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Tempranillo becomes most planted grape in Spain

Published:  10 March, 2022

The Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Fishery and Nutrition has announced that the country’s most popular red grape, Tempranillo, is now also the most planted.

With a potential of 202,917 ha, Tempranillo has replaced Airén as Spain’s principal wine grape. Airén, a workhorse white-coloured variety, rarely features on labels and is commonly destined for brandy production. Its 200,084 ha are widely found across central Spain.

The potential figures include both current plantings as well as those that have been applied for and granted.

Tempranillo has long been Spain’s most planted red-skinned variety, and today represents some 42% of the country’s overall red grape plantings and about 21% of the total vineyard area.

In Spain, Tempranillo is known under a range of local synonyms – Cencibel, Tinto Fino, Tinta del Pais, Tinta de Toro, Ull de Llebre – and its principal winegrowing regions are Castilla la Mancha (70,519 ha), Castilla y Léon (40,225 ha), and La Rioja (36,296 ha), followed by some distance in Extremadura (18,839 ha), the Basque Countries (12,132 ha), Navarra (8,797 ha) Valencia (5,458 ha), and Aragón (5,128 ha). Minor Tempranillo plantings are also found in Andalucía, the Balearic and Canary islands, Cantabria, Catalunya, Galicia, Madrid, and Murcia.

Tempranillo’s vineyard grew significantly over the past two decades, as the grape covered just short of 120,000 ha in 2000. Airén on the other hand, has been experiencing one of the steepest declines across Spanish vineyards, having lost a whopping 138,551 ha of land in the same time span. Despite the downward trend, Airén still covers about 21% of Spain’s land planted to vine and 45% of its surface dedicated to white varieties. Together, Tempranillo and Airén represent around 41% of the country’s vineyard, calculated at 981,120 ha as of July 2021.

Alongside Tempranillo, other red-skinned grape varieties have been enjoying a comparable degree of success since 2000. Plantings of Garnacha Tintorera have increased by 30,694 ha, Syrah by 16,560 ha, Cabernet Sauvignon by 12,740 ha, and Merlot by 8,512 ha.

Meanwhile, Monastrell has lost some 28,443 ha compared to its 2000 vineyard area, and Garnacha Tinta 27,726 ha, although the latter still enjoys the second place as Spain’s most planted red-skinned grape (59,122 ha).

Some of Spain’s other workhorse varieties are mirroring Airén’s descent. Plantings of Spain’s third most planted red-skinned Bobal, which is mostly found in the area surrounding Valencia, have decreased by 37,338 ha since 2000 and today sit at 55,291 ha.

Of all white grapes, only Verdejo and Palomino – whose vineyard increased by 23,206 ha and 6,578 ha – enjoyed growth of any significance, mirroring a country wide trend that’s seeing Spain’s white wine grape vineyards shrinking. Today, 52% of Spain’s vineyard area is planted to red grape varieties, and only 48% to white.