young or aged

Tempranillo bottles
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caquerel family wine estates
Tempranillo bottles

by David Enright

there’s no taming Tempranillo

There are some regions around the world so strongly associated with a specific grape that they are talked about as if they were one and the same. For example, Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France; Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy; Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain.

Since the introduction by the Phoenicians some 2500 years ago, Tempranillo has been widely planted across the high-altitude interior of northern Spain, over the years becoming Spain’s most important grape. Today, there are several names for the same grape—Tempranillo in Rioja, Tinto Fino and Tinta del País in neighboring Ribera del Duero. In Portugal, it is known as Tinta Roriz when making Port, although it’s Aragonez when grown in the southern regions.

Wines from the producers such as Bodegas LAN and Protos show the classic Tempranillo style. The young examples show all juicy cherry and strawberry, ready for any occasion. With aging—and Tempranillo does very well with aging—things start to get more serious, incorporating characteristics of vanilla, licorice and tobacco spice. The wines show a definite savory side, a quality often defined as tobacco leaf, developing leathery notes as they gain years. Particularly wonderful examples are Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva Viña Lanciano and Protos Ribera del Duero ’27.

That historic connection, however, is not exclusive. Tempranillo now grows around the world and it’s possible to find fantastic examples in the most unlikely places. A little closer to home, you can find charming wines from Coquerel Wines in Calistoga, Napa Valley, and Vivác Winery in Dixon, New Mexico.

Pair younger, lighter style wines with foods of northern Spain such as cured meats like jamon or an array of charcuterie and cheeses. Opt for the older vintages and the single vineyard expressions of Tempranillo for the main course, typically involving grilled meats and particularly lamb. These savory, aged vintages are the perfect beverage for an autumn eve.