Category Archives: Spanish Tempranillo

Mar 03 2012

Australian Tempranillo: Standing Tall Against top Spanish Expressions of the Variety

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By

One of the delights of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Wine Masterclass Fire in the Belly was the opportunity to compare some of the finest examples of Spanish tempranillo with their Australian counterparts.

Peter Leske of La Linea was on the panel, and I couldn’t help wondering how he felt to have his Norteño Tempranillo 2010 compared to Spanish greats like Vega Sicilia’s Pintia 2006 and the Telmo Rodriguez Matallana 2006, for example.

Vega Sicilia, of course, holds the mantle as Spain’s most prestigious producer. Its flagship cuvee, the Único, a Ribera del Duero tempranillo, is widely regarded as one of the world’s best wines. The Pintia is from a more recently established bodega in Toro. It had all the hallmarks of great tempranillo – earthy aromas, spicy, dark fruit and chocolate flavours with subtle touches of vanilla and cedar, velvety tannins and a deliciously long finish. The exquisitely aromatic Telmo Rodriguez Matallana from Ribero del Duero slowly revealed its deep layers of flavours, which were supported by ripe, firm tannins.

But what about the Australian examples? Even though the Australian wines on show were disadvantaged by being younger in vintage than their Spanish rivals, they displayed the confidence and finesse that Australia’s talented winemakers are bringing to this revered Spanish variety.

The Mayford Tempranillo 2010, from a small, family-run winery in Porepunkah Victoria that is high above the Ovens River, was one of the highlights. Like the Matallana, it is fermented with natural yeasts – a practice that many Australian winemakers are embracing as it helps to impart the sense or place or terroir in the wine. With perfumes of black cherry, earth and spice and velvety, fine grained tannins, it was a beautifully balanced wine displaying gorgeously pure fruit flavours. Incidentally, Campbell Mattinson of … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Spanish Wine Comes to Australia: Masterclass with Telmo Rodríguez

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By

Last year I heard Telmo Rodríguez speak at a panel discussion on biodynamic wines at the Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. He was passionate about  biodynamic winemaking, indigenous Spanish grapes and returning to the “18th century vineyard style” of bush training the vines to replace the use of 20th century wire trellising systems.

I was thrilled to hear him speak again at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s masterclass, “Fire in the Belly.” Bordeaux trained Rodríguez is one of Spain’s most innovative winemakers. Along with Alvaro Palacios and Domineo de Pingus’s Peter Sisseck, he has raised the reputation of Spanish wines to new heights by combining modern winemaking techniques with a renewed emphasis on native Spanish wine varieties and traditional vineyard practices.

Determined to make wines that truly reflect their sense of place, Rodríguez has spent the past 15 years scouring the country for the very best sites. Today he works with numerous small growers to make relatively small amounts of approximately twenty different wines across a broad price spectrum from almost every wine growing area in Spain, including Toro, Rueda, Valdeorras, Malaga, Alicante and Cigales.

In his quest to create truly Spanish wines, Rodríguez has revived abandoned vineyards and rediscovered native grapes such as godello, verdejo, moscatel and monastrell (mourvedre). He has also enhanced appreciation for the importance of terroir with regard to classic Spanish varietals like tempranillo, garnacha (grenache) and carignan. Rodríguez explained that he uses grapes to show places, and that grapes like tempranillo, for example, will create different styles of wine depending on where they are planted. Indeed, the slides he showed of his various vineyards revealed landscapes of extraordinary diversity, from the rolling hills of Rioja Alavesa at the edge of the Cantabria Mountain range to the flat high altitude plains of Rueda.… Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Artadi: The Winery that Reinvented Rioja Tempranillo

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

Single vineyard wines, old vines, low yields, organic farming, ripe harvests, severe grape selection and non-interventionist winemaking. Today, we associate a lot of these practices with our best quality wines, but when Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, the legendary winemaker at Rioja’s Artadi, first began pioneering the practices in the mid 1980s, he was considered a revolutionary. Now he is regarded as the man who has changed the face of Rioja wines!

Artadi is not a boutique winemaker. Today the winery makes over a million bottles a year, but López de Lacalle’s philosopy is more inline with the artisanal winemarker. As he explained to the Wine Spectator’s Bruce Schoenfeld “The Riojas of the ’80s were smooth, but their skeletons were angular..There was no flesh on them, no possibility of a caress. We wanted a viable alternative. Much about us is the same as the other Riojas–we have the same terrain, the same tempranillo. But the expression of the grape is different, as is our philosophy for the wine.” (Four Trailblazing Bodegas by Bruce Schoenfeld, Wine Spectator, 28 January 2003).

The Vina El Pison, a single vineyard tempranillo made from vines planted in 1945 on sandy soils over pure limestone, regularly achieves skyrocketing Robert Parker scores. The Grand Anadas and the Pagos Viejos, two other old vine tempranillos, are equally well regarded. The more affordable Vinas de Gain, is also 100% tempranillo. Sourced from 40- to 60-year-old vines, it is aged in 40% new French oak for 12-14 months.

In many respects, López de Lacalle’s story sounds familiar to Australian wine lovers. In the mid 1980s, Rockford winemaker Robert O’Callaghan paid his growers more than twice the going rate for their old vine fruit at a time when the South Australian government was encouraging growers to pull out their old … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Vega Sicilia Único : A Uniquely Spanish Wine!

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

Bodegas Vega Sicilia in Ribera Del Duero is Spain’s most famous winery. Its flagship wine, which is widely regarded as Spain’s best, is the tempranillo-based Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial. Michael Broadbent MW describes this wine as “Lafite of Spain”.

What I find fascinating is that the wine is actually a non-vintage blend. The 2010 release, for example, is a blend of the 1991, 1994, and 1995 vintages.  But as Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate notes, “what vintages are in each bottling..makes little difference. The Reserva Especials are blended to a house style designed to reflect Vega Sicilia at its very best.”( Wine Advocate # 189 June 2010)

As I mentioned in my previous post, Penfolds Bin 389: Perfecting the Art of Blending, the Penfolds fabled Grange and Bin 389 are made very much to a house style. But the Reserva Especial takes the art of blending red wine to a whole new level.

Vega Sicilia also makes a highly acclaimed vintage wine, the Vega Sicilia Único Gran Reserva. It is only made with the best vintages and released only after a minimum of 10 years of ageing: seven years in barrel (a mix of new and seasoned American and French oak) and at least three years in bottle! Like the Especial Reserva, this wine is also renowned for its longevity. They can be drunk young, but will also age gracefully for 20 to 25 years. As Miller remarks, “When you consider that the Reserva Especial sells for less than half the price of a Bordeaux First Growth (and you don’t have to wait for 20 years for it to be approachable) it is one of the great bargains in world-class wine.” (Wine Advocate # 189 June 2010)

The Vega Sicilia vines were first planted in 1864 … Read the rest