Wine varietals and styles

What is tempranillo?

Your essential guide to tempranillo.

Go to section: Tempranillo characteristics | Origins of tempranillo | How to pair food with tempranillo | Serving temperature for tempranillo | The best Australian tempranillo regions

Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo (temp-rah-nee-oh) is Spain's most planted red wine grape. Boasting flavours of cherry, dried fig, tobacco, dill and cedar, it's most commonly planted in the Rioja wine region. It's also grown in Portugal, where it's known as tinta roriz and aragonéz.

A bucket of tempranillo grapes

Tempranillo tasting characteristics

In its youth, tempranillo offers flavours of cherry, plum, tomato and dried fig. As it matures, flavours of cedar, leather, tobacco, vanilla, dill and clove evolve in the bottle.

Origins of tempranillo

Tempranillo is Spain's best grape. Either on its own or as the dominant partner in a blend it is responsible for Spain's most famous red wines. It is ironic that in Spain it is called tempranillo in Roija, in Ribiera del Duero it is known as Tinta del Pats, in Valdepenas as Cencibel, and in Portugal as Tinta Roriz. Ironic, because it has spread so quickly that there are very few clones, and its genetic make-up is thus very consistent. The most that DNA analysis comes up with is a parent-offspring relationship with Abillo Mayor from Ribiera del Duero.

A bunch of tempranillo grapes

How to pair food with tempranillo

Similar to pairing food with reds like cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese the high acid provides structure and cuts through fats and protein.

Joven wines can be paired with dishes like paella, tacos and tomato-based sauces and pastas. More mature wines that have had time on oak are a match for rich flavours like roast lamb, barbecued meats like steak, and smoky dishes.

Serving temperature for tempranillo

The ideal serving temperature for tempranillo is 15 degrees.

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The best Australian tempranillo regions

While tempranillo is extremely popular in the southwest of Europe, in Australia its parcels are small. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS 2015) reported 736 hectares of planted tempranillo, in comparison to other popular red varieties like shiraz, which recorded 39,893 hectares and cabernet sauvignon registering 24,682 hectares. 

The 2021 National Vintage Survey states that 5874 tonnes of tempranillo were crushed, accounting for 0.3% of the total grape crush (where shiraz's grape crush was 538,402 tonnes, contributing 26.5% of the national crush).

Riverland is the highest producing region in Australia (20 per cent), followed by Murray Darling in Victoria (12 per cent), Murray Darling in New South Wales (10 per cent), the Riverina (9 per cent) and the Barossa Valley (7 per cent).

Key regions in Australia:

Adelaide Hills, SA
Alpine Valleys, VIC
Barossa Valley, SA
Beechworth, VIC
Canberra District, NSW
Clare Valley, SA
Geographe, WA
Granite Belt, QLD
McLaren Vale, SA
Orange, NSW
Padthaway, SA
Perth Hills, WA
Rutherglen, VIC
Yarra Valley, VIC

*Information and quotes are taken from James Halliday’s Varietal Wines.

Image credit: Wine Australia.