there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man

23 September 2008


Matsu El Recio 2009 
($31; 14.5% alcohol; cork; 94+ points).  While Rioja’s in the centre of northern Spain, south of Bilbao, Toro is close to the Portuguese border, a little south but mainly west.  The ancient Greeks first brought grapes there well before the Italians arrived. It’s called The Bull because of its extreme weather: blistering summers (up to 37C) and very cold winters (-11C).  All the vineyards are above 620 metres. Toro is not easy. They call their Tempranillo Tinta de Toro. The provenance of Matsu is a fog to the unSpanished Blanquette, but I know Recio means robust and Matsu is Japanese anyway: it means confident patience.  Which seems to suit a winery that makes wine like this. From vineyards of 105 years of age, in sand and rock where rain is sparse, somebody entices this remarkable zen brilliance to emerge.  The bloke on the label seems to be the grower.  It’s certified bio-dynamic.  Neither have I drunk a Tempranillo like this before.  After ferment in cool concrete vats it does malo and fourteen months in new French barrels – tight-grained oak which is entirely supportive of that intense fruit.  It has the purring submission of a long slow ferment: more than three weeks on skins has properly softened and assimilated the tannins.  To smell, there’s still a handsome acridity, indicating leafy tannins.  They’re never leafy in the flavour sector, however.  So that edge is probably rocks as much as the phenolics of the tough thick skins of Tempranillo.  And some oak, of course, which never intrudes.  The cool thing is the wine’s disarming fruitiness.  It’s raspberry, it’s cranberry, it’s baby beetroot, it’s that naturally-made water-based saddlesoap of R. M. Williams.  It’s cute, but with layer upon layer of gentle surprise as the doors of its consecutive rooms open.  It’s fleshy and pulpy, but always elegant and composed.  You can follow it through this journey over two or three days if you manage yourself: the first bottle I tried, brought about by one of the thirstiest enthusiasts in my neck of the woods, vanished in about half an hour.  What pulls the heart hawsers particularly taut is the manner in which the wine projects a wave of sheer mellow fruit, and then a glorious wash of soft polymerised tannin as it ebbs.  The nature of these feelings and flavours changes constantly: they never seem to repeat themselves, but they stay in that determined recio direction: upon them, we’re ever-so-gradually surfing ashore.  But then, the mala gana sets in: we don’t seem really to want to get there after all.  Or need to. And all along, that delicious delicate syrup of grape essence, almost conserve, coddles and cuddles the tongue.  I say conserve rather than jam, because conserve contains entire fresh fruits: it is neither mashed nor boiled to such an extreme as jam. It's a glorious wine, and one which manages to crash old and new worlds together in the most harmonious collision I've witnessed in a long long time.

Tabula Damana Ribera del Duero 2004
$35; 14% alcohol; cork; 92+++ points
Black tea and Parade Gloss bootpolish deck these halls. This is tempranillo. And at a good price, all things considered. The fruits are there in abundance, but the meat's the biggest thing in the glass: think Iberian ham and mashed beets. The palate's velvety and thick, with neat oak sap and spice, and really steely, rapier acidity. It could live for a decade, cork willing, but it's bloody lovely now with a hearty beef stew, plenty of pepper. It has more humour than many grand tempranillos, whcih seem to take themselves a bit too seriously, often in an unnecessarily martial manner. Must be all that polished leather. But this has juicy sweet grapes still living in it, a delightful hint of kalamata olives, and some complex dried fig. It's highly entertaining: a good wine to talk about. Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice exclusively. 06 MAR 09

Pindarie Bar Rossa Tempranillo Sangiovese Shiraz 2007
$22; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
Wendy Allen (viti) met Tony Brooks (aggie) at Roseworthy. 1985. They run the spread where McLeod’s Daughters AND Bonanza shoulda bin shot, in the swelling red western lumps of Gomersal and Rosedale. This ’lectric shock smells like lightnin‘ just smote yr blueberries’n‘blackcurrants: ozone’n‘sparks’n‘ healthy black’n‘blue fruits. Bitsa hot bashed anvil, right up yr nose. Coke’n‘coal; coca AND kola. Mint; musk. Lithe, blunt, and brash. A skinny, angular, savory greasecutter. Wakes an old bibulant up. Red for savvyB suckers. A new thing. A hot Triumph. Bonneville. Aabsolutely juicy pink piglet or lamb; capers; pink peppercorns.

