Tempranillo is Spain’s most famous grape variety being responsible for many of its celebrated red wines. Its home is in Rioja although it has also gained fame as Tinta del Pais in Ribera del Duero and as Tinto Roriz in the Douro region of Portugal. It has small, thick-skinned berries, ripens early and can be quite high yielding. As Spain’s leading red grape variety, it is found throughout the country where it is also known as Ull de Llebre and Cencibel. It is often blended with Grenache (Garnacha) although it can ripen two weeks earlier than its blending partner. For that reason it has lower alcohol and marked tannins with aromas ranging from spice, tobacco, leather and fruity notes of strawberry or redcurrant, especially when it is aged for a long time in American oak barrels, which is the custom in Rioja. Tempranillo makes easy-drinking, fruity and very approachable wines but with restricted yields and good extraction during vinification it can produce long-lived, world-class wines.
There are various Tempranillo clones, all suited to different climates. Argentina and California have their fair share of Tempranillo and the grape is becoming increasingly popular in Washington State and in Australia. Here the style of wine is more modern with wines that are more fruit-forward and jammy, deeply coloured and juicy with more structure from aging in French oak barrels.