7 fun facts about tempranillo

Nikki Michaels
By Nikki Michaels
about 1 month ago
4 min read

Any time is a good time to celebrate this spicy, savoury, full-blooded Spanish belleza. In true mofo style, we’re sipping on a glass of tempranillo while outlining this article — and we suggest you do the same while reading it.

1. A B.C. birthdate

Tempranillo is old — like, seriously old. Believed by many to be the wine depicted in the Bacchus mural that serves as proof of wine in ancient Spain, tempranillo’s linked to the Phoenician settling of the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 1100 B.C.

Yep, you read that right. Tempranillo’s older than Jesus.

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2. Light(er) colour, bold flavour

If you looked at it in a glass next to, say, cabernet sauvignon, the lighter colour of tempranillo would likely fool you into thinking it’s got a flavour profile more in line with pinot noir. But it’s actually punchy and bold on the taste and body fronts, with notes of red and purple fruits, complex spices like clove and vanilla, and savoury nuances of game and tomato.

That lighter colour is due to the thinner skin of the grapes, and it generally translates to a less viscous (more medium-bodied) wine — but tempranillo can also climb the body scale all the way to ‘full,’ depending on how young or old the vintage is and how long it spent ageing in oak.

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3. Basically rhymes with Rioja

It’s the most celebrated (and most widely planted) grape in the most famous wine region in Spain. Those celebrated Rioja reds? Tempranillo typically constitutes most — if not all — of them, making it practically synonymous with the acclaimed winemaking area.

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4. Temprano, tempranillo

As a varietal, tempranillo ripens earlier than other red grapes. Typically harvested one to three weeks before its noble brethren, it takes its name from the Spanish ‘temprano,’ which means ‘early.’

Roughly translated, tempranillo means ‘little early one.’ CUTE.

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5. A particular pest sensitivity

The little early one might ripen sooner than its fellow varietals, but it’s not particularly amenable or hardy when it comes to vineyard bothers. The prolific tempranillo, in all its black-graped glory, has a low tolerance for any sort of inclement weather or pests that might bedevil the fruit while it’s growing.

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That being said, if the weather and the pests play ball, tempranillo flourishes in both cooler high-altitude areas and warmer climes.

6. A Port authority

Known in Portugal as tinta roriz, tempranillo is one of the grapes — along with touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta barroca, and tinto cao — used to make the country’s famed and fortified Port wines. It’s also used in the Douro Valley’s respected table wines, and in both, it contributes colour, a base of ripe red fruit, and savoury complexity. Count us in.

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7. A real-leaf beauty

If you didn’t major in oenology, chances are you wouldn’t even be able to take an educated swing at identifying a particular varietal on the vine. But tempranillo’s so distinctive that even a complete neophyte could give the game a good crack.

What should you look for? Seriously serrated leaves (it’s kind of the vino version of a maple leaf) — and, in autumn, a distinctive crimson hue that’s unique in the wine world. Glorious!

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Keen to learn more about red wine? From barbera to shiraz and everything in between, read our ultimate guide here