From Goya to Picasso…from Jamón & Chorizo to Paella…from soccer (fútbol) to bullfighting…Spain is a country of many wonders and delights. It is no surprise the country is also home to of one of the most delicious, yet obscure varietals of wine. Tempranillo (pronounced tem-prah-NEE-yo) is an indigenous grape of the Iberian Peninsula.
Brought to the Peninsula by the Phoenicians, thousands of years ago, the Spanish locals took the grape and ran with it—much like they do in soccer. Naming it Tempranillo—after the Spanish word “temprano” (which means “early”) — this varietal ripens earlier than most grapes and thrives in sheltered, cooler regions. (Note: The Phoenicians brought wine to the Iberian Peninsula and from there Tempranillo was born.)
Tempranillo is most widely known as the main component of Rioja—the most popular Spanish red wine. Rioja is a region in Spain, but there are wines that get dubbed with that name. This naming convention is common in viti-culture. For example, Burgundy is a region in France but also denotes wines created primarily with the Pinot Noir grape, commonly grown in the Burgundy region.
There is no doubt that Rioja wine would not exist without Tempranillo. That being said, there are regions such as Ribera del Duero, where the Tempranillo grape is grown, pressed, fermented and then aged in oak barrels to create a bold, rich wine that can stand up to many Cabernet Sauvignons.
Like Goya’s surrealist and romantic paintings, Tempranillo has the audacity to depict itself boldly and with strong character. Medium to bold in body, with bright red fruit flavors, such as cherry, raspberry and tomato—this often oak-aged wine showcases medium acidity and alcohol. However, when grown for the purpose of blending with other varietals, to create Rioja, this grape is picked young or “Vin Joven.”
Although it originated in Spain and crossed lines to Portugal, this grape eventually made its way to Argentina, the U.S. and even Australia.