The Tempranillo grape, also called Tempranilla, the country's red or cencibel, is a variety of red grapes widely cultivated to produce full-bodied red wines in Spain, from where it originates. It occupies a cultivated area of ​​31,046 hectares. It is often mentioned as the "noble grape" of Spain. Its name is the diminutive of early, which refers to the fact that it matures several weeks earlier than most of the Spanish red grape varieties.

Until recently, tempranilla was suspected to be related to the pinot noir grape, but recent genetic studies tend to rule out that possibility.

The Spanish cultivation of vitis vinifera, the common ancestor of most of the vines that currently exist, began very early with the Phoenician settlement in the southern provinces of the Peninsula. Later, according to the Roman writer Columela, the vine was cultivated throughout Spain, although there are only a few scattered references to the name "tempranilla". An early reference to this grape is found in the Book of Alexandre (13th century), referring to the Ribera del Duero region, in which it mentions the Castilian grapes by name.

Until the seventeenth century, Tempranillo-type vines remained limited to continental Spain, where they were more appropriate to the slightly cooler climate of the northern provinces. The grape was brought to America, possibly in seeds, with the Spanish colonizers of the 17th century, where it has largely maintained its genetic identity, closely resembling its Spanish ancestors.

Tempranillo is the Spanish grape par excellence and the best known outside of Spain.

In Ribera del Duero, the average temperature in July is around 21.4 ° C, although temperatures at midday in the lower valley can reach 40 ° C. At night the region experiences a drastic variation in daytime temperatures with temperatures dropping as low as 16 ° C (60 ° F) from the daytime high. The Tempranillo grape is one of the few that can adapt and prosper in continental Mediterranean climates like this one.

The low acidity associated with growth at low altitude is largely remedied by mixing it with more acidic grapes, such as Graciano in La Rioja. It is very safe in the fruit set, very sensitive to pests and diseases, and not very resistant to drought and high temperatures. The clusters are cylindrical in shape and are compact. The berries are spherical, purple black in color with a colorless pulp. The berry is very dark in color and forms a sphere like a trinket, hence its name in Catalan: ull de llebre (hare's eye).

Tempranilla root absorbs potassium easily, which helps pH levels 3.6 in the pulp and 4.3 in the skin when it reaches maturity. When too much potassium is absorbed, the wort is more saline, which slows down the disappearance of malic acid, resulting in a higher pH. The skin does not have any herbaceous character. The grape is very susceptible to inclement weather, shrinking when there is drought and swelling when there is too much moisture. Sinking has a negative effect on quality, as it affects the color of the wine. The effects of the weather are attenuated in places with limestone due to the effect of the clay and the humidity in the roots; the effects are worse in sandy areas, as well as for vines that are less than twelve years old, as the roots are generally too shallow.

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