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Julie Kuhlken
November 9, 2023 | Blog | Julie Kuhlken

A Tempranillo Tale

From Spain to Texas: A Tempranillo Tale

On International Tempranillo Day, a brief homage to this luscious yet hardy black-skinned grape, native to Spain yet thriving in Texas, is in order. 

What more can we say, we’re smitten with this gorgeous grape and the wonderful, lush wine it produces. It’s one of our signature varieties at Pedernales Cellars, having brought home numerous awards over the years in international wine competitions. Tempranillo has won admirers from around the world for good reason. Celebrate this grape with us as we look at its trajectory from Spain to Texas.

Vineyard owners and winemakers grow these vines in many corners of the world: from its traditional home in central and northern Spain and Portugal to Australia to Argentina to right here in Texas (both in Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains). It blends like a dream but also stands very well on its own. If you’ve ever had Spanish or Portuguese red wines, you’ve almost certainly tried Tempranillo. 

Quick Tempranillo Facts

Winemakers have long valued this mighty grape variety, for the tenacity of its vines and the tastiness of its juice. “Temprano” in Spanish means “early,” and the “illo” ending is a diminutive, so “Tempranillo” translates to “little early one,” most likely named this because it tends to ripen a few weeks or so earlier than other vines. 

Let’s look at a few key facts:

Tempranillo is native to Spain.

It dates back to at least the 9th century, according to some estimations. 

Tempranillo plays well with others! Tempranillo is the primary grape used in the famous Spanish Rioja wines. 

Portugal’s Port wines also lean heavily on Tempranillo in its blends. 

Tempranillo thrives in chalky and sandy vineyard soils and in limestone.

Spain’s Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions are known for their Tempranillo, and it is grown across Navarra and Valdepeñas regions. 

Tempranillo grows best when the growing season moves from cooler to warmer weather, ripening before its other grape variety counterparts in the vineyard. 

Tempranillo Tasting Notes

Tempranillo grapes have somewhat thin, dark skins, which makes for a beautiful ruby-colored wine.  Single varietal Tempranillo wines are fairly medium-bodied with low acidity and smooth tannins.

Tempranillo drinkers may likely notice the presence of red and purple fruit, with notes of black cherry, red currant, plum, blueberry, and raspberry along with notes of leather, smoke, tobacco, vanilla, or black pepper. There is usually a decent minerality from the chalk and limestone soil in which it grows. Tempranillo varietals are usually aged in oak barrels, mostly American but sometimes French oak. 

Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo: Spanish Roots to Cowboy Boots

Texas growers and winemakers began planting Tempranillo seriously in the early-to-mid 2000s. Neal Newsom of Newsom Vineyards and Dan Gatlin of Inwood Estates Vineyards partnered to plant the state's first commercially grown Tempranillo grapes. Pedernales Cellars was another early Tempranillo pioneer winery. David and Julie Kuhlken planted their first estate Tempranillo vines in 2007. By 2020, Tempranillo grapes made up 50% of our estate grapes at Kuhlken Vineyards, and we continue to work with growers such as Canted County Vineyards, Daniel Vineyard, and Lahey Vineyards to buy their Tempranillo grapes. 

The grape took to Texas soil like a duck to water, as they say. Tempranillo quickly became an important grape not only for us at Pedernales Cellars but for winemakers across Texas. 

Winemakers and vineyard managers across the state have poured their time, energy, and passion into providing as ideal conditions for their grapes to flourish as humanly possible. Tempranillo has proven worth it, becoming the unofficial state grape of Texas and the star ingredient in many award-winning wines. 

We always have Tempranillo available in our tasting room by the bottle and by the glass, both as single varietals and in some of our blends. You can also buy our wine online or look for it at your favorite retailer that carries Texas wine. 

Happy International Tempranillo Day! ¡Salud!



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