Jarrate Maceration Carbonique Rioja 2010 
($20; 13% alcohol; cork; tasted January 2012; 92+ points)
Abel Mendoza Monge painstakingly gardens a 16 ha Rioja vineyard to supply his winemaking wife, Maite.  Their is a true revelation as in saucy revel; a romp. As in finally foot-treading Tempranillo and a little Graciano which had commenced fermentation in its skins, still in bunches in concrete vats for several days.  The expressed juice then goes into clean steel to complete a more conventional ferment to dryness.  Jarrate has a disarming squish of raspberry and some meaty blueberry.  And while it may well be berries all the way down, tantalizing tweaks of fruity fresh-polished leather emerge, and not your modern petrochem waxes that require acetone to remove – I’m talking snicker-snack Zorro old-style natural water-based polish.  It’s all black stuff, with a savoury hint of licorice. Even more importantly, it’s sufficiently elegant and delicate, that even at only 13% alcohol, there’s a cheeky reek of heat in the exhalation.  Which is kinda what I expect of alcohol.  But we can learn from this.  It doesn’t need to be 15%! The wine is startling in its overt healthy juiciness.  Yet it’s slender, with those slithery tannins drawing the finish out til you’re starving for tapas.  Never seen anything like this here.

Nashwauk McLaren Vale Tempranillo 2006
$25; 15.5% alcohol; cork; 92 points
Under the determined Reid Bosward, Kaesler Wines, one of the new wave of hard-core Barossa traditionalists, bought a vineyard in the Seaview sub-region of the Vales in 2005. Their first releases are very impressive, befitting this prime slice of the south. Tempranillo, as proven by Cascabel, works well in the breezy marine humidity there. This one’s right on track: its blackberries and bootpolish immediately give the variety away. The flavours are dry, savoury, and chocolaty; the texture more slender than you’d expect at this alcohol level. Haunch of beef.

Aradon Rioja Tinto Joven 2008
$10; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 7-8MAY10; 90+
Third year in a row for this incredibly cheap cutie from Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice: it's got better every year. This one seems even fresher than the 07 was. It's a perfect introduction to Tempranillo, in spite of being half Grenache. A lively, bright, and intense countenance, without feeling sullen and tense, seems a difficult thing to achieve for many winemakers who are attempting to move their style from the big jambucket Parkerillas to something more svelte and alluring. This one's done it with ease. It's a slippery, black little drink of happy days and pizzaz.

Aradon Rioja Tinto Joven 2007
$10; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 28 APR 09; 90 points
Praise Bacchus for the Coles buying team for persisting with this producer for two vintages, just to persuade them to install a screw capper! So: no oak, and now no cork. It's really 50-50 tempranillo and grenache, but the temp dominates, so I've put it in this category and not the grenache section. It's been fermented in glass-lined concrete vats then bottled. It still smells of sufficient sassy spice to look as if it HAS had some older oak, but that's probably the turpene whiff of tempranillo kept fresh. Black cherries and wild briary hedgerow berries abound in such a cheeky spring frolic of a glass that a lad feels like leaping that hedge for a touch of frotting in the sward. Sure, it's simple, and sure, it's joven, but it's really good easy wholesome fun, and something that should put the absolute shiver of death up the irrigated grapeyards of the Murray-Darling Basin. Interesting, too, to compare the sanitary cleans of this closure with the muddling effect of the synthetic stopper in the 2006 vintage (see below). Vintage Cellars and 1st Choice in Australia.

Di Giorgio Family Coonawarra Tempranillo 2010$23; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20 JUN 12; 90 points
It’s ten years now since the Di Giorgio family bought the old Rouge Homme winery, after generations of grape-growing for other outfits.  At about the same time, they were probably buying some of the barrels used to make this wine, and they added this Tempranillo plantation to their large suite of vineyards.  There’s something magic about the decade in the wine cycle: all this enterprise and vision has had that time to mature and fully entwine and out pops a lovely red.  As if these things happen suddenly! It’s heady, opulent wine, flooding with fresh juice of black cherries, baby beetroot, and prune.  It doesn’t seem forced or extracted, and its maturation in older barrels has given it just the right dusting of spices.  Its flavours are open and honest: the palate is syrupy, yet elegant, with a modest number of alcohols, and the finish? A pretty compote of those cherries; soft velvet tannins and some savoury, lemony acid. While Coonawarra Cabernet tends to make lean, tight, claret styles that need many years to mellow, this wine might indicate that properly handled Coonawarra Tempranillo can provide a softer, rounder, juicier wine at low alcohols which can be enjoyed as youthful delights. Get that barbecue flaming, stack the table with tapas and a bottle or two of this, and you’re in Spain for less than $100.


Ross Barossa Valley Tempranillo 2006
$18; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
Ross Estate probably has this state’s oldest tempranillo and graciano vines, near the tiny cemetery beside the winery. They were nearly uprooted decades ago, as nobody knew what they were, or what to do with their fruit. Rod Chapman has always kept the resultant wine as a quiet treat for visiting buyers, but it looks like the new wave of humans at Ross are intent on getting such things wider recognition. This is simple, mature tempranillo, all black tea and leather, softening nicely to plum cake and chocolate pud, with lovely velvety tannins. Lachs schincken, hot mustard and sauertkraut.

