I’ll freely admit that in the past I’ve never been excited about Australian Tempranillo. All of them were more like dry reds with some Tempranillo flavour. After a tasting on 20th August, I am a convert. All it took was two hours, six focussed and passionate producers and 23 wines.
Before we go too far, what is Tempranillo? Well, it is a red grape variety from Spain. The name comes from the Spanish term temprano meaning early. It is one of the earliest ripening varieties in Spain. Famously grown in Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is often found blended with Grenache (I should say Garnacha) and/or Carignan (Cariñena). The vines can be characterised as being low cropping with large berries and bunches. They tend to need less water than other varieties but if planted on fertile soils they can be exceedingly vigorous. The grapes have thick skins and high pH. The wines can be made into anything from delicate rosé styles to rich, heavy, dense reds that live forever and anything in-between. Typically they taste of cherry, cola and rose petals. The wines are highly aromatic and can offer abundant flavours. The high pH means they offer a wonderful silky mouthfeel. And it is the mouthfeel that has been missing from Australian examples of the past, but were evident here at this tasting. And that is why it is love.
TempraNeo is a collective of Tempranillo makers inspired by the variety and the potential it holds for making wines of character and interest. Each producer showed a handful of wines from 2013 that they are working on and talked about what makes them excited about the variety in their respective regions. They then each showed their current release 2012. Below is the notes I took from the six current release wines I tasted. They were tasted blind so as not to prejudice our refined palates.
These wines are available for sale and if you click on their name you can see pricing and producer notes. Or you can buy a Tempranillo pack to taste them all.
Mount Majura Vineyard Tempranillo Canberra District 2012 – This wine was the easiest to pick as the Mt Majura hallmark mint/eucalypt was strongly evident. This showed a lot of darker characters like earth, olives, soil, chocolate and cola. The palate was like a compote of sweet red berry fruits with oxy apples. The tannins were quite gritty and it finished very savoury. A very impressive package showing the darker more savoury side of Temp. The mint does get a hint pervasive though.
Running With Bulls Tempranillo Barossa 2012 – A hint over ripe (just a hint though) meant I was thinking Barossa or McLaren Vale. The fruits were tart and jammy with pepper. It grew in the glass and came back into balance a bit. The palate had a lovely fragrance was sweet, silky, floral and soft with hints of choco and cola. Great mouthfeel. This was the bright, rich ripe personality of Temp. It is great value too.
Gemtree Luna Roja Tempranillo McLaren Vale 2012 – This one stumped me. It was earthy, meaty, with vibrant fairy floss like perfume, cherry, cola, smoke and earth. I thought it had to be from the cooler Adelaide Hills but it was from the “Southern Badlands” of the McLaren Vale and it was seriously impressive. The palate was bold, gritty, firmly tannic, mineral/black stone/graphite. This is a very classy wine.
Tar & Roses Tempranillo Alpine Valleys/Heathcote 2012 – Oaky, nutty, cola, sarsaparilla, meaty, graphite, waxy, really lovely nose. The oak on this one leant it to being from Tar & Rose rather than the region(s). The palate was dense but with fluffy red fruits. Long, lean and firm with oak being evident. The floral finish brings it back to balance and made it really good drinking.
Mayford Tempranillo Alpine Valleys 2012 – Bright, pure, fluffy red fruits, floral, pristine, hint stemmy, lovely. The palate was full and dry with a great mouthfeel and gritty tannins. After the 2013 samples I was surprised this was the Mayford but really happy to see this wine as it was everything I love about Tempranillo.
La Linea Tempranillo Adelaide Hills 2012 – BO (in a good way really!), good depth of flavour, hint jammy, smoke, meaty, olives, darker than most. The palate had great mouthfeel, smoke, herbal notes. It was really clean and the more I tasted it the more I loved it. I think this was probably my favourite of the tasting but we are splitting hairs.
Overall this was a strong showing and I will definitely be keen to see the 2013 in their final form too.