Friday, February 23, 2007

Olé: Spanish Wines Explained

I was reviewing the text for my WSET today – again. That exam is coming up way too quickly. Spain was the area I chose for this study session which lead, naturally, to Tempranillo.

However, it seems the Spaniards cannot quite agree on the varietal names for their grapes – giving no end of aggravation to wine students everywhere. Tempranillo actually has many monikers depending on the region. Riberia del Duero calls it Tinto Fino, in Valdepenas it becomes Cencibel. It also goes under the guise of Tinto del Pais, Tinto de Toro, Tinto de Madrid, and probably a few I haven’t found yet.

I must agree though that with some of the young wines I’ve tasted from Spain, Tinto de Toro (literally translated as grape of the bull) is quite the accurate descriptor. Big, black grapes made into big, tough wines with lots of tannins. (Yes, it’s no surprise Susan loves their flamboyant, in your face nature.)

So while I was trying to put all these names in their right DOCs, I discovered a great website which lists the grapes, all their other names, and even includes a pronunciation guide. The only problem is I’ve found there are even more Spanish grape varietals than I was aware of.

Oh well, more time with Oz Clarke’s Encyclopedia of Grapes. I’ll probably have to open a bottle of something with Tempranillo in it – no matter what name they’ve decided to bottle it under – just to aid in sorting it all out.

Susan’s Note:

Now why was research never this much fun in school? So here’s some extra trivia for the day.

Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word “temprano” meaning “early” – a reference to its characteristic of ripening earlier than many other varietals.

According to Wikipedia, as well as being the grape varietal, Tinto is also:
- An area of Honduras sometimes counted as part of the Mosquito Coast
- A fictional country in the computer game series Suikoden
- The name of the highest hill in southern Scotland
- A river in southwest Andalusia, Spain

So now you know. And now it’s definitely time to open a bottle of something with Tempranillo inside it.

Catavino is an independent online informational resource dedicated to Spanish and Portuguese wines of the Iberian Peninsula. Check it out for yourself at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. Two things, one Tinto de Toro, actually means "Red of the Bull" but in the context of the wine it means "Red from Toro" Toro being the city where the grapes are grown.

Also other names for Tempranillo: Ull de LLebre (eye of the hare), and Aragonez(portuguese)

Cheers, Ryan