Spanish wines are quickly becoming a favorite for me. Tempranillo is especially enthralling. The ability of this wine to pair with the majority of foods I cook makes it even more appealing. The price point is not bad either, often around fifteen dollars for a great bottle though expensive options remain. It can be consumed immediately or be laid down (cellared).

Tempranillo ripens early (believed to be a reason for the name, temprano meaning early in Spanish), thriving in the clay and limestone soils in the slopes of Rioja—a wine growing region in the north of Spain—where it enjoys cooler temperatures.  It is planted in other countries like California, Argentina and Australia, proving it’s worth and growing in popularity.

Certainly not a stranger to press—recently featured in the NY Times where Eric Asimov wrote in length about the value and characteristics of the grape.  S. Irene Virbila of the LA Times, not too long ago made Bodegas Volver (100% Tempranillo from La Mancha) her wine of the week.

This diffident grape stands up to spicy, acidic and greasy foods. Pairing well with hamburgers, baked chicken thighs with sautéed Brussels’ sprouts and finally with homemade enchiladas, potatoes and some zesty tomatillo salsa. Each meal paired with a different producer of Tempranillo. For the hamburger I the Bodegas Volver 2007 ($13) was called upon to match the griddled meat, ), the Protocolo 2007 ($6)  blended the sweetness of the sprouts and chicken while the Crianza* from Sierra Cantabria 2005 ($15) helped coat the palate and subdue the tang of my friend’s tomatillo salsa.

Maybe because of it’s agreeable nature, the wine can be coupled with a lot of dishes (unlike other stubborn grapes that have big personalities—flavor profiles that only mesh with select foods). A Tempranillo’s affable character makes it a versatile, interesting and an affordable choice.

*Crianza is a Spanish term designating that a wine cannot be sold until it’s third year of ageing and must meet the conditions of spending at least six months in oak barrels however in Rioja and other regions that employ the term it must be stored for a minimum of twelve months inside the oak barrels.

Definition is provided by “The Oxford Companion to Wine”