When you think of Rioja wines from Spain this grape variety comes to mind right away. It is the major grape variety in Rioja wines blended with Grenacha ( Grenache ) , Mazuelo , and Graciano. The latter being the most important because it makes the Rioja long lived , aromatic , and a delicate character.

You see Tempranillo alone does not age well because it has very low acidity so while an all Tempranillo Rioja may keep it’s colour it would lose it’s liveliness and fruit after a few years.

The Tempranillo grape ripens early , a good two weeks before it’s counterpart Grenacha so it’s growth cycle is short. Therefore , although it is defined as a Rioja grape it thrives only in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa subregions where it is cooler than the hotter Rioja Baja subregion where Grenacha rules.

It also needs a lot of the rain that comes to the region throughout the year where it is grown which makes it susceptible to downy mildew , and anthracnose which is when lesions appear on the leafs. In contrast to where it is hot during the growing season and Grenacha is grown with high alcohol content , Tempranillo has to grow in a cooler region that extends the growing season as long as possible. The finished product is lower in alcohol , low acidity , but good colour.

Marques de Riscal from Rioja will usually spice up his Rioja wines with Cabernet Sauvignon and Graciano grapes. Some growers are mixing up these different grape varieties as soon as when they are growing in the vineyard , let alone the production process.

The soils it grows well in are deep calcareous or sandy clay with much better results when the grape is grown on slopes. In the Rioja too, soils tend to be low in phosphorous.

Known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal it is found in Port and table wines from the Duero Region , and in Argentina it is an important grape variety but the quality is leaner and not highly regarded.

Tempranillo is aged in American oak which is far stronger than the oak used in Burgundy. Unoaked , it is ripe and fruity but not particularly distinctive.

The oaked has the vanilla bouquet , plums , black cherry , strawberry on the nose while some wines from the Rioja region may even have tomato puree or ketchup chips as well.

I neglected to mention another region in Spain which grows good Tempranillo , or locally called Tinto Fino , which is the Ribera del Duero region where full bodied wines go well with goose and game dishes.

The finest wines from Rioja go well with a leg of lamb or roast pork and an oak matured Rioja has a pairing with mushrooms that is hard for many wines to pull off. Some Crianza lightly oaked wines can go well with some curries too. Rioja is generally a food friendly wine due to the low alcohol and softness that comes with it from the vanilla and fruit.

On the palate I have always enjoyed a Rioja just because I find it engulfs the mouth and the finish is quite good. There is no spot on the palate left wondering where it’s share of the wine disappeared to.

This is my post on Tempranillo. Hope you enjoyed this one…


  1. Waiter,You sure know your wine. Take care.

  2. Banquet manager…. thanks bro.Stay well.

  3. Sending a link to my friend Gewels, who has a Wine Shop in Baltimore.Very informative Waxman, very nice!

  4. Bulletholes…hope Gewels likes it.Every Thursday try to talk about wine. Thanks Bulletholes!

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