My favorite wine anecdote is one I could share during one of those silly business “icebreakers” where you have to tell a group of complete strangers your most embarrassing moment. I was talking vino at a party with some people I’d just met and I mentioned a Tempranillo I had tried at a new tapas bar that had opened nearby. Being a Latina, I pronounced the word “tapas” with a native Spanish accent.
I started getting uncomfortable looks from the others, and finally one of them cleared his throat and said, “Um, you go to topless bars?”
For the record, I do not, but if you ever find yourself at a Spanish-themed topless bar–or at a restaurant with an eclectic wine list–here’s all you need to know about Tempranillo.
HOLA, ME LLAMO: Tempranillo, a red wine, gets its name from the Spanish word temprano, which means early (the grape ripens early). Depending on where you are, Tempranillo goes by a host of aliases: Cencibel, Ull de Lliebre, Tinto del País or Tinto del Toro in other regions of Spain; Tinta Roriz or Tinta Aragones in Portugal; and Tempranilla in Argentina.
MY ROOTS: Tempranillo’s birthplace is the Rioja region of Spain, but some folks think that it was brought there by French monks who were making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Tempranillo is the core grape of red Rioja wines, where it’s often blended with Garnacha. It’s also one of the main red grapes in Ribera del Duero, where it’s been used for more than 100 years at the prestigious Vega Sicilia winery. Today, Tempranillo is grown in Mexico, California, Italy, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.
ALL ABOUT ME: If you like cherry and plum on the palate, you’ll enjoy Tempranillo. Grapes that were grown in iron-rich soil may show some iron-mineral notes. When it’s aged, Tempranillo displays beautiful caramel, tobacco and tea leaf aromas. This is a dry wine with medium tannins, medium alcohol and medium to high acidity.
FOODS I LOVE: Break out the jamón serrano and the chorizo. Tempranillo is dreamy with a charcuterie plate, and if you happen to be at a tapas bar, it’s a great match for croquetas (ham croquettes), meatballs in tomato sauce and pinches (lamb or pork kabobs). Tempranillo is also tasty with roasted lamb and Indian food.
DO TRY THIS AT HOME: A bottle of Tempranillo can cost anywhere from $10 to $300. Some budget-friendly wines worth trying include: Luis Alegre Koden 2011, Sancho Barón 2009, Lar de Sotomayor Vendimia Seleccoinada 2010, and from Mexico, Alximia Alma 2012.
Something to ponder as you sip your next glass of Tempranillo: You can enjoy Tempranillo and still keep your top on, while getting your tapas on.