Tempranillo Wine Pairing

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Tempranillo wine, originally from the Rioja region of Spain, is a food-friendly red that can be successfully paired with many dishes. Tempranillo is an especially good pairing with classic Spanish cuisine like tapas and paella, as well as strong flavors a

Among the many underappreciated wines is Tempranillo, a lovely Spanish red that lends itself to pairing with many foods, from Spanish tapas and paella to Moroccan lamb tajine. Tempranillo is one of the best wines from the Rioja region of Spain, and can be the main component of red wines labeled Rioja. It is often blended with other varietals like Garnache, Graciano, or Cabernet sauvignon. You can find excellent Tempranillos for pairing with meals from wineries in Australia, California, and Portugal.

About Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo is often described as a “food-friendly” wine because its balance of medium to strong tannins and low acidity complements so many flavors, making it a good pairing with a variety of cuisines. Like Riesling, this red wine can also have characteristic “terroir,” a distinctive flavor or aroma from the vineyard. You often hear the terms “rugged” or “earthy” in conjunction with Tempranillo. It has a deep color, though it is not a robust, full-bodied red wine, but rather on the light side. Oak-aged Tempranillo has a smooth finish, often with hints of vanilla.

Different Tempranillos can exhibit a bright fruitiness (cherries, blackberries, plums), a variety of herbal or spice tones (anise, dill, chocolate, black pepper), as well as earthy, mineral accents. At the same time, most Tempranillos are smooth on the palate. It is this combination that makes Tempranillo a perfect pairing with many strongly flavored dishes and grilled meats.

Guidelines for Pairing Tempranillo with Food

Given its Spanish origins, Tempranillo is often the recommended varietal for classic Spanish cuisine, including:

  • Tapas (olives, jambon, chorizo, sardines, marinated mushrooms, Spanish cheeses)
  • Chicken or seafood paella
  • Steamed mussels
  • Sheep’s milk cheeses like Manchego
  • Lamb or mutton

Tempranillo can also pair well with strongly flavored dishes, including:

  • Chacuterie (cured meats—especially ham, olives, pickles, Spanish cheese)
  • Moroccan tajines (lamb, chicken, seafood)
  • Barbequed spareribs
  • Salmon in herbed sauce
  • Wild mushroom dishes and sauces
  • Roasted stuffed peppers
  • Calamari in red sauce

The earthy component of many Tempranillos complements roasted and grilled meat:

  • Grilled lamb or beef burgers
  • Lamb, beef, or shrimp kabobs
  • Roasted beef
  • Pork chops

Tempranillo—an Affordable Pleasure

If you shop around, you should be able to find some Tempranillos or Riojas at extremely reasonable prices. Try some bottles from Spain, but don’t turn your back on the newcomers from Australia or California. And then plan a food-wine pairing as simple as Tempranillo with a good Manchego and a plate of sliced chorizo—or go for broke with your best paella recipe. Tempranillo won’t let you down.


Shava Chai
Posted on Jan 24, 2011
carol roach
Posted on Jan 23, 2011