Know your Wine Grapes and Food Pairing: Tempranillo
June 20, 2018
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Know your Wine Grapes and Food Pairing: Tempranillo


Tempranillo is a black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain.

Tempranillo Grapes

Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.

Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain’s noble grape. The grape has been planted throughout the globe in places such as Mexico, New Zealand, California, Washington State, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, Turkey and Canada. Unlike more aromatic red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir, Tempranillo has a relatively neutral profile so it is often blended with other varieties, such as Grenache and Carignan (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), or aged for extended periods in oak where the wine easily takes on the flavour of the barrel. Varietal examples of Tempranillo usually exhibit flavours of plum and strawberries. Tempranillo is an early ripening variety that tends to thrive in chalky vineyard soils such as those of the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. In Portugal, where the grape is known as Tinto Roriz and Aragonez, it is blended with others to produce Port wine. With food, Brad suggests leaning to flavours that are mildly spicy. Light savoury Indian dishes involving smoked paprika and minced onion work well. Filet Mignon pairs with Tempranillo extremely well because it is a lean meat and Tempranillo lacks the heavy tannins that work best with fattier meats. Meat Paella and this wine also works well but avoid those dishes with heavier acidic components like lemon juice, tomatoes or vinegar. Tempranillo works well with stronger fish but avoid mild fishes that would do better with white wines. Cheese with Tempranillo is not the best combination. If you are really dying for a cheese pairing though, soft or smoky cheeses will work best.

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