Tempranillo: the pride of Spain

Tempranillo: the pride of Spain

We’ve covered different Spanish wines in a previous blog, but the not-so-humble Tempranillo (tem-pra-nee-oh) grape is worthy of its own turn in the spotlight! This is a red you simply can’t miss out on. The widest grown (and known) grape in Spain, it’s often been described as ‘complete’ due to its rounded flavours, and the fact it so effectively stands on its own without needing to be blended with other grape varieties. Tempranillo typically offers a wonderful scope of red spice, earth and tobacco notes, with oak ageing adding a layer of vanilla to those characteristic dark fruit and cherry flavours. Yum! As an added bonus, when grown well it has the tannin structure to make for a truly serious, age-worthy red to throw in the cellar for 5-10 years.


The La Rioja region of northern Spain has been producing this tremendous wine since the 11th century, all from the early-ripening, black-looking Tempranillo grape. In recent years, Tempranillo vines and Rioja expertise have made their way to Australia, producing superb quality Tempranillo wines that are continuing to impress even the Spanish.

The most common Tempranillo regions are:

  • Rioja and Navarra (Spain): these wines feature pepper, red cherry, and subtle cinnamon flavours
  • Castilla-León regions of Ribera del Duero, Toro, Cigales (Spain): Typically deeper and darker than the Rioja wines, with more blackberry notes and an overall intense, ‘gripping’ taste
  • La Mancha and Ribera Del Guadiana (Spain): larger central Spanish regions which produce some of the best value Tempranillo wines
  • The Barossa (Australia): Tempranillo has only been planted in Australia for about 20 years, with the first vines in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. Aussie Tempranillo typically tastes of ripe cherries, cloves and blackberry.

Grape facts

Tempranillo is a very old variety. The name, Tempranillo, comes from the Spanish temprano, meaning ‘early’- a fitting name, as the grape ripens earlier than other varieties native to Spain. It’s also one of the most beautiful grapes when seen on the vine: Tempranillo is one of the few varieties where the leaves turn orange and red in autumn - surely one of the most beautiful sights in the vineyard!

Food pairing

While famed for pairing with red meat and ham, Tempranillo is surprisingly versatile, matching well with roast vegetables, smokey barbecue, starchy and hearty pastas, and even Mexican food. As its Spanish origins would suggest, Tempranillo is particularly well-suited to tapas, or shared plates, including chorizo, jamon, patatas bravas and well-flavoured paella. If you’re not a fan of spice, you could also try Italian antipasto, with its array of savoury flavours and textures to match the wine’s complexity.

Tasting notes

When young, Tempranillo can be surprisingly fresh and fruity. However, with oak and age, you’ll find more of the dust, tobacco, and leather flavours.

Some flavours you might be able to detect include:

  • Berries, such as cherry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry;
  • Cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon;
  • Vanilla imparted from oak;
  • Pepper and spice;
  • Leathery, smokey flavours - maybe even a hint of tobacco.

Try these...


El Valiente Tempranillo 2015

Fresh and cheerful: just what you need after a long day!

NZ winemaker, critic and wine judge Sam Kim said the El Valiente is "...finely textured and attractively fruited, wonderfully complemented by spicy, savoury nuances and polished tannins". Basically, it's soft, easy, and just the thing you want tucked in the back of the cabinet for an easy go-to glass of red… if it lasts that long, that is!


Marques de Riscal Proximo Rioja 2014

Made from 100% Tempranillo, this wine hails from one of Spain’s most famous winemaking regions, La Rioja. Beautifully complex and featuring dark fruit, game, nutmeg and clove flavours, some critics even comment on the ‘forest floor’ undertones! The palate is ripe, rounded and silky, finishing nice and smoothly.. A classic wine of La Rioja - this tasty little drop is sure to please.

La Inocencia Tempranillo 2015

This wine is a beautiful, deep cherry red colour. Its profile is aromatic, and it features strawberry and raspberry flavours. La Inocencia is a soft, easy-to-drink wine of medium intensity. This wine has a nice length and a beautiful finish.

Pair with grilled meats, roasted lamb, quail, wagyu beef and cured Manchego cheese.

Obsidian Rosé 2017

Made predominantly of Tempranillo grapes, this Rosé shines a vibrant pink in the glass. On first sniff, the nose is full of intense strawberry flavours with hints of spice. It’s fresh and summery tasting, with juicy acidity and a well balanced sweetness that makes this wine fantastic drinking when lightly chilled.

Tempranillo is one of our favourite grape varieties as it’s so versatile when pairing with food, yet impressive and complex in its flavours - an incredible drop to have on hand in any decent wine rack.


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