Two years ago I sat in on a masterclass for Tempranillo, the theme being ‘Australian Tempranillo: Beyond the Bottle’ and had the opportunity to sample various wines from six Australian producers. This year (two weeks ago), the same producers decided to theme the masterclass ‘Tempranillo Unclassified: Debating the Style.’ Added into the mix was a bracket of wine from Spain, the dominant force in Tempranillo viticulture and winemaking across a number of regions.
Whether it was Tempranillo per se, the theme or both, I found myself in a room with a powerful representation of media including Max Allen, Jane Faulkner, Sally Gudgeon, Ralph Kyte-Powell, Jeni Port and Nick Ryan to name a few (listed alphabetically for diplomacy). In almost similar numbers were winery representatives from Gemtree Vineyards, McLaren Vale; La Linea, Adelaide Hills; Mayford, Alpine Valley; Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra; Running with the Bulls, Barossa Valley & Wrattonbully; and Tar & Roses, Heathcote. Add in a sprinkling of wine trade and a few avid Tempranillo fans and I knew I was in for a good two hour wine experience!
Tempranillo is quietly moving from ‘alternative variety’ to mainstream, seen by the number of producers growing to 341 in the Australian Bureau of Statistics vineyard estimates in 2011 - 2012. The greatest plantings are in South Australia (317 Ha), followed by NSW (220 Ha) and Victoria (119 Ha), with a grand total of around 710 Ha.
As the vineyards have been quietly gaining vine age, lower yields and smaller berries have led to wines with greater perfume, heightened concentration on the palate, more sophisticated tannins and length in flavour. Warmer climates in Australia tend to produce a richness with black fruit characters (think black cherry, mulberry and chocolate) whilst cooler climates deliver perfume with spice and red fruits (raspberry, red currant and liquorice).
Bracket one explored Spain, with wine from Rioja and Toro and a comparison between Crianza and Reserva Rioja. The former requiring one year in oak and an additional year of ageing, the latter a minimum of three years ageing with one year in oak. The focus on these wines is not about quality but time in oak, whilst hoping to suggest a level of quality. The wines were supplied by Spanish Acquisition importers and selected to show two different regions and several levels of ageing, including the following:
- Telmo Rodriguez ‘LZ’ 2013 (Rioja) $33 rrp
- Telmo Rodriguez ‘Dehesa Gago’ 2012 (Toro) $32 rrp
- Cune Crianza 2010 (Rioja) $33 rrp
- Remelluri Reserva 2009 (Rioja) $75 rrp
Bracket two showcased ‘cooler climate’ wines and the impact of bottle age from the same producers. The wines displayed a fresh brightness to them with perfume and spice and the older wines defying their age. Regions included Canberra District, Adelaide Hills and the Alpine Valleys, with the following wines selected:
- Mount Majura Vineyard 2014 (Canberra District) $45 rrp
- La Linea 2014 (Adelaide Hills) $27 rrp
- Mayford 2014 (Alpine Valleys) $38 rrp
- Mayford 2010 (Alpine Valleys) sold out
- Mount Majura Vineyard 2009 (Canberra District) sold out
- La Linea Norteño 2012 (Adelaide Hills) sold out
Bracket three moved to ‘warmer climate’ wines and again looked at the impact of bottle age with each producer showcasing a young wine and a wine with bottle age (with the exception of one wine being a 2015, yet to be released). This bracket of wine gave a sense of darker fruits, with an earthy grounding, and power lending to bottle ageing and time. Regions included Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Heathcote and a Heathcote / Alpine Valleys blend, with the following wines selected:
- Running with the Bulls 2014 (Barossa Valley) $24 rrp
- Gemtree ‘Luna Roja’ 2014 (McLaren Vale) $25 rrp
- Tar & Roses 2014 (Heathcote) $18 rrp
- Gemtree ‘Luna Temprana’ (McLaren Vale) $18 rrp
- Running with the Bulls (Barossa Valley) sold out
- Tar & Roses 2008 (Heathcote / Alpine Valleys) sold out
Thanks to Simon Wigan from Running With Bulls for providing the photos
Whilst no resounding conclusions were made at the end of the day, the general consensus was that Australia lends itself to quality Tempranillo production in both cool and warm climates. It seems at this stage this is the defining characteristic rather than ‘regional’ style. In addition the wines on tasting showed how Tempranillo can age and evolve with time. The ‘tempra neo’ guys are taking it seriously which was confirmed by the attendance of media and supported by a dedicated website: http://www.tempraneo.com.au/. The versatility of style and growing availability of this wine should see more available for the general public through wine lists and retail outlets.