Watch out Shiraz, there might just be a new wine rock star in town!
Tempranillo – pronounced “temp-rah-nee-yo”
Wine lovers are flocking to this new variety, attracted by its easy drinking style and its ability to match very well with a wide range of foods.
Vignerons are certainly excited about it too. In terms of plantings, it’s one of the fastest growing varieties around. Worldwide increases in plantings of Tempranillo are outstripping all other wine grape varieties. With over 500,000 acres planted across wine regions globally, it’s now the fourth most-planted wine grape in the world.
But who is this new kid on the block you ask? Well, in fact, Tempranillo is not so new after all.
The Spanish have been enjoying this variety for the last 2000 years. Proof of wine in ancient Spain was discovered in 1972, when archaeologists unearthed a mosaic of the wine god Bacchus at Baños de Valdearados in north-central Spain. It’s highly likely that the wine shown in the mosaic was Tempranillo because it has been cultivated in Spain since 800 BC.
So, maybe not new to Spain but certainly for us Australians, it’s a relative new-comer to the wine scene.
In terms of style, there’s a lot to love about this wine and there’s a lot to explore too. The style can vary quite a bit – depending upon where the grapes are grown and how the winemaker chooses to use the influence of oak on the wine.
Spanish Tempranillo delivers contrasting flavours of leather and cherries. The better or more expensive the wine, the more balance there is between earth and fruit. The finish is typically smooth and lingers with firm tannin structure. Tempranillo wines from New World regions such as Australia Argentina and the United States, generally offer more fruit flavours like black cherry and blueberries, supported by more blocky tannins and less earthy notes. Tempranillo can be characterized as either a medium or medium to full-bodied depending upon the tannin profile. If you’ve never tried Tempranillo before, you may find it has a similar taste profile to both Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you’re buying Spanish Tempranillo, it’s helpful to understand the labelling requirements and how they affect the flavour. Those wines which are intended to be consumed while they are young, are referred to as being the Joven style. The Spanish term Crianza refers to aged wines. In very good years Spanish wineries make a Reserva intended for extended ageing.
There are 4 legal aging terms that are listed on most bottles of Spanish wine.
Vin Joven: Rarely aged in oak, Vin Jovens are released young and meant to be consumed right away. These are uncommon outside of Spain.
Crianza: These reds require 2 years of aging, with 6 months in oak. Traditionally, producers use American oak, which is much stronger than other types of oak (such as French oak).
Reserva: These are reds that are aged 3 years, with 1 year in oak. These wines are a big step up in quality and have rich, round flavors because of the minimum oak requirement.
Gran Reserva: Reserved for wines from phenomenal vintages and aged a minimum of 5 years before release with 18 months of oak aging, most producers will do 20-30 months in barrel to create the outstanding flavour.
You should expect to spend around $AUD32 for a decent Rioja Crianza.
In Australia, no such labelling laws apply and winemakers will typically age the wines in oak for a period of anywhere between 5 and 12 months or even longer, depending upon the style they are going for. Most winemakers prefer to use American oak as its ‘forthright’ nature works well with the robust fruit flavours in Tempranillo. The latest release from Taylors, The Taylors Estate Tempranillo 2017 packs a big flavour punch for only $19 per bottle and is a worthy follow on from the trophy winning 2016 vintage.
The obvious food pairing with Tempranillo wine is to go with Spanish style dishes. A lighter bodied Tempranillo would go well with tapas, those delightful little snack plates of olives, marinated mushrooms, Chorizo sausage or even BBQ prawns. The Spanish also love Jamon, a dry cured ham. You’ll find hanging hams proudly on display in many bars in Spain and there’s always a ham on hand in a special rack ready to be carved for a snack to accompany a glass of Tempranillo.
Sheep farming is a major industry in the Rioja and the Ribera del Duero regions. Hence grilled and especially roast lamb are local specialties, as well as the ideal accompaniment to Tempranillo. Sheep milk cheeses, roast stuffed peppers and vegetable casseroles would also be enhanced by a glass or two of this fine wines.
Overall, Tempranillo pairs well with all types of food because of its savoury qualities. Try it with Lasagne, pizza and dishes with tomato-based sauces. Or Barbecue grilled-meats, smoky dishes, polenta, and dishes with corn as a major ingredient. It also works really well with Mexican food such as tacos, nachos & burritos.
So, with all that going for it, you can see why Tempranillo is so tempting and perhaps why Shiraz could well be feeling nervous.
Want to know what the 100 most drinkable South Australian wines are? Taylors Estate 2017 Tempranillo has taken out 2nd spot!
The team of Hot 100 Wines 2017/18 judges blind tasted nearly 1400 different wines as part of this year’s competition. Check out the full list of Hot 100 Wines South Australia by The Adelaide Review.
The Hot 100 Wines is a celebration of South Australian wine, and the culture and context within which it is enjoyed. Each year, they set out to find the most drinkable wine from South Australia. The team of judges are asked to evaluate each wine against categories of style and for their drinkability. The hundred most drinkable are recognised in the Hot 100 Wines magazine, and the top 10 become the hot wines of the season! Check out the complete list of Hot 100 Wines for 2017-18.