The many faces of Tempranillo


Have you ever noticed how much of California looks and feels a lot more like Spain, as opposed to say, Burgundy or Bordeaux? They both tend to be dry, hot, somewhat windy regions with moderate elevations and in both regions Tempranillo THRIVES. It produces wines that are better balanced, more complex and an all around better value than many other, more famous varieties. Heresy you say? Well seek one of these wines out, try it, then get back to me.

I am not saying that California Tempranillo is the equivalent of some of Spain's greatest wines. Rioja for example is made in a plethora of styles. Many of these are trying too hard to emulate the anonymous yet expensive wines of every region in the world that are striving to make anonymous yet expensive wines, usually with fanciful proprietary names. There is an expression in Spanish for these wines, ironically it's "alta expression" which evidently is Spanish for "Super Tuscan" or "cult wine wannabe".

Many of these "alta expression" wines have lost their character and sense of place. Wines from Rioja speak not only of their place, and the small percentages of blending grapes, Mazuela, Garnacha and Graciano, that compliment the predominant Tempranillo, but of the unique winemaking that has developed there. It's time for us all to return to wine's roots and seek out the unique expressions that until recently were tucked away in every winemaking region.

While some Californian Tempranillos are wonderful wines, they are distinctly different than their Spanish siblings. Of the Tempranillos that we recently tasted several stood out as compelling values. If you'd like to read more about Tempranillo and the results of our tasting please visit us here. Below are some Tempranillo wines that I think are worthy of your attention. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

A Pair of Californian Upstarts!

2006 Garsa Tempranillo
This is all about Tempranillo with a core of bright, sweet red raspberry fruit complemented by soft citrus tones and a hint of forest floor. Deliciously fruity!

2004 Truchard Tempranillo
A darker, more age worthy interpretation of California Tempranillo packed with sweet ripe fruit and classic hints of leather, mushroom and dusty earth. Very smooth and polished with impeccable balance this is a classic in the making.

Great Values from Rioja and Toro

2004 Castillo LaBastida Crianza Rioja
With all the leathery, earthy funky elements of classic Rioja married to a bright, exuberant package of perfectly ripe red raspberry fruit, this is juicy and refreshing with a cleansing finish and lingering notes of cardamom and raspberry.

2007 Dehesa Gago Toro
Rich with black raspberry and mineral tones on the nose this offers up an intensely flavored yet lean profile that is full throttle, slightly rustic and totally engaging. Keeps you coming back for sip after delightful sip! A personal favorite.

New and Old from Rioja's Greatest Producer

2000 Lopez De Heredia Bosconia Rioja
Bright and zesty in the mouth with intense strawberry fruit and spicy nuances this is a Burgundian style of classic Rioja. Medium bodied with hints of vanilla and pepper this is a classic foil for a fine Paella Valenciana!

1981 R. Lopez De Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Vina Bosconia
With the elegance and succulence that only age can bring this has a great gamy edge to the transparent red fruits in the mouth. A world class wine with the seamless warmth of maturity and a long, complex, layered finish!

We'll be trying another flight of Tempranillo based wines this week so watch out for our full report and check out the Snooth forum for our usual round up of Global Tasting Initiative notes. And remember, Cabernet Sauvignon is on the way, beginning Monday March 9th we'll be moving on beyond Tempranillo!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    Does the Tempranillo grape go under any other name in different parts of the wine growing world?
    Are there any clones of this grape that are being made into wine?

    Jul 16, 2010 at 4:26 PM

  • Thanks for sharing                  

    Nov 29, 2018 at 9:39 AM

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