Now I Know My Wine-Phabet: T is for Tempranillo

Posted on October 24, 2012

In this new series called “Now I know my Wine-phabet”, I will explore letter by letter wine and what I believe are some of the most important and/or influential aspects in the world of wine.  Since I am only choosing one topic per letter, many will be missed.  Hopefully these posts come across as being whimsical and informative.

A Love Letter

My Beloved Tempranillo,

I write this love letter as I sit here and reminisce on our previous encounters.  The first day we met,  I was in college and on a budget.  You too were in your youth, young and fruity, just a “Joven” from Rioja.  Our first encounter was love at first sight.  I can still smell your intoxicating strawberry aromas.

I later came across you again, I had started working at a Nuevo Latino restaurant and my sommelier added you by the glass.  I knew then that you were a one guy kind of grape.  You were still in Rioja, but this time you were a little better dressed and the bottle I served you from said “Reserva”.  This encounter was a little different from our first.  Your aromas were still of strawberry fruits but there was this toasty coconut and vanilla undertone that made my heart leap.

Oh how they loved you in la Rioja!  Maybe it has to do with your name, Tempranillo.  Were you named after the word “temprano” (early in Spanish)?  Your ability to ripen early led you to be the heart throbe of the cooler region, Rioja.  They so loved you that they tried to keep you in barrels for long periods of time.  They then re-classified you as “Gran Reserva”.  My beautiful Tempranillo, you became so complex in barrels.  Did I not have enough to offer you?

As I matured and started to become more experimental I realized that you too were looking for something new.  You decided to change your name to Tinto de Pais and live in the hotter climate of Ribera del Duero.  I almost did not recognize you.  You were darker and had built up more muscle.  Your aromas took on prune, leather and chocolate.  However, that hint of strawberry blew your cover.  I am not sure why you were running away from me, was I too possessive?

Then one day you were gone again, only to be found atop a mesa in La Mancha.  You changed your name once again, this time to Cencibel.  Really Tempranillo, why do you do this to me?  I get it! Your skins are thick and they were able to protect you from the hot sun.  You also must have loved the diurnal shift of the continental climate when those hot days turned into cold nights.  But why keep running?

Each time I found you I found a new affinity for you and your Sagitarius spirit.  You love traveling, you adapt to the local culture and express yourself in new ways.  When I came across you in Portugal where you went by the name Tinto Roriz in the Douro and Aragona in Alentejo.  My blood pressure skyrocketed when I heard that they were using you as a blending grape for Port.  But then I tasted the pruned fruit, dried herbs and leathery flavors those Portugese wine makers divulged when they fermented you dry.

I spoke to your mom and dad, Albillo Mayor and Benedicto.  They have not seen you since you left the house back in the 13th century.  Like everyone else you touch they miss you dearly.


Over the past several years I have been on your trail.  I followed you to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South America.  Although you have run away from me for so many years, your search for love is bringing you back to me.  You are a lover of Calcareous soils with black clay.  I hope you don’t think it is coincidence that I live only hours away from Paso Robles, where the hills are calling your name.  Please don’t change your name.  Find a home, stay close to me and let me suffocate in your aromas of strawberry, plums, chocolate and flowers.

Roses are red, violets are blue; Tempranillo come to bed, Tempranillo I love you!



  1. Earl of LaMancha

    I believed for a very long time that I was in monogamous relationship with Tempranillo. But this beautiful, revealing poem both piques my love and arouse tremendous jealousy. Tempranillo, long ago, disguised as Achilles I fought the Trojans over you (everyone thought it was Helen). Troy was just a diversion as nearby you, my true love grape were traveling namelessly through the deserts of the Levant on a horse with no name. I was exalted when the Phoenicians brought you, my darling to Hispania where you homesteaded in the cool plateaus surrounding the Ebro and Duero. Finding fame there deeply hurt all the men of La Mancha including me but my pain was assuaged by knowing the world appreciated you all the more.

    Centuries later I am still tilting with noncognoscenti as an ombudsman for Tempranillo in the new world. Now out of selfish desperation I am growing and cuddling you in my fields and winery – – – with pleasure and content – – – in hope of teaching Norte Americanos to enjoy all your pleasures properly or failing that at least to pronounce your name correctly. Although very possessive and needy of you pleasures almost daily a surge of heartfelt philanthropy motivated me to share you in an open relationship with all of mankind. This is a daunting task . . . a lifetime of work!

    However I am content because everyone, including the Earl of La Mancha needs something to do, someone to love and something to look forward too.
    Earl of La Mancha

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