A native Spanish grape variety, tempranillo (pronounced, tem-prah-NEE-yoh) is a medium weighted young wine designed to be approachable. “I put it somewhere between a merlot and a shiraz in terms of style,” says Andrew Harris, wine ambassador for Brown Brothers wines. “It’s not quite as juicy and soft as a merlot, but it’s not as full-bodied as a shiraz.”

Tempranillo has blackcurrant and blackberry fruit flavours, with an unusual clove and black pepper spice to it. “The spice element balances out the intensity of the fruit and keeps it in the more medium-bodied easy drinking style,” says Harris.

That “spice” is an element derived from the skin of the grapes – a peppery flavour intended to ward off animals. As the seeds mature, the naturally occurring sugar in the grape dilutes the spicy flavours to make it more approachable. “The warmer the climate, the quicker the ripening process, and the more fruit-driven flavours you get,” says Harris. “The cooler the climate, the slower the ripening and so the more spicy elements you get.”

Winemakers often combine grapes from both regions to balance out this blend of elements. Here’s our guide to drinking tempranillo.

Spice to match

Thinking you need to match tempranillo’s complex balance of flavours with some hard-to-find Spanish delicacy? No. Harris says his favourite Friday-night, go-to with tempranillo is Mexicana or pepperoni pizza. “Something that has a bit of spice to it but a savoury-element,” says Harris. You can also buy a bunch of tapas ingredients from a good deli, crack open a bottle and cue up some early Almodovar movies (try Jamon Jamon or Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) for appropriate company. The berry and spice flavours of the wine also pair wonderfully with a variety of meat dishes – especially lamb or white anchovies.

Char and grill

Tempranillo also happens to make a great drop to share at the barbeque. The brightness in the wine cuts through roasted meat and its savoury element pairs well with grilled vegetables, especially pumpkin and eggplant. “Lightly salt the eggplant before charring it on the barbeque,” says Harris. “Try incorporating something a little bit nutty to give it a bit more texture.”

Sunday Sangria

It’s not all about dining. The fruit-driven qualities in tempranillo make a great foundation for Sangria. Combine equal parts tempranillo, lemonade or soda water depending on the level of sweetness you enjoy (if you want to be really traditional, use cola), and a dash of orange juice. Slice some oranges, lemons, apples and strawberries, and leave in the fridge overnight for everything to combine. Serve with lots of ice, fresh fruit and some breezy mid-tempo tunes.

Spag bol

Add a little twist to tradition (or your favourite recipe) by pouring a generous serve of tempranillo into the pot while the meat is simmering for added flavour and marination. The wine’s spicy notes will add an extra dimension to this pasta classic.

Tuna steak

For something unusual, Harris suggests a deep-sea dish. “You could get a really nice, thick tuna steak,” says Harris. “Utilise a bit of freshly ground black pepper, coat the outer edge of the tuna and lightly sear it.” The spice of the wine will draw similar elements from the charred fish, without overpowering it.

Tempranillo checklist:

Glassware in public: A smaller red wine glass
Glassware at home: A crystal tumbler
What they'll tell you it pairs with: Red meats, barbeque, tapas
What they won't tell you it pairs with: A blackberry jam donut

This article presented in partnership with Brown Brothers’ new 18 Eighty Nine Tempranillo.