November 8th is National Tempranillo Day—the best known grape and red wine varietal in Spain.
Its name is the diminutive form of the Spanish word temprano, which means early.
It was so named because the Tempranillo (temp-rah-NEE-yo) grape ripens, and is harvested, several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.
The wine is full-bodied, with rich aromas and predominantly cherry fruit, plus plums, figs and strawberries in older wines.
Depending on where the grapes are grown, it has earthy flavors such as cedar, cloves, leather and tobacco.
The wine has a medium tannic backbone and moderate acidity.
If you like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, you’ll like Tempranillo. It is typically aged in American oak, contributing vanilla and spicy notes (can you detect a hint of cinnamon?).
You can get a good Crianza level—a wine aged 2 years with with 6 months in oak, for less than $20.00. A decent Tempranillo can be found in the $10 range.
The Reserva wines (aged 3 years with 1 year in oak) and Gran Reserva wines (aged a minimum of 5 years before release with at least 18 months in oak) are more expensive.
If the bottle doesn’t carry any of these labels, it’s meant for early consumption (i.e., drink it soon).
Wines typically pair best with the foods of their region. But Tempranillo can easily leave Iberia and pair well foods from around the globe.
If you want to crack a bottle for an apéritif or snack, serve it with classic Spanish accompaniments:
While many grape varietals were transported from their region of origin to other parts of the world, the Tempranillo grape is indigenous to the Rioja area of Spain.
The wild vines of its parent grapes were cultivated some 2,000 years ago, and the locals have been wine ever since.
Tempranillo is mostly grown in three regions* of Spain: in La Rioja plus Navarra and the Ribero del Duero district in the Burgos province in the region of Castilla y Léon.
It is used in red wine blends from these areas, as well as in single varietal bottlings.
Spain has 80% of the Tempranillo vineyards worldwide. In 2015, Tempranillo was the third most widely planted wine grape variety worldwide (source).
But it is planted the world over: in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, South America, the U.S., and a few other countries.