Tempranillo from six top Aussie winemakers

Mayford Tempranillo 2014
Mayford vineyard, Porepunkah, Alpine Valleys, Victoria

Though planted throughout Australia and used by about 340 winemakers, Spain’s tempranillo remains a niche variety. Our vignerons harvest just four to five thousand tonnes of it annually, depending on vintage conditions – about one tenth the volume of pinot noir, or one hundredth of shiraz. However, it makes instantly appealing red wines in a spectrum of styles. At a recent “Tempra Neo” tasting featuring six producers, Mayford stood out as the most complete red. Its ripe blueberry-like varietal flavour came packaged in strong, savoury tannins that gave a chewy, satisfying richness to the palate and an assertive, dry finish.

Mount Majura Vineyard Tempranillo 2014
Mount Majura, Canberra District, ACT


After the deeper, darker 2013 vintage, Mount Majura 2014 reveals a fragrant, fruity side of tempranillo. The aroma and palate both suggest ripe, red berry characters, which push through the variety’s distinctive firm but fine tannins. The bright fruit character gives the wine tremendous drink-now appeal – though the tannins and underlying savouriness should see it evolve for three or four years in bottle. At the “tempra neo” event promoting the variety, winemaker Frank van de Loo said “tempranillo is very sensitive to site and vintage”. The latter explains the notable variation between last year’s wine and the new release.

La Linea Tempranillo 2014
Adelaide Hills, South Australia

David Le Mire and Peter Leske source tempranillo from a range of sites in the Adelaide Hills. In 2014 their blend offers a notably aromatic, lively, buoyant expression of the variety. Intense, delicious fruit flavours, combined with fresh acidity and fine-boned tannins, make this elegant, medium-bodied wine very appealing now. Tempranillo’s savoury side might show through with bottle age. But I doubt it will ever appeal more than it does now in its fresh and fruity youth.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia

The Yalumba group’s Running with Bulls rated as the bargain of 16 Spanish and Australian tempranillos tasted at a “tempra neo” event in late August. Yalumba began working with the variety in 1999 and until recently produced two tempranillos under this label – one from the Barossa, the other from Wrattonbully, hundreds of kilometres to the south, near Coonawarra. The new release shows a pleasingly ripe, fleshy face of the variety with an abundance of caressing, soft tannins, typical of the Barossa Valley.

Gemtree “Luna Temprana” Tempranillo 2015
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Mike Brown marches to the biodynamic calendar and writes, “We called the wine Luna Temprana as “temprana” is youthful and early and “luna” denotes the wine’s growth via the lunar cycle”. He makes specifically for early drinking, meaning it’s all about fruit, unadorned by winemaking inputs. The fresh, musk-like fruit really sings at present, though the variety’s savoury tannins give a solid grip to the finish.

Tar and Roses Tempranillo 2014
Heathcote, Victoria
Don Lewis and Narelle King write, “Our aim is to preserve fruit characters through the production process to the finished wine. It’s these fruit characters that underpin our style”. However, the pair like to build on the fruit flavour, particularly through maturation in oak barrels. They preserve fruit character by fermenting with selected yeast strains, adjusting acidity and controlling temperatures of the ferment and the cap of skins. The result is a solid tempranillo combining pure fruit character with the flavour and tannins of oak. The currently noticeable oak flavours will likely submerge into the wine after a little bottle age.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 8 and 9 September 2015 in goodfood.com.au and the Canberra Times