Tempranillo Wine Taste & Grape Variety Information

Tempranillo is a grape variety native to Spain that produces complex, full-bodied red wines with spicy and fruit forward tasting notes. It is the most noteworthy grape variety grown throughout Spain, however Tempranillo is most commonly associated with the Rioja wine region as well as Ribera del Duero.

Tempranillo Grape Information

Tempranillo packs a bold and structured flavor with a low viscosity (in other words, the liquid itself isn’t ‘thick’). Tempranillo grapes have slightly thinner skins when compared to other black grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Teinturier. Skin density plays a big part during fermentation in determining the viscosity of the wine. So if you like complex flavor, without the syrupy nature, Tempranillo might be for you!

Tempranillo is most successful in climates that transition from cool to hot during the growing season. It’s a hardy grape, and because of its moderately thick skin it can handle high altitudes and prolonged cold. Regions like Rioja and Ribera del Duero in Spain provide this sort of climate. Temperature during the day in these regions can average between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, while at night the temperate can drop 30-40 degrees. This vine has adapted over centuries to handle the fluctuation and in turn deliver a bold flavored wine. The rocky terrain in these regions also adds some mineral notes to Tempranillo wines.

RELATED: Learn About The Ribera del Duero Wine Region

In accordance with many Spanish wine making traditions, Tempranillo is often aged in oak for extended periods of time. You’ll see many Spanish wines, whether 100% Tempranillo, or Tempranillo blends, carry the designation of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. These designations denote how long the wine was aged in general, but also how long specifically it was aged in an oak ‘cask’ or barrel.

Tempranillo Wine Grape Variety Information & Taste | Winetraveler.com
While Tempranillo is perhaps best known for its production in Spain, it’s also grown in Portugal. There, it’s known as Tinta Roriz where it’s produced in the Douro Valley and Dão wine regions. Elsewhere in Portugal it is sometimes called Aragonês.

Tempranillo Tasting Notes | Winetraveler.com

Tempranillo Blends

Depending where it’s produced, Tempranillo is often blended with other varieties along the lines of Merlot or Garnacha. These varieties add additional complexity, since for some, Tempranillo appears more neutral on the palate compared to a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Also worth noting is how Tempranillo has been received in some surprising locations outside of Spain. Many new world regions, such as Texas Hill Country in the United States, about an hour Northwest of Austin, have found this grape to thrive throughout their vineyards. The soil and stark climate changes are similar to that of North-central Spain, and Texas now considers Tempranillo to be its signature grape.

 Tempranillo Food Pairings

Since Tempranillo wines tend to have unique spice notes attached to them, we like pairing them with meat. In particular, shoulder cuts of beef, filet mignon or braised pork ribs. While it does excessively well when paired alongside meat, lighter-bodied tempranillo also goes quite nicely with seasoned poultry. In particular – chicken, duck or quail. If you want to pair it with fish, I recommend avoiding white fish and sticking to heavier, oily fish, such as salmon. Want to maximize Tempranillo flavor alongside salmon? Pair salmon with Tempranillo and four cheese risotto and you can’t go wrong.

Try one of our favorite Tempranillo food pairings: 

Tempranillo Grape Origins

The Tempranillo grape variety has been around for at least 2,000 years. While there is no definitive proof to its origins, the majority of vitis vinifera grape vine species, which includes Tempranillo, originate from ancient Phoenician cultures near modern day Lebanon. There is some archaeological evidence that shows Tempranillo began to grow in Spain somewhere between 500 and 900 B.C.

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Written By Greig Santos-Buch

Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 Merit wine writer. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel. In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.


Red & Blue

  • (Black Cherry, Red Currant, Plum, Cranberry, Tomato, Subtle Strawberry)

Earth & Mineral Notes

Limestone, Silt, Clay

Additional Complexities

Tobacco, Mushroom, Black Pepper, Leather Saddle, Herbs

Structure & Body

Body Medium - Full

Sugar Dry

Tannins Medium

Acid Medium Plus

Alcohol Varied (13% - 15% ABV)

Finish Smooth, Spicy, Complex & Long


Filet Mignon

Braised Pork Ribs


Mustard Seed Salmon

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