Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Tempranillo, the signature red grape of Spain, is also one of those varieties that underscores why people find wine so perplexing at times. It is, of course, Tempranillo; but depending on where you are, the grape is also known as Aragones, Cencibel, Santo Stefano, Tinta de Nava, Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz, Ull de Llebre and about 20 other names. It’s a little like being named Bob, but upon being introduced to people saying, “Oh, but in Dallas I’m known as Stan, and in Denver I’m known as Vladimir, and of course in Vancouver I’m known as Enrico the Magnificent.” In other words, confusing.
There are more than 500,000 acres of Tempranillo planted around the world, so it’s not exactly elusive; and, in fact, in addition to Spain, there are winemakers making Tempranillo-based wines in a plethora of countries: the US, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, France, Portugal, even Thailand (though no Thai Tempranillo is imported to the US that I’ve ever heard of). It’s terrifically food-friendly in general, and, conveniently, there are also quite a few good Tempranillos out there that won’t set you back more than $15 or so.
Here are a few bargains to look for, plus one of the best versions from California.
2010 Vega Sindoa Tempranillo Navarra ($9)
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