Give Tempranillo wine a taste

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After Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the third-most planted grape in the world is Tempranillo.

By Mary Malik

After Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the third-most planted grape in the world is Tempranillo. Surprised? Of the 570,000 acres of Tempranillo planted, Spain claims 500,000 acres, Portugal claims 45,000—where it’s one of the top varieties blended into Port wine, and Argentina boasts 13,500 acres.

“While not much of it is planted in this country, wines produced from this grape are gaining popularity here in the U.S.,” Jim Sperk of the Northern Ohio Wine Guild, says. “The name Tempranillo translates to ‘little early one,’ indicative of its habit of ripening earlier than other grapes in the vineyard. It can be characterized as medium- to full-bodied and has a similar taste profile to Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, although not as rich or full-bodied.”

The two major regions producing Tempranillo wines, both red and rosé, are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Rioja wines can be 100% Tempranillo but sometimes Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano are blended in.

“These wines are easy to drink, typically dry, have moderate alcohol, relatively low acid levels and tend to be lower in tannins,” Jim says. “Flavors lean toward red fruit and leather. Wines from Ribera Del Duero may exhibit higher acid.”

One style of Tempranillo wine typically has less than a year of aging. These wines are generally spicy and juicy with flavors of plum, sour cherry and black pepper. They are usually very affordable and used in sangrias.

“When Tempranillos are aged the tannins are softened, the spiciness is a bit muted and the fruit tends to sweeten,” Jim says. “Some vanilla notes also develop from the aging process in oak barrels.”

There is a cost associated with the storage and aging of wines so expect to pay more for Tempranillo wines that are labeled Reserva or Gran Reserva.

For information on the Northern Ohio Wine Guild, contact Jim Sperk at