Acknowledged as Spain's best red grape variety, it is also known as Tinto Fino or Cencibel. It does best in the slightly cooler regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero where it makes rich, structured red wines with good aging potential. It has an affinity for oak and transmits terroir faithfully. Although it is a steady performer, it has not achieved the same international recognition as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Outside Spain it is grown widely in Portugal and Argentina. The wines are intensely colored, relatively low in alcohol and age well—often causing comparisons with Bordeaux wines—though their richness has also been compared to old Burgundies. The grape can be low in acidity which is why in Rioja other varieties are blended with Tempranillo to add structure.