Tempranillo is known largely as the grape behind Rioja, but is grown not only across Spain but has been cultivated in vineyards from California to South Africa. It makes fabulously full-bodied red wines that are great with food. The UK loves Tempranillo without necessarily knowing it, around two-thirds of all wine from Rioja is destined for our shores and Spanish winemakers love it too.
The amount of Tempranillo making up bottles of Rioja has increased over the years. Winemakers are choosing it over Garnacha as it’s an easy ripening grape. It’s also better for ageing in oak and generally more stable, it tends to thrive in chalky vineyards. It gives a wine punchy flavours of plum and strawberries.
It also thrives in Ribera del Duero where the typically cool climate is punctuated by big temperature rises in the middle of the day. This gives the grapes high sugar levels and the thick skins while the typically cooler climate provides elegance and acidity in the wine.
With our range packed full with great examples of Tempranillo wines, it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why I’ve put it to our wine experts to get back to me with some picks from our list that are well worth checking out. Let us know what you think in the comments below, or let us know what you’ll be drinking this month.
Rioja Reserva, Contino >
We’re starting with a classic Tempranillo lead Rioja from the single vineyard Contino estate. Headed up by winemaker Jesús Madrazo, son of the founder, Contino strives to be at the forefront of Riojan fine winemaking whilst preserving established traditions.
Grapes from selected plots of the Contino estate are employed to make this elegant award-winning Rioja. This year it picked up a silver medal at International Wine Challenge with two silver medals awarded in 2016. The judges would have been presented with a ruby-red wine, packed with fruit and an intense nose showing strawberry, blueberry, vanilla. There is a note of balsamic on the finish. In the mouth, it is round, velvety and mouth-filling.
Contino has pioneered the comeback of the forgotten Riojan variety Graciano, which appears as a significant part of this Rioja blend. The wine is aged in a mixture of French and American oak barrels for two years prior to ageing for a year in bottle before release.
Celeste, Ribera del Duero Crianza, Torres >
From Rioja to Ribera del Duero for this Tempranillo Crianza from ‘The World’s Most Admired Wine Brand’ Torres. Torres is the largest winery in Spain, family owned and operated. Today, the fifth generation, Miguel Torres Maczassek is at the helm as they continue to innovate and win accolades in Spain and worldwide.
Celeste was Torres' first red wine made in Ribera del Duero, launched in 2005. The region is recognised as one of Spain’s finest and has the perfect environment for high-quality Tempranillo. This wine is exclusively Tempranillo and aged in French and American oak barrels for 12 months prior to bottling. Spicy, intense nose with liquorice and black pepper notes on a base of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit. The palate is concentrated and echoes the nose with plenty of ripe fruit, spice complexity and a full-bodied long finish.
It’s another wine from our range that has picked up numerous awards over the years it’s been produced. Last year saw it collect a silver medal from the International Wine Challenge and a bronze at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Viña Pomal Centenario Rioja Crianza, Bodegas Bilbaínas >
Wine Development Specialist Andrew Falk has recently written about the modern, forward-thinking winery Vina Pomal in a blog that is well worth checking out. The winery was a reported favourite of Winston Churchill amongst other famous admirers.
Although Viña Pomal is one of the oldest estates in Rioja, they never rest on their laurels. Advancing winemaking and viticultural techniques to meet the needs of consumers. Viña Pomal has a long history with the UK and is a quality reference point for classic wines from Rioja.
Their traditional range includes a Crianza made from 100% Tempranillo. The Viña Pomal Centenario is made from grapes grown in traditional, low-density, bush vine trained vineyards. After destemming, maceration and fermentation, the wine is aged for a year in American oak before spending a minimum of six months in the bottle prior to release.
It’s a deep morello-cherry red with violet hues. Filled with black fruit, liquorice and subtle mineral notes, cocoa and toasty notes from barrel ageing completed with a supple and balanced with a refreshing finish. No wonder it was awarded a silver outstanding medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2016.
The Invisible Man, Rioja Alta, Casa Rojo >
Invisible by name but not in character. The Invisible Man is produced by the creative team at Casa Rojo. The passion of these ‘wine designers’ can be experienced through a joyful journey through the expression of a family, land, climate, and origin found in their wines.
Their team of winemakers work to create wines to express the authentic terroir, to make wines with character and structure. The terroir expressed in The Invisible Man is that of vineyards close to the village of Cuzcurrita de Rio Tiron in the north-west of the Rioja Alta region. There are three distinctly different types of soils in the vineyards here: claystone, stony and iron-clayish, providing grapes with plenty of character.
About 5% of the blend is made up of the Mazuelo grape variety as is traditional in the region to add colour and structure. The hand-harvested grapes from old vines undergo a traditional fermentation followed by ageing; in an oak barrel for a year and bottle for nine months. Fruit driven, with an almost New World style, red and blackberries to the fore; the palate hints at fine pastries with notes of vanilla.
El Púgil, Tempranillo Toro >
Last, but by no means least, is one of the finest value for money examples to be found. El Púgil, Tempranillo is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown on bush vines in the Toro region in northern Spain. The soil in Toro is formed by sand, clays and lime-bearing puddingstone sediments, producing a dark lime-bearing topsoil, with fine and coarse sands. It also enjoys an extreme continental climate with long, hot summers and cold winters. This environment is great for good quality Tempranillo grapes.
This juicy, medium-bodied wine was commended at this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards for its ripe cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry punch. The fruit flavours are backed by a soft creamy palate, caressed by oak: about 15% of the blend is oak aged. It’s a thoroughly modern wine that is playfully packaged, El Púgil translates to ‘the fighter’. With its colourful label and fruit-led flavour, it’s bound to be a knockout in the On-Trade.
Resource: Wine Training Guide
You can find more information about the wines we stock here. If you want to stock any of the wines mentioned, click here to place an order online now, or here to request an account with us; and don’t forget we’re here to support you with everything you need to ensure that your wine range is a success, from free menu design and print services to staff training.