Description 1 of 2

Common synonyms: Tinto Fino, Ulle de Llebre, Tinto del Pais, Aragones(z), Cencibel, Tinto del Toro, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Riojano, Valdepeñas

Parentage of the grape: indigenous to Europe, not known exactly where
History of the grape: Origins of Tempranillo are murky. It could be indigenous to the Spanish countryside, or it could have been brought there by the Moors from somewhere else unknown. There are theories it’s a clonal offshoot of Pinot Noir, and though it shares some characteristics, it has been proven the two are not related. But regardless, Tempranillo, which means “early little one” for its penchant for early ripening, has become widely cultivated all over the world in many styles. 
It is the leading red grape in Spain, where it is called by many names according to where it’s grown. It is most distinguished as the main grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, where, particularly in the higher altitude vineyard locations, it is produced in elegant, age-worthy wines. Other grapes such as Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano and Mazuelo often comprise smaller percentages of the blend for body and structure. Many 100% Tempranillo wines are also produced with great results in many styles and age designations (Joven or “young” to Gran Reserva) thoughout the country. Some inexpensive Tempranillo is even produced in the Beaujolais Nouveau style, using carbonic maceration (a method of “flash maturation” with added carbon dioxide). 
Tempranillo is also rising in popularity as a New World varietal in places such as California, Oregon and Australia. 
Characteristics of the grape: low acid, thick-skinned, red cherry, red plum, leather, nutmeg, allspice, coffee, Coca-cola
Regions where the grape is currently important: Spain, Portugal, California, Oregon, Australia, Mexico, Chile, Argentina
Type or types of wines the grape produces: dry red, rosé
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

Tempranillo (aka. Valedpenas, Tinta Roriz, Cencibel, Tinto de Toro, Ull de Llebre, Aragonez, Tinto de Madrid, Tinto del Pais) Fittingly, Spain’s most noble red grape variety is finally making inroads in the American state with the richest Spanish heritage – California. Famous in Spain’s Rioja region, Tempranillo now graces some of the premium-quality, grape-growing regions of California (such as the Napa Valley) and is making its mark as a varietal. Strong similarities exist between Tempranillo and the variety known as Valdepenas -- grown in California’s Central Valley – although some think that Valdepenas is actually related to Carignane. Arguably then, Tempranillo/Valdepenas is used in California to make grape juice that is highly favored by home-winemakers and sold under the 'Valdepenas' name in North America. The variety is also used to make ordinary jug wines in which its relative low acidity is not regarded as a problem. Some historians believe that vines of the Tempranillo grape were originally brought to Spain from monasteries in Northern France as variants of Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc. Ampelographers, however, have found no genetic link between Tempranillo and those illustrious French varieties. The thick-skinned, productive Tempranillo can produce dry, scented, age-worthy wines that are deep-hued and not too high in alcohol. Used in the best quality red wines throughout Spain, it is also known under many alias names including Cencibel in La Mancha and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. The confusing list of synonyms continues with Tinto Fino in the Zamora region, Tinta del Pais in the Ribero del Duero, and Tinta de Toro in the Toro region. Across the border in Portugal, the grape continues its trail of aliases, going as (Tinta) Roriz to port producers and Aragonez in regions further south. Large acreages of Tempranillo are also found in Argentina. One major drawback of the variety is its fairly low acidity. The musts tend to have an excessively high pH level and roughly half of their total acidity is malic, meaning that varietally-made Tempranillo should retain its color well, but lose its fruit and liveliness after a few years. Hence the tendency for winemakers to throw varying proportions of other grapes into the blend to make-up for this shortcoming of an otherwise noble cepage Senor Tempranillo, you are strong with an air of're suave, even classy. You’re Spain’s greatest star, but establishing your celebrity abroad has been a humbling experience. In America they know little of your legendary performances across the Iberian Peninsula. They call you Valdepenas, treating you like some lowly stage hand, good only for a few menial tasks. But finally, auditions for a new Latin lead on the prestigious viticultural stages of California are underway! This is it!...your opportunity to dazzle America may finally be at hand. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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