Tempranillo. Found mostly in Rioja and Ribeira del Duero, the tempranillo grape is known as Spains "Noble Grape"and can only be found in Spain!!! The name Tempranillo is a diminutive of the Spanish word temprano ( early), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most other Spanish reds.
Rioja takes on a lighter personality in it's Jovens and Crianzas due to it's thin skin. It develops an amazing cigar box aroma with cinnamon and earthy leathery notes on the palate that only this grape can possess. While in a Reserva and Gran Reserva it is often blended in minor percentages with two other indigenous grapes: Graciano (grown only in Rioja) and Mazuelo ( aka Carinena in two other regions which we will discover later on) which add finesse and ageing capability.Here the bouquet takes on a smokey aspect, scorched earth and sweet kirsch liquer. During the time of the Catholic Monarchs Riojas were the wines of celebratory banquets in every noble house throughout Spain. Wines of the nobility.
Ribera Del Duero takes on a different name known as Tinta del Pais or Tinta de Toro .The light and air here have a brightness about them, as do the wines. These are concentrated reds of intense colour and fruit-quite different in style from it's counterpart in Rioja just 60 miles away. As a result these wines have a bold bright character to them. As in Rioja, the wines of Ribera del Duero are classified as Joven..(packed with fruit and mouthwatering crispness), Crianza..(vanilla , spice and earthiness). In excellent years the wines may aspire to Reserva status showing complex fruit, richness, length and maturity. Gran Reserva are rare but exceptional. Vega Sicilia provided the initial proof that great wine could be made here. The estate was initially planted in the 1860s, however, the area really did not pop until 1990. Most of the wine here is red with a modest amount of Rosado and No white wines.
Here are some pointers to better understand a Spanish wine label.
Wines are classified by how long they have spent in Oak barrels.
$ Joven.. NO time in oak. Young, fresh, and fruity. Intended for immediate consumption
$$ Crianza.. Aged 6-12 months in oak and 1 year in bottle, then to market. Will exhibit complex flavours. Vanilla, spice...
$$$ Reserva.. Aged1 year in oak 1 year in bottle to market after 3 years. Extended length, richness, and Leathery notes.
$$$$$ Gran Reserva..Only produced in outstanding vintages. Rare..2 years oak 2 years bottle to market after 5 years. Wines of great distinction exhibiting earth, scorched gravel, and cedar.
lamb, Pot Roast
Roast Pork, Beef Wellington
Hamburger, Prime Rib
Steak, Meat Loaf
Grilled Tuna, Grilled Salmon
Wild Boar, Venison