The natural choice for tapas, this versatile fruity wine also pairs well with meats such as pork and rabbit
Well, it would be stupid not to lead with tapas. Whether it’s a spicy piece of grilled chorizo or a platter of paprika-doused octopus, a good glass of young fresh rioja is always going to do the biz – especially if you’re in Spain on holiday with only such piquant delicacies at your disposal. Tapas apart, tempranillo is a pretty versatile food wine, especially the versions in which the oak is in the background, giving way to those lovely ripe strawberry fruit tones. The thing to remember about tempranillo is that for a red, it has quite high acidity, which makes it very good for foods with a heavy dose of fat or oil. Pork will be a good pairing, especially if it has been slow roasted. Similarly rich white meats such as rabbit are great with a light, bright and breezy tempranillo. On the darker, heavier side, say a Rioja Gran Reserva that has been given extended wood ageing for a richer, intense flavour profile, you can be as daring as you like, but something like a thick slab of rare steak or an oxtail stew will find a great match in the sweet, luscious fruits and the supporting velvety tannins.
- Acid nous
- Tempranillo has a high acid profile for a red. This is good from the food point of view, but can make youthful versions something of a stomach-churning experience for the drinker, and a major headache for the wine-makers.
- Sounds like
- Other names for this noble grape include Cencibel (in La Mancha), Tinto Fino (Ribera del Duero), Tinta Roriz (Portugal) and, very confusingly, Valdepenas in California.
- Looks like
- Tempranillo could have once been related to pinot noir. Ampelographers (nerds who study the history of grapes) reckon the two grape varieties may be closely related, and that tempranillo is in fact pinot noir brought to Spain by the early pilgrims heading for Santiago de Compostela.
- Age before beauty
- In tempranillo’s traditional heartland, Rioja, wood ageing is revered for its effects on the grape. However, much rioja is probably aged in wood for longer than is strictly necessary, which is why many have a pronounced oak nose and lots of raw vanilla tones. It can also mean they are overly tannic.