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Have you heard of Tempranillo wine, but aren't quite sure how it fits in amongst all the other varietals? Not to worry, we're here to explore into the history and characteristics of Tempranillo and why we love it at Vinodivino. So sit back, pour yourself a glass, and lets dive into it.

Tempranillo, often referred to as Spain's noble grape, is a red wine variety that holds a distinguished position in the world of viticulture. Its significance in Spanish winemaking cannot be overstated, as it forms the backbone of many of the country's most esteemed wines.

Tempranillo, often referred to as Spain's noble grape, is a red wine variety that holds a distinguished position in the world of viticulture. Its significance in Spanish winemaking cannot be overstated, as it forms the backbone of many of the country's most esteemed wines. But what exactly is Tempranillo, and why has it garnered such a prestigious reputation? This article delves into the history, characteristics, regions, and the unique qualities that make Tempranillo a favorite among wine enthusiasts.

The History of Tempranillo

The name "Tempranillo" is derived from the Spanish word "temprano," meaning "early." This is a nod to the grape's relatively early ripening compared to other varieties. The origins of Tempranillo date back over a thousand years, with its cultivation believed to have started in the Iberian Peninsula. Historical records suggest that it was grown by the Phoenicians as early as 1,000 BC.

Tempranillo's prominence rose significantly during the 19th century, particularly in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of Spain. Winemakers recognized its potential to produce high-quality wines that could age gracefully, leading to its adoption and expansion across various Spanish wine regions.

Characteristics of Tempranillo


Tempranillo grapes are typically thick-skinned and dark in color, producing wines that range from ruby to deep garnet hues. The clusters are usually compact, and the berries are medium to large in size.

Aroma and Flavor Profile

Tempranillo wines are known for their complex and nuanced flavor profiles. Common tasting notes include:

  • Red and Black Fruits: Cherries, strawberries, plums, and blackberries are often prominent.
  • Spices: Hints of clove, cinnamon, and sometimes tobacco can be detected.
  • Earthy Undertones: Leather, cedar, and herbal notes add to the complexity.
  • Oak Influence: Depending on the aging process, Tempranillo wines can exhibit vanilla, coconut, and dill flavors from American oak barrels or more subtle toast and spice notes from French oak.


Tempranillo wines typically have moderate acidity and tannin levels, making them versatile and food-friendly. The alcohol content generally ranges between 13% and 15%, providing a balanced and approachable wine experience.

Major Tempranillo Regions


Rioja: Rioja is perhaps the most famous region for Tempranillo. Here, the grape is often blended with other varieties such as Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan), and Graciano to create complex and age-worthy wines. Rioja wines are categorized into four classifications: Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, each indicating the amount of aging the wine has undergone.

Ribera del Duero: Ribera del Duero is another prestigious region where Tempranillo shines. Known locally as Tinto Fino or Tinta del País, the wines from this region are often more robust and full-bodied compared to those from Rioja. The high altitude and extreme temperature variations contribute to the grape's unique expression in Ribera del Duero.

Toro: In Toro, Tempranillo is called Tinta de Toro. This region produces powerful and intense wines with high alcohol content and deep color. The old vines in Toro add to the complexity and concentration of the wines.


In Portugal, Tempranillo is known as Tinta Roriz in the Douro Valley and Aragonez in Alentejo. It is a key component in the production of Port wine and also contributes to many excellent table wines in these regions.

New World Regions

Tempranillo has also found a home in various New World wine regions, including California, Argentina, and Australia. In these areas, winemakers experiment with different terroirs and vinification techniques to produce unique expressions of the grape.

Winemaking Techniques

Harvesting and Fermentation

Tempranillo is typically harvested early in the season to maintain its characteristic acidity. The fermentation process can vary, with some winemakers opting for traditional open-top fermentation methods, while others use modern stainless steel tanks to control temperature and preserve fruit flavors.


Aging is a critical factor in defining the style of Tempranillo wine. The use of oak barrels, whether American or French, significantly influences the final flavor profile. American oak imparts more pronounced vanilla and coconut notes, while French oak offers subtler, spicier flavors.

The aging process in Rioja, for example, is meticulously categorized:

  • Crianza: Aged for a minimum of two years, with at least one year in oak barrels.
  • Reserva: Aged for a minimum of three years, with at least one year in oak.
  • Gran Reserva: Aged for at least five years, with a minimum of two years in oak and three years in the bottle.


Blending is a common practice with Tempranillo, especially in regions like Rioja. The grape's relatively neutral profile makes it an excellent partner for other varieties, enhancing complexity and depth in the final wine.

Food Pairing with Tempranillo

Tempranillo's versatility extends to its food pairing capabilities. Its balanced structure and diverse flavor profile make it an excellent match for a wide range of dishes.

  • Grilled Meats: The tannins and acidity in Tempranillo complement the rich flavors of grilled lamb, beef, and pork.
  • Spanish Cuisine: Naturally, Tempranillo pairs beautifully with Spanish dishes like paella, chorizo, and tapas.
  • Cheeses: Aged cheeses, particularly Manchego, are a delightful match for Tempranillo wines.
  • Hearty Stews: The robust flavors of Tempranillo enhance the savory elements of stews and casseroles.


Tempranillo stands as a testament to the rich winemaking heritage of Spain and beyond. Its ability to adapt to various climates and winemaking styles has solidified its place among the world's most beloved wine grapes. Whether you are enjoying a young, vibrant Crianza or a deeply complex Gran Reserva, Tempranillo offers a journey through history, tradition, and the artistry of winemaking.

Come visit any of Vinodivino's five locations, including our newest location in Marion, to learn more and pick up a great bottle of Tempranillo today.

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