Tempranillo Blanco is a relative newcomer to the world of wine. In 1988, a viticulturist discovered a mutation amidst his Tempranillo vineyard that was about to be uprooted in Murillo de Río Leza. Upon finding a bunch of white grapes on a Tempranillo vine, the viticulturist brought this mutation to the attention of the agrarian research and development branch of the Government of La Rioja. Together they recognized the potential to expand the development of white varieties in Rioja with this discovery.
The occurrence of a white variety appearing from a red variety is actually quite rare. But when it happens, there is great potential for a variety to develop with significant enological interest. For example, consider the cases of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc or Garnacha Tinta and Garnacha Blanca. These are white mutations that have risen to considerable popularity in the world of wine. Needless to say, the Tempranillo Blanco mutation offered the perfect opportunity to elevate and differentiate Rioja wines on the market.
The Variety: Tempranillo Blanco
Tempranillo Blanco shares many morphological and developmental characteristics with Tempranillo and also has a few differences. Comparatively, Tempranillo Blanco has smaller, looser, and less elongated bunches. This variety also has viewer but larger seeds than Tempranillo. Clusters of Tempranillo Blanco are typically medium-sized and loose with a short peduncle and its berries are small to medium sized with a slightly flattened shape. You can expect medium to high vigor, high fertility, and medium production from this variety.
Starting with an early bud break, Tempranillo Blanco has a short cycle. Careful attention must be paid as harvest approaches because this variety exhibits a very rapid accumulation of sugars in its final stages of development. Attentive monitoring of sugar accumulation is especially important in warmer years or in regions with warmer temperatures. Since Tempranillo Blanco ripens early, it adapts well to a wide range of production areas.
This is a variety with low resistance to high temperatures and water stress. Tempranillo Blanco responds well to a short pruning system. Due to wind sensitivity, trellising is advisable. Tempranillo Blanco has a similar sensitivity to disease and pests as Tempranillo, including a low sensitivity to botrytis and a high susceptibility to acariosis (mites and parasites) and cluster moths.
Tempranillo Blanco typically demonstrates high alcoholic strength, total acidity, tartaric and malic acids, and total polyphenols. Yet it’s this variety’s balance between acidity, alcohol, and polyphenol content that make it suitable for production of both young wines and those intended for barrel aging.
Optimizing Production with Genetic Research
Depending on the season, Tempranillo Blanco exhibits millerandage. This occurs when there is a high proportion of green ovaries that do not ripen and of seedless, small berries. The cumulative result of which is overall lower yields. This effect is associated with the low fertility of Tempranillo Blanco’s pollen which makes the variety more susceptible to damage from unfavorable climactic conditions, such as heavy rainfall, humidity, and lower temperatures around the vine’s flowering period.
Genetic research conducted at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ICVV – Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y del Vino) demonstrated that through the Tempranillo Blanco mutation, there was a loss of the genetic information that normally causes grape skins to accumulate anthocyanin pigment. Additionally, researchers found the absence of skin pigment favors flavanol development. As a result, an increase in aromatic compounds known as monoterpenes occurs.
The variety’s genetic reorganization also decreased the fertility of Tempranillo Blanco’s gametes. Thus, decreasing its ability for proper fruit set when faced with adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, humidity, or cold temperatures. Where the pollen grains of red Tempranillo are 80-90% viable, for Tempranillo Blanco the viability decreases to 30%. This is sufficient in production areas with low relative humidity and higher temperatures. However, research found that Tempranillo has a higher susceptibility to millerandage in adverse weather conditions due to its genetic disposition towards low fertility pollen.
Why It Matters
Genetic research on Tempranillo Blanco showcases the potential to optimize production of this variety. In recent years, researchers have conducted studies on the red and grey variants of Tempranillo spontaneously appearing in vineyards of Rioja. Such studies have allowed them to further isolate the cultivars in which the variety’s genetic reorganization results in the loss of anthocyanin pigmentation, but doesn’t include the reorganization of genetic information that decreases the fertility affecting fruit set.
They can use these to cultivate Tempranillo Blanco that will be less susceptible to unfavorable weather conditions during flowering. Therefore, making Tempranillo Blanco more productive.
Tempranillo Blanco In The Glass
Typically, Tempranillo Blanco shows a medium intensity, straw yellow-green color in the glass. This is a white variety with pronounced aromatics, including fruity notes of apple, pear, pineapple, banana, and citrus. Intense floral aromas are also characteristic of Tempranillo Blanco. Expect a balanced palate with good structure and persistence. In addition to making young and barrel aged examples, producers in Rioja have also experimented with sparkling wines and distillates with this variety. These varying styles highlight the vast potential of Tempranillo Blanco.
Viña Ijalba is committed to the quality, differentiation, and defense of Rioja wine heritage. Founded in 1991, this family-owned winery has long worked to preserve and innovate with traditional varieties of Rioja. With the help of their partners in Rioja, including the Regulatory Council of the Rioja DOCa, the University of Rioja, and the Rioja government, they created an experimental vineyard to cultivate around 100 minority varieties, 70 of which were autochthonous to Rioja.
This project led to Viña Ijalba becoming the first to market single varietal wines of Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Tinta, Maturana Blanca, and Graciano. They were also the first ecological certified winery in Rioja. Singular and ecological vineyards, mineral soils, and unique cultivars give Viña Ijalba wines their signature, distinctive style.
Viña Ijalba, Tempranillo Blanco DOCa 2019
- 100% Tempranillo Blanco
- Blended with 15% barrel-aged wine
- Medium intensity straw yellow color with green reflections
- Medium + intensity fruity and floral aromas, including honeysuckle, apple, pineapple, banana, pear, jasmine
- Very feminine and perfumed aromas
- Medium bodied, medium acidity, dry, pineapple and citrus coming through on the palate, a tart citrus finish
- Medium flavor intensity & primary fruit flavors of pineapple, banana, and citrus
Tempranillo Blanco is the ideal wine to pair with shellfish and fatty fish like salmon. Fresh crab legs, citrus glazed salmon, or macadamia nut crusted halibut with mango sauce all make ideal pairings for this wine.
Cuaderno de Campo, University of Rioja