is a primary red wine grape for much of Spain, especially
wines from the Ribera del Duero and the Rioja Alta. It is
also a key blending varietal in Port and known by the name
of tinta roriz in Portugal's Douro Valley.
It needs only a short growing season and this early ripening tendency is the source of the name tempranillo, which translates to "little early one". Tempranillo also has many different regional identities worldwide, including aragon, cencibel, extremadura, valdepeñas and many derivatives of each.
Although more genetically stable than most varieties, a mutant clone that produces yellow-green grapes, rather than the normal blue-black ones, was isolated in Rioja the 1980s and is now being distributed to growers by the Spanish government.
Tempranillo vines prefer a cooler climate and have low resistance to many vine diseases and pests. The vines themselves tolerate heat well, but the fruit develops indistinct flavors and undesirable characteristics in warm climes. The vines have a tendency to over-crop and clusters are usually large.
Tempranillo grapes tend to be low both in overall acidity and in sugar, but often high in pH, and nearly always high in tannin from their thick skins, although low in color intensity. Mindful of high tannins, many producers advocate partial whole berry fermentation. In favorable climates such as the cool higher elevation of Ribera del Duero, tempranillo (aka tinto fino, tinta del pais) can make wine that is moderate in alcohol, but long-lived.
Prominent in world viticulture only in Spain, small amounts of tempranillo are also grown in Oregon and California, where it was probably first introduced in the late 1890s. Amador, Calaveras and El Dorado counties, Alexander Valley, Lodi, Sonoma, and Paso Robles all are now producing and bottling tempranillo.
Tempranillo aromas and flavors often combine elements
of subtle berry-like fruit, herbaceousness, an earthy-leathery character (which is sometimes mistaken sensorially for Brettanomyces), and good
minerality. While its varietal character
can be distinctive, it is also somewhat vague and easily overpowered by oak.
Tempranillo Smell and/or Flavor Descriptors
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques,
so this list is neither comprehensive nor exclusive,
Floral: wildflower (not sweet)
Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar
|Herbal: very, can be weedy
||aggressive, thick, powerful tannins can be astringent and drying
Not often bottled as a stand-alone varietal, but frequently used as the base variety in blends, its
most frequent mates are grenache, (aka garnacha
in Spain), carignan (aka mazuelo in Spain's Rioja region) and, more
recently, cabernet sauvignon.
Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society