Tempranillo is a black grape most commonly associated with wines from Spain, specifically in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. Its name comes from the Spanish word for “early” (temprano), as it is a grape that ripens many weeks before most other Spanish grapes. The grape is one of few that can thrive and adapt well in mountainous regions with continental Mediterranean climates (those that can swing greatly in temperature from day to night). In fact, Tempranillo is best grown in these areas and has recently achieved great popularity and winemaking success in Argentina, Chile, and California.
Tempranillo grapes are usually low in acidity and sugar and contain higher levels of tannins due to their thick skins. The wine is often blended with Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon and ages well in oak barrels. Flavors and aromas most notably found in Tempranillo are berries, herbs, tobacco, black olives and leather.
Many Tempranillo wines are produced for consumption while they are young. This production is known as joven style. Some are given the Spanish term crianza which refer to aged wines, and for excellent Tempranillo wines, some Spanish wineries make a reserva intended for extended aging.
Tempranillo pairs well with with most Spanish tapas, dried cured ham, spicy sausages (like Chorizo), sheep’s milk cheese, and marinated mushrooms.