The Best Tempranillo Wines to Drink Right Now

By Arielle Weg, Wine Enthusiast

There are few grapes that can produce as wide a variety of wine styles as Tempranillo. The Spanish grape is the basis for both for bright and fresh bottlings and hearty, complex pours. It’s very food-friendly, complementing everything from barbecue and lasagna to chorizo tacos and roast lamb.

While some bottlings respond beautifully to long-term aging, many are made to be consumed right away. Here, we break down everything you need to know about Tempranillos, and which bottles are perfect for enjoying right now—no cellaring required.

What Is Tempranillo Wine?

Tempranillo is among Spain’s most popular red grapes and used to produce some of the nation’s greatest wines, but today it can be found all over the world. The grape thrives in sunny, hot and elevated climates and produces full-bodied wines with medium acidity and tannins. The name is derived from the Spanish word “temprano,” meaning “early” in English. This is a reference to how early Tempranillo grapes tend to ripen, compared to other varieties.

Rioja in northeast Spain is the most well-known region for producing Tempranillo wines. In fact, the grapes have been used here since at least the 1500s. Bottles labeled Rioja can either contain 100% Tempranillo or be a blend of the red grape and additional varieties, like Garnacha.

Spain’s Catalunya and Ribera del Duero also produce high-quality and delicious Tempranillo bottlings. Other parts of the world, like Portugal, the U.S., Australia, Argentina, Chile and Mexico produce some excellent Tempranillo wines, too.

What Does Tempranillo Taste Like?

Tempranillo is almost always red and dry, though some white and rosé options are on the market, some of which are sweet. The wine has flavors of red fruits, like strawberries and cherries, and black fruits, like blackberries and plums. Tempranillo bottles aged for long periods of time can achieve additional flavors like cedar, dried fruits, tobacco or vanilla.

The wine can vary from super fruity and light to rich, age-worthy and quite complex. This is determined by the grapes used and the winemaker’s techniques. It is sometimes blended with other grape varieties to add complexity and age-ability.

Aging Tempranillo

In Spain, aging Tempranillo in new, American oak barrels is very common to add flavor, soften tannins and add body to the wine. Winemakers may also choose to age wines in the bottle before they hit the market. Some regions, like Rioja, require a minimum aging period before wines can be released for sale. Spanish winemakers will often use four labeling terms to let consumers know what to expect.

  • Joven wines are very young, fruity and minimally aged.
  • Crianza wines are aged in oak barrels and in bottle for at least two years.
  • Reserva wines are aged in oak barrels and in bottle for at least three years.
  • Gran Reserva wines are aged for the most amount of time in oak barrels and in the bottle—for at least five years, two of which must be in oak.

Best Tempranillo Bottles to Drink Now

Marques De Riscal Gran Reserva, 2016

Dark-garnet to the eye, this wine has a bouquet of black currant, bittersweet chocolate and almond blossom. It alights on the palate with flavors of blackberry, cassis, chocolate-covered espresso bean, violet and citrus zest. Energetic tannins power their way into a cherry-pie finish. Made with vines more than 30 years old, this wine is unfiltered; decant before serving and strain if necessary. Drink through 2045. 99 Points —Mike DeSimone

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Muga 2015 Prado Enea Gran Reserva Red

This dark-ruby wine offers a bouquet of ripe cherry and baking spices. Notes of clove and nutmeg transition to the palate alongside flavors of blackberry, cassis, chocolate-covered espresso bean, eucalyptus and violet. Luxurious tannins amble toward a lengthy finish. Drink through 2045. 98 Points —M.D.

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Bodegas Olarra 2011 Laztana Gran Reserva Red

Dark ruby in the glass, this wine has a nose of cherry and butterscotch, with a hint of forest floor. It is smooth in the mouth, offering weighty tannins and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, caramel and clove. There is a pervasive sense of brightness in the mouth from first sip to the spicy finish. 96 Points —M.D.

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Rolland & Galarreta 2014 Tempranillo Tempranillo

This deep-ruby-colored wine has a nose of dark plums, blackberry and forest floor. It is powerful in the mouth, with plush tannins and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, clove, dark chocolate and violet. A bright note of orange zest lingers into the smooth finish. 95 Points —M.D.

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Beronia 2013 Gran Reserva Tempranillo

This garnet-colored wine has a bouquet of black currant, purple plums and saddle leather. It is juicy in the mouth, offering flavors of black-cherry, pomegranate, milk chocolate, fennel and orange blossom. Velvety tannins fade into a Valencia orange and violet splashed finish. 94 Points —M.D.

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Altanza 2019 Crianza Tempranillo

This deep garnet-colored wine has aromas of cranberry and dark chocolate. It offers a sense of brightness on the palate, with good acidity and flavors of cranberry and pomegranate. The wine also has depth, with velvety tannins and notes of mocha, olive tapenade and dried oregano. 91 Points —M.D.

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