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Carl Hudson
May 10, 2021 | Carl Hudson

Tempranillo - From Spain to Texas with Style

Tempranillo - From Spain to Texas with Style

Tempranillo is a wine grape variety native to Spain and Portugal.  It is famous for making the fine red wines of the Rioja & Ribera del Duero regions of Spain, and as one of the key grapes (called Tinta Roriz) in Port wines.  The climate in these regions is hot & dry with a desert-like diurnal temperature shift of 20-40 degF between the nighttime low and daytime high.  These Iberian regions sit at relatively high elevations and look a lot like many Texas wine-growing regions, especially the High Plains.  When Tempranillo was brought to Texas, it shrugged off the difficult conditions and adapted to become a key grape in both the Hill Country and High Plains AVA’s. 

The name Tempranillo is derived from the word “temprano”, meaning “early”.  This early nature of the variety can cause some issues here in Texas.  Tempranillo buds early in the springtime bringing danger of frost damage from early cold temperatures.  Tempranillo is also an early ripening grape often reaching ripeness before most other red varieties and alongside later maturing white varieties.  When winemakers are focused on white wine harvests and production, it can be an issue to see bins of red Tempranillo grapes arrive on the crush pad as shifts in techniques and equipment are needed to make red wines.  However, Tempranillo produces delicious wines in Texas and winemakers will most often shrug off the inconveniences involved. 

With relatively thick-skin providing some measure of protection against soaring summer temperatures, many diseases and insect pests, Tempranillo can flourish in Texas vineyards.  Tempranillo offers a relatively mild flavor profile with red fruit characteristics (think cherry) and an earthy minerality often associated with classic European wines (think dusty, almost chalky at the finish).  When grown well and ripened sufficiently, typical notes of leather, tobacco, dried cherry, strawberry, tomato and sandy earth (Texas dust) are often found in Tempranillo bottlings. 

There are a number of different clones of Tempranillo, and Texas grape growers continue to experiment to find the one(s) that works best in particular growing conditions and vineyards.  A lot of current research is focused on finding clones that bud & bloom later to help prevent damage by frequent Texas spring frosts.  As of 2011, Tempranillo was listed as the 10th most planted grape varietal in Texas.  That ranking is certain to improve as more vineyards of this versatile grape are being planted across the state.  Many Texas growers, winemakers and consumers believe Tempranillo will continue to play a major role in the future of the Texas wine industry.  

Like many Texas wineries, each of the Texas Wine Collective partners produces Tempranillo-based wines and/or blends.  A new program is being developed at TWC that will offer customers the opportunity for a guided tasting of Tempranillo wines from Brennan Vineyards (Comanche, TX), Lost Oak Winery (Burleson, TX), and McPherson Cellars (Lubbock, TX), paired with a Spanish (or other old world) Tempranillo so that similarities and differences can be appreciated.  Stay tuned to this website (fourpointwine.com) and the TWC social media sites (Facebook, Instagram) so that when this program becomes available, you can make a reservation to join us for a special Tempranillo tasting experience. 


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