behold during this season.
  • It is the Rioja region’s most dominant grape variety.
  • Tempranillo Blanco the red Tempranillo’s mutated version. It’s the grape variety used to produce the White Rioja.

The Tempranillo Wine Regions


The hardy, adaptable, and productive  Tempranillo grape vine thrives in limestone or clay soil. It also loves chalky and sandy terrain. It grows well in hot climates but can survive in cooler regions better than other Spanish grape varieties.

The Tempranillo grape primarily grows in the following regions:

Central Northern Spain

The high altitude and relatively colder regions of  Alta, La Rioja, and RIoja Alavesa are well-suited for the Tempranillo’s cultivation.

A significant difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures (diurnal temperature) facilitates the grape’s ripening without losing its acidity. Navarra, adjacent to Rioja, is also a place where the Tempranillo thrives. It is called Tinta de Toro in that area.

Central Spain

In the central wine regions near Madrid, in the South of Rioja, the Tempranillo is known as Cencibel. Its unique characteristic of not having an increased alcohol content despite being in a hot zone makes it stand out among other Spanish red grape varieties.

It is why it’s abundant in hot regions like Valdepenas in La Mancha. Producers in this area blend this featured wine with the Cabernet Sauvignon.


Tempranillo is widely cultivated in Portugal, where people refer to it as “Tinta Roriz” in the Douro and Dao regions. Further south in Alentejo, locals refer to it as Aragones. Along with Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional, it is one of the contributing grapes in making the world-famous Port wine.


Twenty years ago, two prominent wine producers in Barossa and Victoria began cultivating the Tempranillo. The first vintage productions were successful, so they continued experimenting with other clones. Since then, the Spanish noble grape has thrived in other parts of the country.

The Tempranillo Terroir

Terroir refers to the factors that go into successfully cultivating grapes in vineyards. The following are the ideal terroir for this grape.

  1. The Tempranillo produces a deeper color and higher tannins when grown in clay soils. However, higher yields reduce the wine’s intensity.
  2. The hardy Tempranillo vine is very productive and drought-resistant. The Tempranillo grape loves the sun. However, its thin and sensitive skin needs protection from the wind.
  3. The Tempranillo wine’s acidity and tannin structure are due to the grape bunches’ ability to stay tight in cold weather.

Find out more about the Tempranillo in this video.


The Tempranillo Wine Flavor Profile

Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon fans would love the flavors of the Tempranillo wine. Here is an overview of the flavor profile of this Spanish drink.

An Overview of the Tempranillo Wine Flavor

Dominant Flavors Cherry, tomato, plum, vanilla, tobacco, dill, and fig
Tannin Medium to high
Sweetness Level Dry
Acidity Medium
Body Medium to full-bodied
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) 13.5 -15 % ABV
Oak Period 12-18 months in American or French oak

Tempranillo Wine Dominant Flavors Per Region


The flavor of Tempranillo wines depends on the regions where the grapes are grown. The terroir and the vineyard’s location affect the taste. The following are the various regions and the dominant flavors of Tempranillo wines.

  • Rioja and Navarra – Wines from these areas in Central Northern Spain have red cherry, pepper, and cinnamon flavors. They also exude excellent tannin structure.
  • Ribera Del Guadiana and La Mancha – Wine tastes fruity and fresh with earthy notes and hints of liquored cherries.
  • Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Cigales in Castiglia Leon – This region’s wines include prunes, chocolate, licorice, fig, and cinnamon flavors.
  • Douro Valley, Portugal –  this region produces wine with raspberry flavors and aroma, including earthy notes.
  • Lisbon, Portugal – Tempranillos from this area have the dominant flavors of tobacco and black cherries.

The Aroma of the Tempranillo Wine

Generally, the Tempranillo wine exudes scents of cooked black currant and black cherry. It also has notes of dry leaves, graphite, smoke, and black pepper. Like the flavor profile, this wine’s aromatic profile depends on the soil’s characteristics and climate.

How to Taste Tempranillo Wines

When served with Tempranillo wine, you may try the following wine-tasting techniques. They can ensure that you get the best sensory experience.

  1. Examine the opacity and color of the wine by looking through the glass.
  2. Swirl the glass for 10 seconds and savor the aroma. Bring your nose closer to the glass and inhale deeply. This step will give you a first impression of the wine’s flavor profile.
  3. Sip the wine and roll the liquid around your mouth. Note the acidity, tannins, alcohol content, and sugar level.

Tempranillo Wine Food Pairing


Tempranillo wine has several savory qualities, making it an excellent option for food pairing. Most regional Spanish cuisine is an exceptional companion to this luscious wine. Strong-flavored dishes from other countries also pair well with the Tempranillo.

Check out the following list of food that goes well with this red wine.

Spanish Food

  • Jamon Iberico de Bellota
  • Cured meats
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Smoked pork and sausages
  • Tapas
  • Chorizo
  • Paella
  • Patatas Bravas

Italian Food

  • Lasagna
  • Pizza
  • Tomato Pasta
  • Antipasti


  • Barbecue
  • Burger
  • Grilled pork and steak
  • Roasted Lamb
  • Lamb Chops
  • Cajun Fillet Mignon

Mexican Food

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Nachos
  • Chile Rellenos
  • Spicy Seafood
  • Chili Con Carne


  • Polenta
  • Grits
  • Ellote


  • Manchego sheep’s milk
  • Pecorino
  • Idrazabal
  • Roncal
  • Smoked Provolone
  • Brie
  • Gruyere

Other Regional Dishes

  • Curry
  • Dry Indian Chili Chicken
  • Jambalaya
  • Cajun Flavored Dishes

Tempranillo wine is not too hard to pair with food. However, it’s best to avoid food with high acidity. It includes dishes cooked in heavy tomato sauce, vinegar, or lemon juice. It can work well with stronger fish and not with milder seafood.

Tempranillo Buying Guide


Walking inside a liquor store or browsing for wine online, you’ll see several labels associated with Tempranillo. It would be best to understand these labeling requirements since they affect the wine’s flavor.

The following are the four legal aging terms you can see in a bottle of Tempranillo.

  1. Vin Joven: Usually, this wine is not aged in oak at all. As the name implies, it is sold young and meant to be enjoyed immediately (Joven means young in Spanish). You can often find this type in Spain.
  2. Crianza: This red wine was stored in an oak barrel for two years of aging and six months. Traditional producers use American oak instead of French oak for a more robust flavor.
  3. Reserva: This Tempranillo type has been aged for three years. One year of which was aged in oak. They have superior quality to the other two. They also have a more luxurious, rounder flavor due to the oak storage technique.
  4. Gran Reserva: This wine underwent five years of aging, with 18 months of aging in oak. Some producers age the wine for 20-30 months in a barrel to achieve exceptional flavors.

Serving and Storing  the Tempranillo Wine

The Tempranillo wine is best served at 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to decant it for around an hour before serving. You can store it for ten years or more in a properly built cellar. Visit Spain Through the Tempranillo Wine

Now that you know more answers to the question “What is Tempranillo wine?” you’ll enjoy it more. Understanding how it flourished in the  Spanish countryside can give you a richer appreciation of its history and features. One sip can transport you to Spain and bring you a wonderful sensory experience.

What is the Tempranillo Wine

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