The mofo guide to | Tempranillo
Tempranillo has many identities; Cencibel, Tinta Roriz, Aragonéz… there’s too many to mention and we’re sure you’ve not got all day. The need to know is that it’s the principal black grape of the world famous Rioja region in Spain - so pick up a glass, and let’s delve into what makes this drop so damn good.
Why mofos like tempranillo
You’re most likely to find tempranillo coming out of Spain, notably Rioja and Ribero del Duero, but there’s pockets of tempranillo all over the world, from Portugal to Argentina, to our own fair shores where you’ll find it up in the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.
There’s heaps to discover with tempranillo, with styles ranging from bouncy young, juicy and fruit forward to more developed and concentrated, contemplative wines and it pairs great with… well, let's take a look.
What to expect with a tempranillo
Classically tempranillo is known for its juicy red fruited profile - think strawberries and cherries - with more concentrated styles moving into plummy territory.
Oak can play a big part in what you’re finding in your glass too, especially in Spanish tempranillo from Rioja. “Crianza”, “Reserva” and “Gran Riserva” wines are all required to be aged in oak barrels, imparting flavours and aromas of vanilla and cloves.
Tempranillo ripens earlier than a lot of other varietals (it’s name comes from temprano or “early” in Spanish) so it retains a bit of acidity (about the same as a merlot) but it’s thick skins (and common use of oak) give it a tannic profile similar to that of some more rustic wines from Italy and Greece.
Has your Rioja seen some age? Leather and tobacco can also be seen in more developed tempranillo. Age can even enhance that dark chocolate core, making it an all round savoury delight. We weren’t kidding when we said lots to discover!
What temperature should I serve tempranillo at?
Room temperature is great for almost all tempranillos (15-19°C). Young, unoaked Rioja (“Joven”) and similar styles are best enjoyed at the lower end of the spectrum, we even enjoy ours after a 20 minute chill in the fridge on a summer’s day.
What foods pair with tempranillo?
Younger tempranillos without much oak aging can be great guzzlers with your traditional Spanish pollo, chorizo, octopus - anything you can find being hawked on the grilled tapas scene, or thrown in a paella. For your bigger and deeper tempranillos (we’re talking Riserva or Gran Riserva) consider bigger, bolder fare - birra tacos or roast pork shoulder make excellent dancing partners for that rich wine profile.
When should I be drinking tempranillo?
For summer, we love tempranillo to accompany late evening tapas or antipasti, sipping and enjoying the last of the warmth on the balcony in the dusk afterglow. But anytime you’re grilling, consider tempranillo. Park, beach, or bush - fire up the barbeque mofo, we’ll see you there.