Undoubtedly the most important red grape of Spain, Tempranillo has secured its place among the major varieties of the world, holding its own among even international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. But did you know that there is actually more Tempranillo hiding on wine lists and shop shelves than you think? Though the vast majority of Tempranillo plantings are localized to the Iberian Peninsula, the grape is actually known by many names.
In general, Tempranillo tends to be full-bodied with plenty of tannin and acidity. The flavors are plentiful, including but certainly not limited to tart and ripe red fruit, savory herbs, red flowers, tobacco, spice, and earth. While there are plenty of young examples of Tempranillo out there, the grape takes well to aging, and it can be aged in new American or French oak, giving flavors of vanilla, baking spice, coconut, and sweet dill. The name “Tempranillo” literally translates to “little early one,” because it ripens earlier than the other major Spanish variety, Garnacha.
Many of Tempranillo’s alter egos do refer to different clones of the Tempranillo grape, as some clones are better suited to certain regions than others. But nearly all major grape varieties have different clones, so when it comes down to it, all of the clones listed below, despite their names, are Tempranillo.
So what is your Tempranillo disguised as? Check out these major synonyms (as there are too many to list them all) for Spain’s top red grape variety and decode what’s in that glass for good.
Tinto Fino is the primary name for Tempranillo in Ribera del Duero, a warm inland region located along the Duero River that has gained recognition in recent years for its bold, structured, ageable Tempranillo-based wines. Ribera del Duero’s rise in significance is part of the reason why you may have heard the words “Tinto Fino” being tossed around in the past. All Ribera reds must be made with at least 75 percent Tinto Fino blended with Bordeaux grape varieties, though many are made as varietal wines.
Tinto del País
Another common name for Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, Tinto del País is also used as a synonym for the grape throughout the entire country of Spain, including the regions of Rioja and Cigales.
Tinta de Toro
Toro, a relatively new region, is located further inland along the Duero River, west of both Rueda and Ribera del Duero. It is quite hot in this region, so the local Tempranillo strain Tinta de Toro ripens easily and can produce dark-fruited, full-bodied wines. Regulations stipulate that red Toro wines may be made with a minimum 75 percent Tinta de Toro blended with Garnacha, but most are made with 100 percent of the grape.
Ull del Llebre (Ojo de Liebre)
The Catalunyan name for Tempranillo, Ull del Llebre, literally translates to “Eye of the Hare.” It is frequently seen in the red wines of regions like Penedès, where it can either be blended or listed with the grape variety name if Ull del Llebre comprises at least 85 percent of the wine. The Spanish-language synonym for Tempranillo is sometimes seen here as well — Ojo de Liebre.
The name Cencibel is used for Tempranillo from central and southern Spain, most commonly from La Mancha, where it can be blended with Airén to lighten the body.
Northern Portugal refers to Tempranillo as Tinta Roriz, where it is a valuable component of blends in the Douro, both Port and table wine alike. Dão is also having increased success with varietal Tinta Roriz table wines.
Portugal may be a small country, but yes, it does have two different synonyms for Tempranillo. Aragonês (sometimes spelled Aragonez) is used in Portugal’s southern regions, particularly the hot southeastern Alentejo. Quite a few grapes are permitted to be grown in the Alentejo, but Aragonês is showing promise in blends or as a varietal wine with big, inky fruit and aromatic intensity.