Tannat is the dominant grape variety in Madiran, Southwest France's most famous red wine. The grape is believed to have originated in the Basque country and almost certainly derives its French name from the level high tannins . It is a thick-skinned grape variety that produces deeply colored, well-structured wines that can be tough and austere in youth. However, with ageing the massive tannins round out while the wine develops nuances of spices, coffee, cocoa, and vanilla; in addition to notes of dark red fruit, raspberries, and blueberries.
In Madiran it is blended (typically 60-70%) with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Fer. The only other country where Tannat is seriously grown is Uruguay, where it was planted by Basque settlers in the 19th century. It is known as Harriague in Uruguay and recently plantings have spread over the border into Argentina.
A high quality red wine grape that is grown all over Spain except in the hot South - it is known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it constitutes around 70% of most red blends, often blended with Grenache and Carignane.
Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a spicy, herbal, tobacco-like character accompanied by plum, ripe strawberry, and red cherry fruits. It produces fresh, vibrantly fruit driven "jovenes" meant for drinking young. However, Tempranillo really comes into its own when oak aged, as with the top Riojas where its flavors seem to harmonize perfectly with both French and American oak, producing rich, powerful and concentrated wines which can be extraordinarily long-lived.
In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak - the exception being Vega Sicilia where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aged for an astonishing 7 years in oak and is unquestionably one of the world`s greatest wines.