Red Rioja

Red Rioja’s typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. However it can be up to 100% Tempranillo.

Synonyms: Tempranillo, Tinto Fino, Cencibel, Tinto del Pais, Tinto de Toro, Ull de Liebre (Spain); Tinta Roriz, Tinta Aragonez (Portugal); Tempranilla (Argentina ), Aldepenas, Aragones, Aragónez de Ferra, Aragónez de Elvas, Arganda, Arinto Tinto, Cencibel, Cencibera, Chinchillana, Chinchillano, Chinchilyano, Cupani, Escobera, Garnacho Fono, Grenache de Logrono, Jacibiera, Jacivera, Juan Garcia, Negra de Mesa, Ojo de Liebre, Olho de Lebre, Sensibel, Tempranilla, Tempranillo de la Rioja, Tempranillo de Perralta, Tempranillo de Rioja, Tempranillo de Rioza, Tinta Aragóneza, Tinta Aragónes, Tinta de Santiago, Tinta de Toro, Tinta del País, Tinta do Inacio, Tinta Monteiro, Tinta Roríz da Penajola, Tinta Santiago, Tinto Aragon, Tinto de la Rioja, Tinto de Madrid, Tinto de Rioja, Tinto Fino Ull de Llebre, Tinto Madrid, Tinto País, Tinto Ribiera, Tinto Riojano, Ull de Llebre, Valdepeñas, Valdepenhas, Verdiell, Vid de Aranda

Wine Name: Tempranillo, Rioja (red) and many different producer brand names from Rioja, Ribero del Duero, Toro, Castilla-La Mancha, Valdepeñas, and Navarra in Spain and Douro in Portugal

Background: Tempranillo is to Spain what Merlot is to California. It is a low acid grape but the exception is that it has higher tannins than Merlot. Tempranillo grapes are used to produce the great red Spanish Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines and dry red wines of the Douro in Portugal. Sometimes the wines are pure Tempranillo and sometimes they are blended with other grapes. The grapes can make wines of different styles from light and fruity to full-bodied, fine wines with great tannins. Tempranillo usually tastes of spicy plum, blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry when young, and coffee, tobacco and mineral as they age. In cooler climates, Tempranillo usually makes a low acid wine (the opposite of what most grapes do) that takes well to oak aging. Most often, American oak is used for the aging. Acidity can range from low to high and tannins can range from soft to harsh, depending upon the grape grower and the vintner.

A step above typical Rioja is Crianza (aged 2 years, one in oak barrel and one in bottle). Next comes Reserva (aged 3 years, one in oak barrel and two in bottle, and the oldest being a Gran Reserva (aged 5 years, two in oak barrels and three in the bottle)

Classic Brands and Sources: Abadia Retuerta, Artadi, Allende, Bodegas Roda, Muga, Palacio, Montecastro, Alejandro Fernandez, Emilio Moro and many other Spanish producers in Toro, Rioja, Ribera del Duero ; Portugal – Cortes de Cima, Quinta dos Caravalhais, Quinta do Vale da Raposa


Style #1 – typical

Body – medium (-)

Acidity – medium (-)

Sweetness – dry

Tannins – medium

Style #2 – Rioja Reserva +

Body – medium (+)

Acidity – low

Sweetness – dry

Tannins – medium


Wine and food pairing guidelines:
Tempranillo wines generally pair better with more savory, herbed dishes rather than acidic dishes

Foods and Entrees that usually pair:
Game, duck, lamb, sausages both savory and spiced, smoked ham, grilled and roasted meats especially with herbs, paella, cheese based pasta, root vegetables and beans

Cheese Pairings:
American, Colby, Mild cheddar, Velveeta, Double Glouchester (similar to mild cheddar), Fontina, Gouda, Mahon, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Roncal, Serena, Triple Creme, St André, Zamarano (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese), Brie and Camembert (without rinds)

Appetizer Pairings:

See Appetizer Pairings for Tempranillo