TIP OF THE DAY: Spains Great Red Grape For National Tempranillo Day


November 8th is National Tempranillo Daythe best known grape and red wine varietal in Spain.

Its name is the diminutive form of the Spanish word temprano, which means early.

It was so named because the Tempranillo (temp-rah-NEE-yo) grape ripens, and is harvested, several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.

The wine is full-bodied, with rich aromas and predominantly cherry fruit, plus plums, figs and strawberries in older wines.

Depending on where the grapes are grown, it has earthy flavors such as cedar, cloves, leather and tobacco.

The wine has a medium tannic backbone and moderate acidity.

If you like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, youll like Tempranillo. It is typically aged in American oak, contributing vanilla and spicy notes (can you detect a hint of cinnamon?).

You can get a good Crianza levela wine aged 2 years with with 6 months in oak, for less than $20.00. A decent Tempranillo can be found in the $10 range.

The Reserva wines (aged 3 years with 1 year in oak) and Gran Reserva wines (aged a minimum of 5 years before release with at least 18 months in oak) are more expensive.

If the bottle doesnt carry any of these labels, its meant for early consumption (i.e., drink it soon).


Wines typically pair best with the foods of their region. But Tempranillo can easily leave Iberia and pair well foods from around the globe.

  • Anywhere: braises, charcuterie, chicken/duck/goose, game, grilled meats and poultry, mushrooms, smoked foods (including ham and smoked cheeses, chorizo and other sausages), stews, stronger fish.
  • Italy: pasta, pizza and anything with a tomato-based sauce (including calamari).
  • Morocco: tagines.
  • U.S.: barbecue, burgers, Cajun dishes (e.g. jambalaya), lamb and pork chops and roasts, polenta and other dishes made with corn, steak.
  • Mexico: burritos, chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), chili, nachos, tacos.

  • The younger wines are fruitier and pair well brats and other sausages, plus chicken wings. The California wines tend to be fruiter, and can be paired with salmon and tuna.

    If you want to crack a bottle for an apritif or snack, serve it with classic Spanish accompaniments:

  • Serrano ham (Spains version of Prosciutto)
  • Manchego cheese
  • Green olives


    While many grape varietals were transported from their region of origin to other parts of the world, the Tempranillo grape is indigenous to the Rioja area of Spain.

    The wild vines of its parent grapes were cultivated some 2,000 years ago, and the locals have been wine ever since.

    Tempranillo is mostly grown in three regions* of Spain: in La Rioja plus Navarra and the Ribero del Duero district in the Burgos province in the region of Castilla y Lon.

    It is used in red wine blends from these areas, as well as in single varietal bottlings.

    Spain has 80% of the Tempranillo vineyards worldwide. In 2015, Tempranillo was the third most widely planted wine grape variety worldwide (source).

    But it is planted the world over: in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, South America, the U.S., and a few other countries.


    *What we call regions are called autonomous communities in Spain. There are also provinces.

    [1] There are a number of Tempranillo wines made in California (photo Wedding Oak Winery).

    [2] A cluster of Tempranillo on the vine (photo Sergi Arjona | Dreamstime).

    [3] Filet mignon and other fine beef merits a Reserva or Gran Reserva Tempranillo (photo Ruths Chris Steak House).

    Moroccan Chicken Recipe
    [4] Braised Moroccan Chicken With Green Olives. Heres the recipe. (photo Good Eggs).

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