It’s as Spanish as castanets and paella. Tempranillo (temp-ra-neo) makes some of Spain’s best red wines. The main red grape variety used in Rioja’s red wines, it has an unmistakeably savoury flavour, with hints of leather, tobacco leaves, and fruit flavours ranging including redcurrant, pomegranate, and mulberry.
You’ll find Tempranillo wines in other Spanish wine regions too, from Toro to Ribera del Duero, Valdepeñas to Penedès. Although you’ll also find a host of other names it goes by, depending upon the area.
And, Tempranillo enjoys success outside its homeland too. From Portugal (where it’s known as Tinta Roriz or Aragonês) to Australia, the Languedoc in France to Argentina, Tempranillo makes distinctive red wines wherever it’s planted.
They can be long-lived wines to, with classic examples like Rioja’s Gran Reserva wines a fine example.
Whatever your budget, there’s a red wine based on Tempranillo to wow you. To help you choose from the many that are out there, we’ve put together our 10 Top Tempranillo wines.
El Circo Tempranillo 2016, Cariñena – £7.99
Starting off simply, this is Tempranillo red wine at its most lip-smackingly delicious. No oak, just the grapes doing the talking. Which means it’s all about early drinking and enjoyment. Cherry and blackberry fruit nuances in abundance, this is Spanish red wine to grace the midweek supper.
Villa del Camino Rioja Joven 2016 – £7.99
‘Joven’, of course, means ‘young’. It’s the starting point in Rioja, Spain’s most famous wine region, and one where Tempranillo reigns supreme. Normally wines in their first or second year of life, they’re all about fresh, primary fruit characteristics, rather than the complexity which comes from oak and age.
Maximo Tempranillo 2014, Castilla La Mancha – £7.99
If you were to tread in Don Quixote’s footsteps, today you’d find vineyards stretching across the ancient landscape. La Mancha is the world’s largest grape-growing region. And that means the source of some exceptional value wines. Here it’s red cherry that dominates, with that tell-tale vanilla and tobacco note too.
Faustino Rivero Ullecia Crianza 2013, Utiel-Requena – £8.99
Some grape varieties blend with others well, others are best left to themselves. Tempranillo does, and in the Utiel-Requena Spanish wine region, it’s Bobal which cosies up. It gives the wine a deep red colour and a plumper, more rounded feel than if it were simply Tempranillo. It’s also a crianza wine, with six months oak-ageing to add to the structure of the wine.
Suelo Argentino Tempranillo-Malbec 2016, Malbec – £8.99
Outside its Iberian homeland, Tempranillo has taken well to the Andes foothills. Here it’s blended with that other Argentinian success story, Malbec, and as you’d expect, there’s more depth, colour, and robustness to boot. Plums meet cherries, with hints of spice in this remarkably good value South American red wine.
Villa del Camino Rioja Reserva 2010 – £12.99
Rioja really starts hitting its stride once you encounter reserva wines. These typically take the best quality grapes, with the wine aged for at least three years, of which one must be in cask, and six months in bottle (minimum). The wonderful thing about the Spanish ageing system is that the hard work has been done for you. The wines should be drinking beautifully as they’re released onto the market.
Marqués de Burgos Roble 2014, Ribera del Duero – £13.99
It’s true, Rioja’s many fans often refuse to budge, but it’s well worth an occasional detour to the Ribera del Duero region. Indeed, some of Spain’s most expensive wines hail from here. A great introduction to the area is this sumptuous Spanish red. Six months in French and American oak (Spanish winemakers love their American oak) gives a fine vanilla undertone to the wine, whilst Tempranillo from old vines adds a plush, bramble fruit character.
The Hedonist Tempranillo 2017, McLaren Vale – £16.49
Australia’s McLaren Vale region couldn’t be farther from Spain, but here Tempranillo is on extraordinary form. Biodynamically farmed grapes in the skilful hands of winemaker Walter Clappis, produce a red wine that lives up to its name. Sour cherry, hints of cinnamon, and finely-grained tannins combine in a majestic example of Tempranillo. When you want to impress, here’s a wine that’ll have the table talking.
Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande 2015, Douro – £16.95
Over the border, Portugal vies with Spain for making impressive Tempranillo-based wines. Try one like this, grand in nature as it is in name, and you’ll discover they’re doing very well too. This stands as one of Portugal’s best red wines, though remaining terrific value. Elegant, velvety, and complex, it’s well worth an encounter.
Bodegas Navajas Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 – £19.99
Top of the Rioja tree, Gran Reserva wines are only produced in exceptional vintages, from the finest fruit. There’s a 60-month ageing regime, with at least two years in oak casks, and two years in bottle. Here you have the added benefit, as you’ll often find with Gran Reserva Rioja wine, that a few more years bottle-ageing have added to the complexity. There is one outstanding food pairing with this red wine too. The very best roast lamb. A match most certainly made in heaven.