Written by: Jamie

Updated: November 24, 2023

15 Incredible Tempranillo Food Pairings

Tempranillo wine with steak meal

Tempranillo, the flavourful red grape variety hailing from sunny Spain, makes an incredibly versatile wine that pairs oh-so-perfectly with a wide array of dishes and ingredients. 

Whether you're a wine enthusiast or a passionate foodie who is on a mission to elevate your dining experiences, I've got your back with these delicious Tempranillo wine pairings that are bound to tickle your tastebuds. 

Tempranillo Flavor Profile

It’s important to really understand the flavor profile of a wine before thinking about food pairings

Tempranillo is a versatile grape that displays primary notes of blackberry, tomato, cherry, dried fig, and plum.

When aged in oak (as it usually is), secondary flavors of leather, tobacco, cedar, clove, and, dill come into play too. 

Tempranillo wines that are aged for longer times in oak have less fresh fruit notes and instead have deeper, richer dried fruit notes. They also tend to have a more herbaceous nature to them with notes of dried herbs and leaves becoming common.

When it comes to the structure of Tempranillo wine, they tend to have medium tannins and medium acidity. They are medium to full-bodied wines that typically range between 13-15% ABV.

Rioja Crianza bottles on shelf

So, what does that mean for Tempranillo food pairings?

Tempranillo tends to have quite an earthy, savory quality to it, therefore it works well with foods that have this same quality. Herbs, mushrooms, roasted vegetables, and red meat all pair really well with Tempranillo wines.

For the ultimate wine and food pairings you should always look at the regional dishes from where a wine is made and this is especially true with Tempranillo as it shines with Spanish staples such as cured meats like Jamón ibérico and Jamón Serrano.

Here the acidity of Tempranillo really balances the fatiness of the meat but the wine is bold enough to hold up to the strong flavor. This acidity means Tempranillo wines pair well with tomato-based dishes too.

For older, aged Tempranillo, BBQ and grilled meat can be the perfect accompaniment.

Understanding the Types of Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo is a versatile grape that can be used to make single varietal wines or as the main component of blends like Rioja.

These wines can have different flavor profiles that pair with different types of food.

Let’s take a quick look at the styles of Tempranillo so we can pair them perfectly.

Spanish Tempranillo - Rioja and Ribera Del Duero

Rioja is a region in northern central Spain. The wine made here uses Tempranillo but may also include Grenacha, Mazuelo and Graciano grapes.

The best wines of Ribera Del Duero (just south west of Rioja) are entirely Tempranillo.

These Spanish wines are classified in 4 ways:

  • Joven: Young, fruity wines that are fresh with zippy acidity. These days they are simply labeled as ‘Rioja’ (without further classification).
  • Crianza: These wines require a minimum of 2 years of aging, with 6 months of this in oak. The leather notes really start to come out in these wines but the fresh black and red fruit remains.
  • Reserva: These require a minimum of 3 years of aging, with 1 year of this in oak. The dried fruit notes really start to shine in these older wines. Only subtle fresh fruit notes remain.
  • Grand Reserva: These require a minimum of 5 years of aging, with 18 months of this in oak. Dried fruit with deep flavors from the oak are prevalent in these wines.

Portuguese Tempranillo - Aragonez/Tinta Roriz

Tempranillo is also popular in Portugal where it is grown across the country. It is known as Aragonez or Tinta Roriz depending on the region. It is typically blended with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franc grapes to make table wine and Port wine.

Other Regions

Tempranillo also exists in the New World regions of Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and the US (California and Oregon). However, it is yet to really gain a foothold in these regions and winemaking is limited.

My Ultimate Tempranillo Food Pairs

For me, the most fun part of pairing food and wine is finding new pairings out for myself but if you‘re looking for some tried and tested dishes that interplay with Tempranillo wonderfully then here they are!

Roasted or Grilled Lamb

Tempranillo pairs perfectly with lamb meat. Lamb is a common dish in the Rioja region of Spain and nearly all lamb dishes go well with the local wine. 

Lamb is naturally fatty and the level of acidity and tannin deals with this acidity really well. The bold nature of aged Tempranillo like Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva also holds up to the strong flavor of the meat really well.

Grilled lamb rack and roasted vegetables

The other characteristic of lamb that matches Tempranillo based wine well is the typical seasonings used. Lamb is usually seasoned with rosemary, thyme and other herbs. This matches up beautifully with the savory herbaceousness of the wine.

Serve your lamb with some roasted root vegetables and herby potatoes that pair equally well with an earthy Rioja wine.


Tempranillo wines pair really well with big, hearty, rich pasta dishes. Lasagna pairs especially well as it can contain meat, cheese, herbs and a tomato sauce. All three of which synchronize with Tempranillo.

You might want to add some lightly herbed roasted vegetables on the side for an absolute dream food and wine pairing.

Lasagna with tomato and basil dish

Baked Ziti

If you’re a little too lazy for a lasagna making session (because seriously, who has time for all that layering), then the humble baked ziti is here to provide you with all the same cheesy, carby goodness, minus the hours of effort. 

Not to mention, baked ziti just so happens to be yet another perfect pairing with Tempranillo, thanks to its bold flavours and hearty nature. 

The rich, tomato-based sauce and oozing melted cheese harmonise beautifully with the wine's fruity notes and balanced acidity, for a meal that is totally worth the calories. 

