Wine Varieties

Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo is a Spanish black grape varietal known primarily as the main grape used in the production of red Rioja wines. Rioja is the most famous na…


Tempranillo is a Spanish black grape varietal known primarily as the main grape used in the production of red Rioja wines. Rioja is the most famous name in Spanish wine. Tempranillo is used in Rioja wines but it is also used in many other wines from Spain. Tempranillo is also known by many different local names such as Cencibel, Tinto Fino and Tinta del País.


Grown throughout the north of Spain, Tempranillo is an early ripening grape. High altitudes suit Tempranillo vines and cool climates help the acidity and make for more elegant wines wine bright colours.


Tempranillo is enjoying something of a surge in popularity in Australia. More and more vineyards are planting the grape and winemakers are seeing success in the wines they produce. Australia is still very much in the experimental stage and though there are still plenty of trials there are fewer errors. Warm climates increase sugar levels and thicken the grapes skins to give deeper colours, while cooler-climate Tempranillo wines are lighter in colour and more elegant on the palate.

How to pronounce

Tempranillo is a Spanish word derived from temprano meaning ‘early’ as it is harvested earlier than other varietals. Tempranillo is pronounced Tem-prah-nee-oh.


Tempranillo will have notes of plum and cherry but it is most known for its savoury characteristics. The colour of Tempranillo is of deep red or purple.


When young, plums and cherries shine through in Tempranillo wines. With age and oak, the fruit becomes more subdued. Notes of leather and tobacco leaves are more pronounced in more mature Tempranillo wines.

Food pairing

Owing to its savoury characteristics Tempranillo is a versatile wine that pairs readily with many food types. Tempranillo pairs well with meaty, tomato-based dishes such as ragout, lasagne and, perhaps usurpingly, many typical tapas plates or any charred meat that comes off the barbecue. Tempranillo will complement foods made with smoked paprika, or spiced meats such as chorizo and salami.

Cheese pairing

Tempranillo is a versatile wine but it pairs especially well with tangy sheep’s milk cheeses. A classic combination is Rioja that has spent some time in oak enjoyed with a Manchego cheese.

Notable regions

The Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions in South Australia produce excellent Tempranillo. Wineries in the Canberra region of the ACT have had success and acclaim with their Tempranillo wines. Wineries in New South Wales regions of Mudgee, Orange and the Southern Highlands are also enjoying success creating bright, flavoursome Tempranillo.


Notable Tempranillo winemakers in Australia include Brown Brothers, Mount Majura, Audrey Wilkinson, Quattro Mano and Yalumba.


Rioja is by far the best-known wine name from Spain. Wines from Rioja can be red, white or rosé. The red wines, or tinto in Spanish, are blends made primarily from Tempranillo. Red Rioja wines usually spend some time in oak barrels. The youngest wines are designated Joven with the highest classification being designated Rioja Gran Reserva; most of these wines are aged for ten years or more.

The future/summary

Australian winemakers have made encouraging progress with Tempranillo with more wineries added the varietal to offerings.


The increasing appreciation of Rioja and the improvements by Spanish winemakers has raised the profile of Tempranillo in Australia. Punters are discovering that the savoury characteristics of this versatile wine are a departure from the big reds of the Barossa Valley. The growing success of Tempranillo is another example of the enterprise and diversity in Australian winemaking.

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