recently Tempranillo was thought to be related to the
Pinot Noir grape, but recent genetic studies tend to
discount this possibility.
cultivation of Vitis vinifera, the common ancestor
of almost all vines in existence today, began in earnest
with Phoenician settlement in the southern provinces.
Later, according to the Roman writer Columella, wines
were grown all over Spain, yet there are only scattered
references to the name "Tempranillo". This is presumably
because in many places, like the Valdepeas region, it
was the main indigenous variety and assumed to be a
until the 17th century Tempranillo-type vines remained
confined to mainland Spain, where they were best suited
to the slightly cooler climate of the northern provinces.
Here the regions of La Rioja (Spain) and Valdepenas
historically made them their most important variety
and they still make up the majority grape of their finest
Tempranillo varietal wine in a glass, showing typically
intense purple coloring
grape was brought to America, possibly as seeds, with
the Spanish Conquistadors in the 17th century, where
it has largely retained its genetic identity and still
strongly resembles its Spanish ancestors. Due to its high susceptibility
to pests and diseases (particularly phylloxera which
devastated stocks in the 19th century and still threatens
the vines today), Spanish Tempranillo has long been
grafted onto more resistant rootstock, resulting in
a slightly different grape style to those grown today
in Chile and Argentina. Despite its apparent fragility,
Tempranillo travelled widely during the last century
and, following much trial and error, has become established
in a surprising number of countries worldwide.
1905, Frederic Bioletti brought Tempranillo to California
where it received a cool reception not only due to the
encroaching era of Prohibition, but also because of
the grape's dislike of hot, dry climates. It was much
later, during the 1980s, that Californian Tempranillo-based
wine production began to flourish, following the establishment
of suitably mountainous sites. Production in this area
more than doubled since 1993.
is currently enjoying a renaissance in wine production
worldwide. This surge began partly as a result of the
efforts of a 'new wave' of Spanish growers who showed
that it was possible to produce wines of great character
and quality in areas outside of the Rioja region. One
of the results of this has been that Tempranillo varietal
wines are becoming more common, especially in the better-suited,
cooler Spanish regions like Ribera del Duero, Navarra
and Penedes. During the last decade, growers as far-flung
as Australia, USA and South Africa have started significant
1988, Jesus Galilea Esteban found a cluster of white
grapes on one of the Tempranillo vines in his vineyard,
Murillo de Rio Leza, located in Rioja. He removed the cluster,
leaving a heel which in turn produced two buds of white
grapes. Galilea then contacted the Rioja government
agency CIDA, who grafted
the buds at their research station in February 1989.
concluded that apart from the leaves and fruit being
a little smaller,
the new plants were identical to normal Tempranillo
in most respects, and
confirmed this with DNA evidence. The most notable
difference was that the grape skins were green-yellow
rather than the usual blue-black, due to a natural mutation
in a single skin colour gene.
Similar mutations appear to have happened in many other
grape varieties, such as Pinot Noir and Grenache.
white Tempranillo grape reproduces asexually through
the one unique sarmentum and multiplication. This allows
for identical genes, much like a clone. In fact, the
genetic similarity between the red and white variety
is of 97.8%.
Both grapes share identical leaves, clusters and grape
form, as well as the short ripening cycles
and sensitivity to pests and diseases. The early ripening
cycles makes possible its cultivation in any subzone
of the Denominatin since the entire cycle can be completed
even in the zones where ripening occurs later. The white tempranillo
has a medium yield (7500 - 9000 kilograms per hectare),
medium to high vine vigor and high alcohol content.
Although it has many clusters, they are small and of
medium weight. In one example it
was reported to have a titratable acidity of 6.9 g/L.
once the mutation had stabilized, expanded their collection
to 100 vines in 1993, and started to make wine on an
experimental scale. The
first bottling of wine was in 2005, from a hectare of
vines planted in 2000.
It was fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in
oak barrels. The green-tinged wine had discreet aromas
of flowers and tropical fruit such as pineapple, refreshing
to drink but lacking a little in acidity.  White
Tempranillo is currently being distributed to growers
having been registered with the State
and approved for use in the Rioja D.O.Ca.
and not to be confused with the white mutant strain,
the Pago del Vicario winery, in Ciudad Real in La Mancha,
is producing an unusual "blanc de noir"-style wine from
black tempranillo grapes. The pale steely yellow "Blanco
de Tempranillo" is produced by using grapes picked slightly
early than their usual harvest time, and minimizing
the amount of time the juice is in contact with the
is native to northern Spain and widely cultivated as
far south as La Mancha. The two major regions that grow
Tempranillo are Rioja in North Central Spain and Ribera
del Duero, which lies a little further to the south.
