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All About the Timely Tempranillo Variety

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Hello, Corkers!

Did you catch my Wine of the Week feature on my IG highlights last night? If you did, than you know this week's featured wine is one with a little flare: Tempranillo!

Tempranillo is a black grape variety native to Spain, though is the the fourth-most planted variety in the world and is also grown in Portugal, Argentina, France, and Australia. Its name comes from the Spanish word temprano meaning "early", which is a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Let's just say if Tempranillo were a person, they would be the first to show up at the party!

Unlike aromatic varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, Tempranillo is low in both sugar and acidity and consequently, has a more neutral profile (which can sometimes make it a little more closed off in your glass.) But, no fear, Corkers; this timely little fruit is often mixed with other grapes (like Garnacha or Carignan), AND can be aged in oak to make its flavors a little more robust.

Speaking of aging, here's a tip for you when looking for a Spanish Wine: look for the aging term on the bottle!

Roble/Tinto: little or no oak aging

Crianza: up to 12 months of oak aging; notes of juicy red fruit, herbs, and spices

Reserva: 12 months oak aging with up to 2 years of bottle aging; notes of red and black fruit, floral notes, and baking spices

Gran Reserva: 18-24 months of oak aging with up to 4 years of bottle aging; notes of dried fruit, cedar, leather, and earthy notes.

Unlike Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, which are finicky little fruits, Tempranillo is actually quite resilient and is one of the few varietals that can thrive in climates that fluctuate in temperature. In fact, in some growing regions, highs can reach 105 degrees and lows can dip down to 30 degrees in one day. Don't start plotting out your vineyard just yet, though. Tempranillo does NOT withstand humidity well! When humidity strikes, these grapes will swell; which negatively impacts both the color and the quality of the grape.

For this week's WOTW, I tried a 2016 Unfiltered Reserva from Rioja (pictured below). While it didn't slap me in the face with aromas, it did have nice notes of both red fruit and dried dark fruit like fig and raisin. I also identified notes of woodsmoke and wet clay on the palette. This wine is available at Total Wine and and, to be honest, costs more than I would typically spend (it was part of wine tasting course that I will be reviewing in my next blog post.) At around $30.00/bottle, I'd still purchase it again. I loved it and rated it with 4 stars on Vivino (I'm Jane Rembowicz on that app if you want to see all the wines I'm drinking!)

That rounds out this week's episode; drop me a comment and let me know which varietal you'd like to see next week! Cheers, Corkers!

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