Our Picks for Tempranillo Day
For International Tempranillo Day, we celebrate some of our producers who work with Spain’s most popular red wine grape.
In Rioja, Tempranillo is often blended with Graciano and Mazuelo at Bodegas LAN or bottled as a single varietal at Izadi, El Coto and Orben. The more extreme continental climate in Ribera del Duero has meant that a thicker-skinned clone, known as Tinto Fino, thrives here and Ribera del Duero Tempranillos tend to be deeper in colour with more tannic grip than the Tempranillos of Rioja. At Finca Villacreces in Ribera del Duero, Tinto Fino is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In Cigales, the Finca Museum reds are 100% Tinta del Pais – a thicker-skinned Tempranillo – while, in Toro, the Vetus reds are 100% Tinta de Toro.
In northern Portugal, Tempranillo (masquerading under the synonym Tinta Roriz) plays a key role in the Casa Ferreirinha Douro red wines, including Barca-Velha, as well as the Sandeman, Ferreira and Offley Ports. It is also a key component of the Quinta dos Carvalhais Dão red blends, and the reds of Herdade do Peso in the Alentejo – where it goes by the name Aragonez.
Tempranillo has also found a home in the southern hemisphere, with aromatic and vibrant single varietal wines being produced by Willunga 100 and S.C. Pannell in McLaren Vale, and by Trinity Hill from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay.
Bodegas LAN, `Xtrème` Organic Rioja Crianza 2018, Spain
A 100% organic Tempranillo, the ‘Xtrème Ecológico’ Crianza is sourced from a five-hectare, organically farmed plot within Bodegas LAN's stunning Viña Lanciano vineyard. Fermented with native yeasts and aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels, this is a fine example of a Rioja Crianza, bursting with bright red fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry married with a marked spiciness.
Izadi, Rioja Reserva 2017, Spain
Produced from vines with an average age of 45 years, this is a modern, fruit-driven style of Rioja. Aged for 16 months in 27% French and 73% American 225-litre oak barrels (20% of which are new), and then a further two years in bottle, this wine has a fresh and fruity nose and a pure, concentrated palate - perfect with a rack of lamb.
El Coto, `875m Finca Carbonera` Rioja Tempranillo 2018, Spain
The most recent addition to the El Coto range, this property has the highest altitude vineyard in the Rioja DOCa, at between 700-950 metres above sea level. Located in Bergasa, the soils are acidic and stony, producing wines that have a fresh acidity and complex aromatics. On the nose, there are notes of cherries and coffee and the palate is fresh, with a long, pleasing finish.
Orben, Rioja 2018, Spain
Orben’s 29 hectares of vineyard are found at the foot of the Sierra Canabria mountain range in Laguardia, and their aim is to produce the best single-estate Rioja of the region. The low-yielding vines are 450 metres above sea level, producing fruit with excellent minerality, freshness and intensity. Aged for 12 months in French oak, this wine has fantastic structure and length.
Marqués de Burgos, `Crianza` Ribera del Duero 2017, Spain
Marqués de Burgos is the Ribera del Duero operation of Bodegas LAN. Established experts in working with Tempranillo in Rioja, they embarked on a search for prime vineyard sites within the Ribera del Duero region, where this famed grape also thrives. The 100% Tempranillo ‘Crianza’ comes from 40-year-old bush vines (pictured at top) planted on south-facing slopes at a higher altitude of 850 metres above sea level. Aged in French oak for 14 months, it boasts intense aromas of bright berry fruit, a toasty complexity from the oak, firm but velvety tannins and a crisp acidity which carries the flavours onto the harmonious finish.
Finca Villacreces, Ribera del Duero 2017, Spain
Family owned and operated, Finca Villacreces is based in the heart of 'the Golden Mile', next to Vega Sicilia. Ninety five percent of plantings in this area are Tinto Fino, and over 30% of these vines were planted before 1951. Made with 86% Tinto Fino, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot, this wine has an expressive bouquet and a full-bodied, smooth palate, with flavours of vanilla, spice and liquorice.
Finca Museum, `Museum` Cigales Reserva 2015, Spain
Cigales is a very challenging area to grow grapes in, with an extreme climate, poor soil and high altitude. Made from 100% Tinta del País grapes from vines over 70 years old, this wine is aged in both French and American oak for 24 months, followed by at least 12 months in bottle. A delicate nose of spice and red fruit, with an elegant, silky palate and creamy tannins.
Vetus, `Flor de Vetus` Toro 2017, Spain
The `Flor de Vetus` Toro is sourced from vines aged around 60 years that are planted on sandy and clay soils in Villabuena del Puente. Extreme temperatures and poor soils keep the yields low, resulting in intensely coloured and flavoured wines. Made from 100% Tinta de Toro, `Flor de Vetus` displays expressive aromas of red and black berry fruits, with touches of spice from ageing in both French and American oak.
Willunga 100, McLaren Vale Tempranillo 2018, Australia
Ideally suited to the Mediterranean climate of McLaren Vale, Tempranillo is a relative newcomer to the region. Long sunny days and ancient soils provide perfect conditions for concentrated wines with black cherries, sweet spice and a savoury finish.
S.C. Pannell, `Dead End` McLaren Vale Tempranillo 2018, Australia
Pannell’s Tempranillo is sourced from two of the oldest plantings in McLaren Vale, where the vines are up to 18 years old. Made from 100% Tempranillo, `Dead End` is highly perfumed, vibrant and complex, with grippy tannins and intense dark fruit flavours.
Main image: Marqués de Burgos