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