Uncork a bottle of Spain’s celebrated varietal on November 14.
If you have ever enjoyed a glass of red Rioja or Ribera Del Duero, then you’ve most likely been drinking Tempranillo (perhaps in combination with other grapes like Garnacha). If (like me) you are a red wine lover craving an old world, fruit-meets-earth wine that finishes dry and is a versatile food partner, then today’s the day to celebrate the grape that is that and so much more. Referred to as Spain’s “noble grape,” Tempranillo is touted as the fourth most widely planted varietal in the world, with more than 60 names in Spain including Tinto Fino, Tinta de Toro and Cencibel. “Tempranillo” is derived from the Spanish word for early, as this is a grape that tends to ripen earlier than other varietals. It’s also very versatile, capable of producing young, vibrant, fruity wines as well as elegant, complex examples that can age 20 years or more.
International Tempranillo Day was started in 2011 by TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) to celebrate the growing appreciation of this popular grape. Winemakers outside of Spain are also embracing it; today it’s also produced in California, Oregon, Argentina and Chile, to name a few. But most critics would agree that Tempranillo is most expressive in its native Spain. Here are a few bottles to uncork today (and on every day, of course), along with a few food pairings to pique your palate. If you find yourself enjoying some Tempranillo today, share your sips on social media with the hashtags #TempranilloDay, #Tempranillo or #RiojaBuzz.
Tapeña Tempranillo from Tierra de Castilla ($10) Super young and fruity, this wine is bursting with juicy red fruit and a touch of cocoa. I’d serve it with roast chicken, tapas or other hard cheeses and dried fruit. The producers refer to this wine as “Pinot Noir in blue jeans”: I’d call it Tempranillo on training wheels. To me, the wine smells and tastes like it could have undergone carbonic maceration (the same process as Beaujolais Nouveau). Drink this one now rather than sticking it on the shelf.
Valdubón Cosecha ($15) With tart raspberries and cherries, low tannins and a balanced, medium-bodied finish, this is an easy-drinking Tempranillo produced in the Ribera del Duero region. It’s ready to drink now, but you can also easily cellar it for a few years. Try it with grilled lamb chops, braised short ribs and stews.
2008 VAZA Crianza ($15) Woody and earthy, everything I look for in a Spanish red. This Rioja Crianza shows red currants and cherries and some spice like pepper. The palate is incredibly balanced for its price point, with ripe, approachable tannins and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. I loved it with Boeuf Bourguignon.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.