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What is Tempranillo wine?
Tempranillo is an Iberian speciality. It’s best-known as the basis for Rioja but it’s grown all over the peninsula in both Spain and Portugal. In recent years, it has been spreading its wings with sizeable plantings in Australia, Argentina and California. Tempranillo is a bit of chameleon grape, making everything from fruity light reds to oak-aged wines.
Tempranillo gets its name because it ripens early (temprano is the Spanish word for early). It goes under a whole host of names in the Iberian peninsula, including tinto fino in Ribera del Duero, cencibel in Somontano, ull de llebre in Catalonia, and tinto roriz or aragonez in Portugal. Tempranillo can be a solo performer, but it’s also a good mixer. In Rioja, it’s often blended with garnacha (grenache), mazuelo (carignan) and graciano. Outside of Iberia, there has been sizeable planting in Argentina since the early 20th century. As a variety that loves warmth, it’s also increasingly popular in Mexico, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon and California.
What does Tempranillo wine taste like?
The classic taste of tempranillo is strawberry, but in hotter climates, such as Toro in Spain, you’ll get darker fruit like blackcurrants. At altitude, such as Rioja Alta, you’ll get more floral aromas like violets, and with tones of aged spices, like cinnamon. Tempranillo has a natural affinity with oak. Traditional Rioja is aged in American oak, lending notes of vanilla, coconut and tobacco. French oak is also used, bringing spices like cloves and liquorice. The best tempranillo-based wines from Rioja or Ribera del Duero can last for decades, but the grape can also be used to make deliciously vibrant light wines designed for early drinking. Light tempranillo wines can be served cool at 12C, whereas sturdier examples should be served at 16-18C.
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What dishes go well with Tempranillo wine?
Tempranillo pairs well with many different types of food. Sommeliers have a saying; if it grows together, it goes together. Since it is the dominant red grape in Spain and Portugal, Tempranillo is an excellent match with tapas and cured meats. Why not enjoy it alongside a feast of our delicious tapas such as ham croquetas, patatas bravas meatballs and sautéed chorizo with red wine? A young fruity Tempranillo pairs nicely with lighter dishes like aubergine or fish. Our griddled vegetables with melting aubergines are the perfect light accompaniment; you can enjoy it as a side dish to our Spanish roast fish with broad beans and chorizo. An aged bold Tempranillo is best with grilled meats such as our griddled chicken & corn on the cob salad.
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