Tempranillo – What’s The Grape


 Tempranillo is one of the most important indigenous grape varieties in Spain. It is the fourth most planted grape in the world (2015), with 87% of the vines grown in Spain. The name Tempranillo is a diminutive of the Spanish word temprano, meaning early, as the grape ripens much earlier than most other Spanish black grapes.

It is the main grape used in Rioja, where this fairly neutral grape is traditionally matured in distinctive American oak.

The vines have been grown in Portugal (Aragonez and Tinta Roriz) for centuries, where it is used to make table wines, as well as in blends for Port.

Tempranillo can also be found in France, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Myanmar, New Zealand, Thailand, and South Africa where it is the 22nd most planted grape in the country at 38 hectares planted.

Also known as:

There are more than 80 synonyms for Tempranillo. Here are a some of them, including the more familiar names Valdepeñas , Tinta Roriz, Cencibel:

Negretto, Santo Stefano ( Italy ); Valdepeñas ( California ); Aragón, Aragones, Aragonez, Aragonez da Ferra, Aragonez de Elvas, Arinto Tinto, Roriz, Tinta Aragonez, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Santiago ( Portugal ); Albillo Negro, Aldepenas, Arauxa, Arganda, Botón de Gallo, Castellana, Cencibel, Chinchillana, Chinchilyano, Escobera, Grenache de Logrono, Jacibiera, Jacivera, Negra de Mesa, Piñuela, Sensibel, Tempranilla, Tempranillo de la Rioja, Tempranillo de Perralillo Tempranillo de Rioja, Tempranillo de Rioza, Tempranillo Rioja,  Tinta de Nava, Tinta del País, Tinta del Toro, Tinta do Inacio, Tinta do País, Tinta Fina, Tinta Madrid, Tinto Aragónez, Tinto de Madrid, Tinto del País, Tinto Fino, Tinto Madrid, Tinto País, Tinto Ribiera, Ull de Llebre, Verdiell, Vid de Aranda ( Spain ), Garnacho Foño ( South America

On the vine:

This thick skinned black grape has little resistance to pests and disease - it's susceptible to mildew and wood rot, though not to botrytis. Tempranillo is also sensitive to wind and drought.

The vines require both cool climate conditions to retain elegance and acidity, as well as heat to ripen the thick skin for its colour and tannins, and produce higher sugar levels. Hence, it is best suited to continental climates.

The thick skinned grapes form compact cylindrical bunches of round blue-black fruit with a pulp devoid of colour. The leaves are large, jagged edged and 5-lobed, turning a vivid red in autumn.

In the bottle:

Naturally low in acidity and sugar/alcohol, you can expect notes of cherry, strawberry, plum, dried fig, vanilla, leather, dill, tobacco and cedar. With darker berries and dried leaves showing in older wines.


Tempranillo is capable of ageing for 5 to 10 years. However, bear in mind that Rioja’s are released with a fair amount of development. Crianza level wines spend a year in oak, with a few months in bottle before release. Gran Reservas, the oldest, aren’t released until they’re a minimum of 5 years old of which 2 years are spent in oak and 3 in the bottle.

Wine review:

Wildehurst Tempranillo 2017

Medium garnet in colour with a shy nose of salty black cherries, tomatoes, weak black tea, rose petals, leather, tobacco and dried mushroom powder.

Dry, medium bodied and low tannins. Florals, raspberries, oranges, cranberries, salty charcuterie, musk, cooked fruits, tomatoes. Medium length finish. It takes a moment to open up, but it’s a really pretty wine.

Pairing Suggestion:

 I’d be remiss for not starting with Paella, but any tomato based saffron laced dish would do well with Tempranillo...maybe a Moroccan tagine. Chorizo sausages laden with spice and paprika. Aubergine filled moussaka. The moderate acidity and tannins in the wine would compliment medium spicy dish like chilli con carne. And let’s not forget the cheese board with hard cheeses like aged gouda.

Find the Wine:

Only 330 bottles were made of this Wildehurst Tempranillo. www.wildehurst.co.za

Other wines to try:

Mount Sutherland Tempranillo

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