A girlfriend of mine was here staying with me last week. During our visit she casually mentioned it was her birthday. My face flushed bright red and I told her I was so sorry I didn’t have anything to celebrate with… meaning cake. She then said to me that she had seen a bottle of Rioja wine on my wine rack and that would make for a fine celebration. I knew the bottle was a special bottle of wine but once my friend started telling me more about the wine and the grape … I decided to look into more myself. Here are a few facts I have come to discover!
CELEBRATE TEMPRANILLO WITH THE ROBUST FLAVORS OF RIOJA WINE
There’s no doubt about it, Tempranillo is the signature wine grape of Spain, especially from the region of Rioja. It’s the grape that defines Spanish red wine. Tempranillo can also be found in countries including Portugal, Argentina and the United States, among others.
Here are five things every wine lover should know (but just might not) about this robust-tasting Spanish grape, according to the Wine Enthusiast magazine:
1. It’s very, very old. Tempranillo is indigenous to Spain and dates back to before the time of Christ. It’s been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the Phoenicians settled it in 1100 B.C.
2. It’s an early bird. Tempranillo is derived from the word temprano, which in Spanish means “early.” Among red varieties in Spain, it’s considered an early ripener.
3. It has many monikers. Tempranillo goes by more than a dozen different names around the world, depending on where it’s cultivated. It’s called Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Tinta de Toro in Toro, Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha and Tinto Roriz in Portugal.
4. It’s cloned. There are about 500 clones of Tempranillo in Spain alone; Tinto Fino and Tinta de Toro are the best-known.
5. It has a white mutant. Although rare, albino Tempranillo does exist in Rioja. It’s an approved wine grape; it yields a citrusy, rather simple wine akin to Viognier in weight, flavor and overall style.
Now I know what a nice gift a bottle of Rioja Wine makes. It surely made my friend’s birthday extra special. Open a bottle today.