Hidden Wine Gem: Tempranillo

Hidden Wine Gem: Tempranillo

Did you know that great-tasting wine doesn't have to be expensive?

For the longest time, I was a firm believer that all wine under $15 was basically crap and undrinkable. However, life happened and I lost my job earlier this year. Since then, I've had to live on an extremely unpredictable income where I had to make a lot of sacrifices -- including my spending habits on wine. I went through a few stages of denial until I realized that it was time to open up and be creative with my choices. Cue up Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” and put it on loop.... because I’m happy to report that I’ve found some absolutely stellar wines under $15.Yes, these hidden wine gems exist and will be your new best friend — especially in times when you need to cut your spending. I'm here to tell you what you need to know in order to find them. The first hidden wine gem on my list is one of my favorite go-to’s (even when I’m not on a budget) ... Tempranillo from Spain!

 

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Why it’s affordable:

Tempranillo has been around for some time now - in fact, it’s the fourth OLDEST red grape varietal in the world, and it originates from Spain. However, it took winemakers a long time to figure out how to grow it anywhere else... now they grow it in California, Texas, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. That said - it’s still predominately grown in Spain. And since Spain is the 3RD LARGEST producer of wine in the world..... they have lots of it to the source. Luckily for us, that means the law of supply and demand is in full force here. Let me break it down for ya here:

 

Why it’s high quality:

Similar to France and Italy, Spain has its own classification system that helps with keeping quality control in line for their wine. It’s called the Denominación of Origin (or DO). The DO is governed by a council of winemakers who now the industry as well as the conditions necessary to produce quality wine within their 70 different wine regions. And luckily for us again, this council knows what’s up in creating top-notch wine and won’t give their seal (or sticker) of approval unless they are followed.

 

How to shop for it:

If you are at a store that has a bigger wine selection, Spanish wine should be in its own section -- go to the section labeled "Spain" or "Spanish Wine". If that's not the case, look for where the Italian and French wines are or ask someone if and where their Spanish wines are. Once you’re there, look for keywords of Tempranillo, Rioja and/or Ribera del Duero. Also, look at the back of the bottle to find the DO sticker (because that is when you know it’s legit!)

 

Fast Facts:

  • Dry red wine that is medium to full in body.
  • Popular flavors: cherry, dried fig, tobacco, and cedar.
  • It’s Spain’s #1 grape and is most predominately grown in the Rioja & Ribera del Duero wine regions.
  • Wines from Rioja tend to be lighter and have earthy notes.
  • Wine from Ribera del Duero is typically bolder and juicier.
  • Like George Clooney, Tempranillo just gets better and better with age. It’s not uncommon to see older vintages in it. In fact, the finest Tempranillo ages 20+ years (and are very $$$)...
  • Rioja is the most famous wine region for Tempranillo. It’s so special that it has its own classification system for how long it’s aged in oak:
    • Crianza: 1 year
    • Reserva: at least 3 years
    • Gran Reserva: at least 5 years
  • In the late 19th century, there was a big insect epidemic that ruined most of the vineyards in France. During that time, Bourdeaux winemakers were sourced grapes from the Rioja region. Bourdeaux in return of the favor taught Rioja their winemaking methods (including aging in French oak instead of American)