Mexican Tacos

If you’re a loyal Taco Tuesday devotee, you’ll be pleased to know that Tempranillo and tacos are essentially the milk and honey of the food and wine pairing world. 

The wine's fruity notes perfectly complement the smoky, spiced flavours of your favourite taco recipe, while its balanced acidity tames the fiery heat. 

Whether it’s meat-based tacos, veggie tacos or fish tacos, get ready for a flavour fiesta that speaks to your soul.

Mexican tacos on plate

Spanish Paella

When it comes to Tempranillo pairings, this one’s a no brainer. Spanish wine and Spanish paella? 

It's an obvious match made in culinary heaven. The rich, saffron and smoked paprika infused rice and medley of seafood, meats, or even just hearty vegetables in this dish pair perfectly with Tempranillo's fruity and slightly spicy character, creating a truly authentic and delightful Spanish experience.

Seafood paella


The spicy pork sausage that’s well seasoned and a little smoky is just a perfect match for a younger Tempranillo wine. Something with limited oak like a basic Rioja (Joven) or Crianza is what you want here. Thank me later!

These wines also pair ridiculously well with Spanish meats like Jamón ibérico and Jamón Serrano and Italian meat like Prosciutto.

Chorizo sausage on wooden board

Barbecued Meat

The ultimate king of backyard gatherings, it’s no surprise that barbecued meat find its place on my list of Tempranillo pairings to try. 

The smoky, charred flavours of this fan favourite, whether it's sweet and sticky ribs, brisket, or delicate pulled pork, perfectly complement the dark fruit and leather notes of aged Rioja. 

Pair smoky BBQ meat with Rioja Reserva or Grand Reserva for BBQ heaven!

BBQ meat on the grill

Woodfired Pepperoni Pizza

Sure, you could pair it with your bog standard frozen pizza or $5 deal at Domino’s, but Tempranillo really comes to life when paired with the smoky, wood-fired creations of your local pizzeria (or homemade if you’re a kitchen magician). 

The wine's structure is ideal for the lightly smoky and spicy nature of a pepperoni pizza with a charred crust.

Manchego Cheese

Manchego is a semi-hard Spanish cheese made with sheep’s milk. It’s a wonderful mix of savory, sweet, fruity and nutty, and it ends with that characteristic sheep’s milk finish.

As for the right wine, Manchego cheese pairs really well with a fruity Tempranillo without too much tannin. A Rioja Crianza or Joven (simply called Rioja) is a great pair.

Manchego cheese on board

Vietnamese Banh Mi

When it comes to satisfying moreish sandwiches, you really can’t go wrong with a crispy, crunchy, chewy Banh Mi.

This French inspired Vietnamese sandwich is renowned for being an umami bomb thanks to grilled pork and pate, balanced out with the fresh crunch of pickled daikon and carrots. 

It also happens to be a great pairing with Tempranillo which just loves fatty pork.

Grilled pork Banh Mi

Spiced Lamb Kofta

Tempranillo is the ultimate match for fatty meats such as Spiced Lamb Kofta. 

This savoury and spicy dish often combines a wide variety of ingredients such as fresh herbs, dried spices, onions, and garlic that are perfectly complemented by Tempranillo wine’s herbacousness nature.

The wine also has enough body and structure to stand up to the bold flavor. A pairing fit for the adventurous foodie in you!

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Now, it’s time to get stuck into the veggie dishes, starting with Butternut Squash Ravioli. These delicate pillows of fresh pasta filled with sweet and creamy butternut squash make a delightful pair with Tempranillo. 

The wine's earthy nature harmonizes with the rich earthiness of butternut squash making it a cosy, satisfying choice for a Friday night dinner with friends. 

Extra points if you take the time to prepare a nutty brown butter sauce!


Mushroom Risotto

There’s truly nothing more comforting than a big bowl of creamy Mushroom Risotto. Tempranillo’s natural earthy notes are the perfect accompaniment to the earthy flavours of mushrooms, and its moderate acidity helps to cut the richness of the dish. 

In other words, you’ll be able to enjoy a lot more without feeling weighed down or overwhelmed. Always a winner in our books. 

Mushroom risotto in bowl

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Regardless of whether you call it capsicum or bell peppers, we can all agree on one thing: stuffed bell peppers are a dish made of dreams. 

Bursting with rice, ground meat, and a hefty sprinkling of cheese, this dish is elevated by Tempranillo’s fruity notes that complement the naturally sweet bell peppers. 

What’s more, its moderate tannins enhance the savoury elements, creating a match that's bound to make your taste buds boogie.

Dark Chocolate Lava Cake 

Red wine and dark chocolate. Name us a more iconic duo. When it comes to decadent desserts, Dark Chocolate Lava Cake reigns supreme, and Tempranillo is its perfect partner in crime. 

The wine's fruity and slightly spicy notes blend magically with the bittersweet chocolate, making every bite a celebration of deliciousness.

Do you have a "go to" wine pair for Tempranillo wine? I'd love to hear your ideas down below. The wackier and more unusual the better!

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About the Author Jamie

I'm Jamie (James to some), professional over-thinker and aspiring pun champion. I'm fluent in emoji, sarcasm, and song lyrics.

I'm a certified cork dork wine obsessive and wineturtle.com is my megaphone.

I have the WSET Level 2 (with distinction) in Wine and I'm currently enrolled in level 3. I've also co-written a book on wine.

I look for value in wine and I'm always on the look out for the next hidden gem.

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