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Wine Spectator School

Class 4: Major Regional Varieties


Tempranillo is Spain's most famous red variety, and Zinfandel is distinctively Californian.




Tempranillo is Spain's most celebrated variety and finds its classic expression in Rioja in north central Spain.

Rioja provides the perfect conditions for the thick-skinned grape; cool temperatures delay ripening, giving the easy-to-ripen grape time to concentrate flavors, and the vineyards are somewhat sheltered from Atlantic winds and rain by the Cantabrian Mountains to the north. And the variety is partial to the iron rich soil.




Rioja is a blend of several traditional Spanish varieties. Tempranillo dominates the blend, which may also include Garnacha, contributing intense color, raspberry, tobacco and cherry aromas and flavors along with smooth tannins. Riojas have moderate acidity and alcohol.

The local winemaking tradition of extended...

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