Running With Bulls Barossa Tempranillo 2008
$19; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 10-11JAN10; 87+ points
Yalumba made this. Rob Hill Smith, the owner, once ran before the bulls in Pamplona. Why doesn't the label say that? Instead it has some post modernist stuff about the sea of white and red and the rockets and whatnot. In about 1972, when Australia was awash with Rioja, Karl Seppelt released a very good red with a bullfighter plying his trade on the label. It came from the Murray Valley, and it was delicious at twenty years of age. I have no recollection what it was made from - probably shiraz and cabernet - but he called it Bullamakanka, which means bullshit. Like that wine, this wine is not bullshit. It has appealing, dense, beetroot, prune, and blackberry aromas, with that twist of turpene, like bootpolish, that always indicates tempranillo to this taster. It's strapping to taste, more lithe and athletic than the bouquet forecasts. It has lovely lean tannins, too. While its alcohol is modest, it still seems slightly hot in the aftertaste. It's made in the joven style, which was bravely pioneered in Australia by Susanna Fernadez at Cascabel. It would be lovely drinking with warmed black olives, spicy chorizos, and mussels. All the signs indicate that tempranillo likes the Barossa. You could leave this one the cellar for a year or two, to your advantage.

Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone McLaren Vale Tempranillo 2007
$25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 86+++ points
Gemtree’s first bio-D baby seems a touch doughy, like my grandmother would have rising in the sun on the table when I got home from school. It doesn’t have the turpene/Parade Gloss bootpolish I usually associate with tempranillo, but you can see the beginnings of it, or the hints. It’s sharp and acrid, mind you, with that nose-pricking edge. Then, below that, there’s this huge thick muck of bouquet that seems almost non-vinous. In the mouth, however, the story’s different. The wine’s sharp and edgy, with huge force and confidence, and major levels of acidity and very fine, drawing tannin. Like many bio-D efforts, the wine seems to be twice as dense as any of its industrialised rivals. I think it should have been held back for another two years: people will be confused by this. Just as they were confused by Max Schubert. He had to wait. And learn. JAN 09

Angove’s Nine Vines Tempranillo Shiraz 2007
$14; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
Tempranillo? Well, it smells like those faintly macho Riojas we could buy for the price of two packs of Camels in 1980. What’s his name? The little Spaniard gazillionaire in the dark suit? Livelier eyes in a fishmonger’s window. Nope? Oh well. I CAN smell tempranillo. It’s that sexy Desprez’ Bal à Versailles parfum on the shoeshine brunette who drinks shiraz from a hipflask at Harry’s Bar. Sank Rue Dah Noe. I can taste tempranillo. It’s dry and tannic, and confused here by the shiraz filler. I mean the shoeshine girl. Lean, mean, and into the second bottle, very, scary. Go barbecued steak.

Aradon Rioja Tinto 2006
$10; 14% alcohol; synthetic stopper; 81 points
Another Coles import to plug the gaps the drought’s put on their cheapy shelves, bought with no middleman, so the price stays low. How far down? Ten bucks? Yo’ kidding! Tempranillo and grenache, no oak, as clean as a whistle, the fruit of another huge growers’ co-op that’s got the Roseworthy ethic and bungs it out with all the honesty their fruit affords. Tempranillo always reminds me of the acetone aroma of black bootpolish. We get that here, with all the cherry and raspberry of grenache. It’s simple and true, finishes dry and savoury, and needs pizza. Liquorland/Vintage Cellars (16.2.8)

Cosme Palacio Rioja Cosecha 2005
$18; 13.5% alcohol; cork(!); 77 points
Zorro must have left his beautiful soft black knee boots in a horse trough. In a stable. After a few years on the feet, and a few weeks in the horse trough, we get this sort of fair dinkum black horse maniac’s horse hair – and it has to be a black horse, because that’s what it smells like – sort of smell. The Spanish will tell you this is what Rioja tempranillo is like. So do the folks at Vintage Cellars. I agree with them. Whole heartedly. If you drink this, you won’t have to leave your boots in the horse trough. Horse liver shashlik.

Delatite Tempranillo 2006
$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 68 points
I can’t believe it’s 25 years since I wrote about the cheeky blonde winemaker Rosie Ritchie in The National Times, whose headline writer unfortunately titled my piece “The sulphur girl”. Not what we wanted. Jane Donat’s winemaker now, and this tempranillo lacks definition and seems sloppy and stewed. 2006 was very, very hot in Victoria, and things were terribly difficult. It does have hints of the acetone black bootpolish I expect in tempranillo, but little of the acidity that the freezing nights of upland Spain would impart. Chilli cacciatore sizzling off the charcoal.

No comments:

Post a Comment