Tempranillo & Rioja

tempranillo, rioja


  • Spain: Rioja, Ribera del Duero
  • Portugal: Douro, Alentejo
  • USA: California, Oregon
  • Other: Argentina, Mexico, Chile


Tempranillo is the grape behind the famous Rioja wines which everyone knows. Go for a Reserva or Gran Reserva to go with a rich dinner.


  • Decant: 1 hour
  • Young Tempranillo: 14 – 17 °C (57 – 62 °F)
  • Aged Tempranillo like Reserva and Gran Reserva: 17 – 18 °C (62 – 64 °F)
  • Glass type: large bowl, tulip shape which narrows at the top


  • Tapas (young Tempranillo), Paella, chorizo, pork, grille meat (Reserva and Gran Reserva), barbecue, burgers, lasagna, polenta.
  • Manchego, Pecorino, Zamarano, Cheddar

Tempranillo is a grape from Spain which is assumed to have originated in Navarra and Rioja. It is used in some of the best blends from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in Spain and Duoro Valley in Portugal.

Tempranillo is a thick skinned grape which produces full bodied wines with medium tannin and acidity. It is also an important grape for making Port. It thrives in continental climate with contrasting temperatures where the days are hot and sunny and the nights are cool. This kind of climate allows for the grapes to ripen and produce sugar while maintaining a balance of acidity. It is a grape that can also adjust well to different soils although it thrives in sandy and clay-limestone soils. Tempranillo also has great aging potential. In fact one of the main Rioja classifications is based on aging.

Tempranillo can be found not only in the Old world but also in the New world like in the US, Argentina, Australia and Chile.

Tempranillo regions


In Spain the two regions where tempranillo is prominent is Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Because of the different climate and regulations, the wines produced in these two regions have different styles.



  • Style: more acidic, brighter color, red fruit
  • Most Rioja wines are a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache (Garnacha) and Carignan, Graciano or Monastrel
  • It is rare to find a varietal Tempranillo wine here
  • Aging: 3-6 years

Ribera del Duero

  • Name: Tinto Fino, Tinta del Pais
  • Style: less acidic, fuller body, darker fruit and wine color
  • The climate here is warmer and drier than in Rioja producing smaller grapes with thick skins which are more concentrated and less acidic
  • Aging requirements here are not as strict as in Rioja


Tinta Roriz, Tempranillo
  • In Douro goes by the name of Tinta Roriz
  • In Alentejo goes by the name of Aragonez
  • Style: rich, robust, spicy
  • Usually blended with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet

Rioja Red Wine Classification

In Rioja, until recently wines have been classified based on aging and labeled accordingly on the back of the bottle as Vino Joven/Generico/Rioja, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Additionally Rioja wines may also have the name of the sub-region they come from like Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental/ Baja, and Rioja Alavesa.

In the recent years however, the new regulations allow producers to add the name of a municipality or village in addition to the sub-region. Wines are then classified as: Viñedos Singulares, Vinos de Municipio and Vinos de Zona.

Rioja aging classification

rioja wine classification
  • Generico/ Rioja: previously known as Vino Joven, does not have specific aging requirements.
  • Crianza: requires 2 years of aging of which minimum 1 year in oak.
  • Reserva: requires 3 years of aging of which 6 months in bottle and 1 year in oak
  • Gran Reserva: requires a minimum of 5 years aging of which 2 years in bottle and 2 years in oak.

Rioja regional classification

  • Viñedos Singulares: this is a new category which among other things, requires producers to have their vineyard registered as a brand which is then shown on the label next to the aging classification. Other criteria are that grapes must be hand harvested and the production should be entirely traceable.
  • Vinos de Municipio: this classification covers the Rioja villages which means that the grapes must come from municipality or village stated on the label with up to 15% of the grapes being allowed to come from neighboring municipalities.
  • Vinos de Zona: this classification covers Rioja’s sub-regions which means that the grapes must come from Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental (Baja) or Rioja Alavesa with up to 15% of the grapes being allowed to come from a neighboring sub-region.

conde Valdemar, rioja, Spain, spanish wine, rioja wine, gran reserva, tempranillo

Conde Valdemar

Gran Reserva, Rioja, 2011

  • Country and region: Spain, Rioja
  • Producer: Bodegas Valdemar
  • Blend: 85% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano 
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • Taste profile: cherry, plum, oak, vanilla, chocolate, dill, medium to full body, crisp, velvety tannins