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Tempranillo is the grape that most frequently is associated with the wines of Rioja, Spain. Popular in the production of wines in Ribera del Duero, Cataluña, and the Duoro in Portugal where it is called Tinta Roriz. The wines frequently show dark fruit, blackberry, and plum flavors. In these regions the wines are generally oak aged, frequently American oak barrels are employed. The oak offers fresh aromas, and gradual oxidation to balance acid and tannin in the resulting wines. For a couple of decades, these wines have emerged as a structured, balanced wine at a relatively reasonable price.

Every wine list that I have created in the last 15 years has included a Tempranillo based wine, commonly from Rioja. The reasons are simple, they are affordable, they are capable of playing with multiple menu components, and preparation, they are sought by guests, or they create an opportunity to expose a guest to something new to them. In the last decade I would encourage guests to try wines from Rioja, but not spend more than $15 per bottle. I would not discourage buying Riserva and Gran Riserva wines, but I would start with Joven or Crianza wines, cheaper, and less ageing requirements. Once you have determined which producer makes your style of Tempranillo, then upgrade your purchase to Riserva and Gran Riserva, which by the way are still very reasonably priced.

Tempranillo has taken off in the new world, too. Washington and California have started producing a fair quantity of the grape. One of my favorite producers grows the grape in Lake County, California and makes a brilliant, juicy, full bodied, fruit driven red, and a savory, spicy dry rosé. (subscribers can learn brand recommendations) New world styles of Tempranillo tend to be more fruit driven and absolutely unique

in character. Old world styles spend 1-5 years in oak, and longer before bottling and tend to be lighter in style because of oxidation over that extended time in an oak barrel. A great way to compare and contrast the styles of Tempranillo is to create a class utilizing multiple styles. I would be happy to help you pick a comprehensive selection.

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