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Spotlight on Tempranillo

Spotlight on Tempranillo

Each year, on the second Thursday in November, we celebrate Tempranillo Day. Tempranillo is a thick skinned, black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano, meaning “early”. This is a reference to the fact that this grape ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.

Tempranillo needs warmth to ripen it, but really thrives in high altitudes that allow its elegance and acidity to develop. As such, it is one of the few grapes that can adapt to a continental Mediterranean climate where diurnal temperatures can reach highs of 40°C and lows as 16°C and hence why over 90% of the worlds production is in the Iberian Peninsula.

Tempranillo has many common synonyms such as Tinta del Pais in Ribera del Duero, Tinta de Toro, in Toro and Tinta Roriz in Portugal and there have been at least 552 different clones identified of this one grape variety, including a very rare white mutation called Tempranillo Blanco!

The resulting wines vary in style from youthful, medium bodied fruity reds to rich, full-bodied wines that need time to mature (think decades!), and of course, not forgetting the all-important contribution Tempranillo makes to the production of Port.

In the Autumn, post-harvest, the vineyards turn incredible shades of red (move over New England) and whilst there are many single-varietal bottlings, as Tempranillo is naturally low in acidity and sugar, it is often blended with Grenache (Garnacha), Carignan (Mazuela), Graciano, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Which fruit characteristics do you most commonly associate with Tempranillo? Strawberries? Cherries? Dried Fig?

Here at Moke, we especially love Tempranilo from Rippa Dorii (@rippadorli) and Valenciso (valencisorioja), but we stock other brilliant examples:

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