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Transforming Tempranillo

Over-zealous planting and heavy-handed use of oak haven’t done its reputation any favours, but Spain’s most widespread variety can make excellent wines. Sarah Jane Evans MW highlights the regions and producers helping Tempranillo reach its full potential.

To begin with a confession: when I started to study blind tasting, Tempranillo was the one red variety that I could rarely spot. Even now I sometimes have to circle round it and eliminate all the others first. Syrah, yes, Cabernet Sauvignon, always, Merlot and Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, no problem. I can even make a calculated guess at Nerello Mascalese. The problem – for me at least – is that Tempranillo is Spain’s most widely planted red, and has many different profiles. Since Spain is a mountainous country, with seas on several sides, significant rivers and a mix of soils, there is exceptional diversity. No wonder the fruit character varies. Fresh cherry? Morello cherry? Cherry jam? Plum? Blackcurrant? Then there’s its savoury character: sweet spices, a slightly leathery feel, sometimes leafy. There can be a fine freshness too.

Evans’ pick: 12 top Tempranillos to try


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