Tempranillo - king of spain’s winemaking
A trip to the vineyards of the Spanish wine region of Ribera del Duero opened a multi-faceted, complex, and ancient grape variety Tempranillo for me. The unique impression that Tempranillo made on me inspired me to explore its history, features, and perspectives in depth.
The tempranillo phenomenon
Tempranillo grapes are among the top ten world varieties and according to various sources, they occupy the 4th or 5th place in terms of the number of vineyards in the world. More than 80% of Tempranillo production comes from Spain, while the remaining 20% comes from Portugal, Argentina, Australia, and the United States. This variety is quite enduring and can tolerate hot, dry climates, making it an ideal crop for the Spanish countryside.
When I started searching for information about Tempranillo, I came across a huge number of contradictory descriptions of this variety. Some sources indicated that the variety is thin-skinned, while others - that it’s thick-skinned. I also had to get acquainted with many versions of why Tempranillo likes the barrel. This is where the opinions are divided: the tannins of Tempranillo are weak – the barrel strengthens them; or vice versa, the tannins are strong – it is necessary to soften them. So, I realized that I need to turn to the primary sources and experts who work directly with Tempranillo.
Main features of tempranillo grapes
The harsh climate and landscape of this region are well suited for growing tough vines. Winters are cold with frosts known to occur in late spring, and summers are hot, with temperatures reaching 40° C plummeting at night. Here, Tempranillo produces a brightly colored structured wine with a deep fruity taste.
The rich history of Tempranillo is indicated by the number of names belonging to it, which, according to various estimates, counts more than 50. The most famous of them are: Tinto Fino, Chinchillana, Grenache de Logrono, Tempranilla, Tinto Madrid, Ull de Llebre, Marinera, Santiaguera.
Tempranillo is deservedly one of the most popular varieties in Spain, especially in Rioja and Ribera del Duero, which over the past 20 years has managed to take the palm of the red grape varieties from Garnacha Tinta.
Tempranillo: tasting notes
The versatile characteristics of the spanish tempranillo allow winemakers to produce high-quality wines from this variety.
Depending on the duration of exposure, they have a rich garnet color, while still young, and with age, they acquire a bright purple color with a dark purple hue.
The most noticeable flavors in a glass of Tempranillo are red fruits, primarily cherries, and sweet cherries. Other fruit flavors include strawberries, figs, and sometimes plums if the grapes were picked early. In later harvests, expect to feel the notes of dark fruits such as black cherries, blueberries, blackberries. The variety is perfectly combined with oak and can tolerate long aging in new barrels, resulting in full-bodied and temperamental wines.
Despite the current trend that encourages the simplification of the taste and aroma diversity of wines and the reduction of their aging in oak, wineries continue to produce wines from Tempranillo with different aging periods. Tannins play an important role here.
The evolution of the tannins and tanning agents that transmit the wood flavor contributes to the change in aroma, taste, and other characteristics. Over time, the tannin molecules gradually polymerize and eventually form a precipitate. This process ensures that the tannins will no longer give the drink bitterness or tartness, but will make it fresher. Tempranillo is a wine that goes well with food. Especially with meat dishes, grilled vegetables, and smoked meats. It is also perfect for Mexican cuisine and tomato-based dishes, such as stews or lasagna.