Ribera del Duero
wine making goes back over 2,000 years as evidenced
by the 66-meter mosaic of Bacchus, the god of wine that
was unearthed relatively recently at Banos de Valdearados.
Substantial quantities are also grown in the Penedes,
Navarra and ValdepeÃ±as regions. The grape plays a role
in the production of wines in two regions of Portugal,
central Alentejo and Douro. In Alentejo Central it is
known as Aragonez and used in red table wine
blends of variable quality, while in the Douro it is
known as Tinta Roriz and mainly used in blends
to make port wine.
varietal is extensively grown in Argentina, Chile,
and Mexico where
low yield high quality plants produce fine 100% tempranillos
like Encino. It was introduced to Uruguay in 1994 by
Los Cerros de San Juan Vineyards and Winery,
where the first marketable harvest took place in 1999.
Fermentation is in American oak barrels. There
are also some plantings in Neiba, Dominican Republic.
came to California bearing the name Valdepenas and it
was grown in the Central Valley at the turn of the century.
Since the climate of the Central Valley was not ideal
for the grape, it was hard for the varietal to flourish.
It could not reach its true potential and was used as
a blending grape for jug wine.
California has since started to use this varietal again
for fine wines. The grape was introduced in Oregon by
Earl Jones of Abacela Vineyards and Winery in the Umpqua
is Abacela's main varietal and it has also been produced
in New Mexico, where Tularosa Vineyards was the first
winery to label the wine as Tempranillo in 2001.
Inwood Estates Vineyards in Texas also has their Cornelious,
along with some other blends using Tempranillo.
is also grown in many Australian wine regions including
McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, Wrattonbully and in
Western Australia. There are now over 200 Australian
wineries making wine from this variety.
has recently been introduced by some wine producers
is a black grape with a thick skin. It grows best at relatively
high altitudes, but it also can tolerate a much warmer
With regard to Tempranillo's production in various climates,
wine expert Oz Clarke notes.
|To get elegance
and acidity out of Tempranillo, you need a cool
climate. But to get high sugar levels and the thick
skins that give deep color you need heat. In Spain
these two opposites are best reconciled in the continental
climate but high altitude of the Ribera del Duero.
the Ribera del Duero the average July temperature is
around 21.4° Celsius (70.5° Fahrenheit),
though temperatures in the middle of the day in the
lower valley can jump as high as 40 °C (104 °F).
At night the region experiences a dramatic diurnal temperature
variation with temperatures dropping by as much as 16 °C
(30 °F) from the daytime high. The Tempranillo
grape is one of the few grapes that can adapt and thrive
in continental Mediterranean climates like this.
The lower acidity associated with low-altitude growth
is most often remedied by blending with higher acid
grapes, such as Graciano in Rioja. Pests and
diseases are a serious problem for this grape variety,
since it has little resistance to either. The grape
forms compact, cylindrical bunches of spherical, purplish
black fruit with a colourless pulp. The fruit is very
dark in colour and forms a bead-like sphere, hence its
Catalan name of Ull de Llebre ("Eye of the Hare").
tempranillo root absorbs Potassium easily, which facilitates
pH levels of 3.6 in the pulp and 4.3 in the peel when
it reaches maturity. When it absorbs too much potassium
the must is salified (increased levels of salt) which
slows the disappearance of malic acid resulting in a
The peel does not present any herbaceous characters. The grape is very
susceptible to inclement weather, contracting when there
is a drought and swelling when there is too much humidity.
The swelling has a negative effect on quality since
it affects the color of the wine. The effects of the
weather are attenuated in places with limestone because
of the effect of the clay and humidity in the roots;
the effects are worse in sandy areas, as well as for
vines that are less than twelve years old, as the roots
are generally too superficial.
making up as much as 90% of a blend, Tempranillo is
less frequently bottled as a single varietal. Being
low in both acidity and sugar content, it is most commonly
blended with Grenache (known as Garnacha in Spain),
Carignan (known as Mazuela in Spain), Graciano,
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Blending the grape with
Carignan makes a brighter and more acidic wine. Tempranillo
is the major component of the typical Rioja blends and
constitutes 90-100% of Ribera del Duero wines.
In Australia, Tempranillo is blended with Grenache and
Syrah. In Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz,
it is a major grape in the production of some Port wines.