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Tempranillo - Adnams Grape of the Month

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Grape of the monthThe backbone of Rioja

Tempranillo is one of Spain's most important and widely-grown grape varieties. It's best-known as the major constituent in Rioja, where it can be bottled as a single variety or blended with other grape varieties such as Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano. It's a variety that needs plenty of sunlight, but not too much heat - the mountainous zones of Rioja suit Tempranillo to perfection. 'Temprano' means early in Spanish, and the variety ripens around two weeks before its common blending partner Garnacha. Tempranillo tends to be thick-skinned, producing deeply-coloured wines, and the addition of Garnacha adds extra fruitiness and sweetness to the mix.

A grape of many names

It's a widely-planted and travelled variety. Tempranillo's true home is Spain, but it can be found throughout Europe as well as America and Australia. Consequently, it is known by many different names. The most commonly encountered variations on wine labels today are Cencibel, Tinto Fino, Aragonez, Tinto de Toro and Tinta Roriz.


In cooler climates Tempranillo can create herbal, strawberry-scented wines. In Rioja, the wines tend to be full and mellow, with flavours of ripe red berries and plums, and if oak ageing has been employed, notes of tobacco, vanilla and leather. It can create deliciously long-lived wines.

Pair with food

The Crown Hotel in Southwold currently has several dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients that pair beautifully with Tempranillo. Manager Lukasz and Head Chef Tyler have selected two wines by the glass so that you can try various combinations together. Tempranillo marries well with a variety of foods, but is particularly suited to herby lamb, game and pork. Mature Riojas (having that little bit more oak ageing and therefore more toasty, vanilla flavours) pair very well with leg of lamb, roast pork and earthy wild mushrooms. Tempranillo Mixed Case £99For lunch, why not try The Crown's Beef Burger (served with rustic chips, cucumber pickle, Cheddar, caramelised onion, rocket salad) with a glass of The Adnams Selection Rioja. Or for dinner, the Braised Lamb Shoulder, Kofte & Sweet Bread Fritter (served with fondant potato, tenderstem brocolli, kleftico sauce) with Dehesa Gago? You can taste a range of Tempranillo styles in our 12-bottle mixed case (£99).

Wine Expert's Opinion

Rob Chase, Adnams Fine Wine Manager, explains his love of Tempranillo. "I have been a fan of Tempranillo since I started buying wine. I have enjoyed it under its many subterfuges - be it as Tinto Roriz in the Douro, Chinchillana in Extremadura, Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero or Tinta de Toro in Castilla-La Mancha. It is a grape that ‘owns’ the Iberian Peninsula – a variety that is synonymous with quality. It was on the strength of its reputation, and confirmed once tasted, that Adnams bought the 1964 Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva (£98.99 a bottle) last December. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a couple of bottles, in great company, at a post-Christmas dinner – and this was possibly one of the greatest incarnations of Tempranillo that I have ever drunk. If any one is celebrating their 50th Birthday next year, this has to be the wine for them. Find me a half decent, fifty year old claret at a shade under £100, and your arm would be bitten off."


Sarah Groves