Tempranillo, indigenous to Spain, is actually the fourth most planted wine grape in the world and is also one of the most versatile. It produces wines that can be medium or full-bodied, with flavours ranging from red to black berried fruit and can sometimes offer spicy or earthy notes.
With a food-friendly structure these wines match well with a wide range of foods from tapas right through to grilled red meats.
Tempranillo is the base for the majority of red wines produced in Spain, although that may not be immediately obvious as Spain has dozens of different regional names for the grape: Cencibel, Tinto Fino, Tinta del País, Tinta de Toro and Ull de llebre(eye of the hare!) to name just a few. So you may well have tasted Tempranillo without even knowing it!
Of course, It is impossible to talk about Tempranillo without first considering the wines of Rioja.
When most of us think of Rioja, we imagine extensively aged oaky reds, and in fact there is no other wine region in the world so closely connected with oak-ageing than Rioja.
So it may come as a surprise that I have chosen a wine which hasn’t been aged in oak at all, but the beauty in doing so is that it allows the fruit to shine. Monte Real Tempranillo (€14.99 down to €9.99) is from an ultra-traditional Rioja house and has delicious Strawberry and blackberry flavours which combine wonderfully in this juicy fruited and silky smooth red.
Just to the North-East of Rioja lies the region of Navarra, from here I have chosen a wine which is made with 90% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot. Ars in Vitro (€14.99) is a seriously classy wine from a small 'quality-obsessed' producer. This is sensational, savoury, complex red, multi-layered with deep, dark-berry and damson fruit, well-structured and long-lasting flavours.
For my next selection I have gone with a 100% Tempranillo from central Spain, made by Marcos Eguren, one of the greatest winemakers in Spain. Protocolo (€10.99 or 2-for-€20) is a fruity, silky smooth red and is one of our most popular wines. The main reason is that the quality for price isextremely high; it is a very polished wine for this kind of money.
To finish our Tempranillo tour, we need to cross the border into Portugal, to look at wine made by, and bearing the name of João Portugal Ramos, who is Portugal’s most famous winemaker.
Ramos Reserva (€15.49 down to €9.99) is a very modern Portuguese red made using a blend of Tempranillo (AKA Aragonez in southern Portugal), the native grape Trincadeira plus a touch of Syrah for added body. It is full to bursting with ripe red berried fruit, soft and super-smooth with a hint of spice with and a long, long finish.