Tempranillo (pronounced; temp-ran-ee-oh) is widely planted in Spain, where it is held in very high esteem. Tempranillo is an early ripening varietal that forms the backbone of the famous wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. It’s also grown in Portugal, where it makes both fortified and table wines.
Australian plantings of Tempranillo are increasing, and it is well on its way to becoming Australia’s favourite alternate red variety. Tempranillo’s attractive colour, juicy, rustic fruit profile and food friendly nature has ensured that this Spanish variety is a hit on restaurant wine lists and is popular with those interested in expanding their vinous horizons. The styles and winemaking techniques vary between the warm and cool regions of Australia, but Tempranillo usually has an approachable, savoury profile of sweet, herbaceous berries that are sometimes bright and vibrant or smoky and dark.
Nebbiolo (pronounced; neb-e-oh-lo) is a powerful, brooding variety with strong tannins and high natural acidity. Italian Nebbiolos are big wines that often take 10+ years to become approachable. This noble but temperamental variety comes from the famous Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It is used to produce the long living, complex Barolos and Barbarescos that provide the benchmark for the variety.
Australian Nebbiolos are more approachable than their Italian counterparts, with the best examples coming from the cooler Australian growing regions. Flavour wise, these wines are deep, rich and savoury with dark berry and cherry characters, and often show savoury and mineral characters that are rarely seen in other Australian reds.
The Adelaide Hills region is producing some great Australian Nebbiolos. Here much of the pioneering of Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo has been led by Italian wine specialists Peter Godden and Sally McGill. Peter has worked vintages in Barolo and Sally is an enthusiastic importer and promoter of Italian wine. Victoria’s Heathcote and King Valley regions are also producing some fine examples of Australian Nebbiolo.
Barbera, the most widely planted variety of Italy’s Piedmont region, is generally a food friendly, everyday drinking wine. It’s known for its good colour, high acidity and soft tannins. It produces good quality wines that offer an affordable, early drinking alternative to Piedmont’s Nebbiolo wines.
Barbera is the perfect red wine for the Australian summer as it is soft and approachable with an abundance of mid-weight fruit flavours such as cherries, plums, anise, spice and licorice on the palate to pepper, plums, cherries, smoke and violets on the nose. With good natural acids and soft tannins, Barbera is perfect for the wide range of Mediterranean-styled food. This wine is a crowd pleaser that deserves more attention. If yields aren’t kept in check, Barbera often tends to overcrop in warmer regions and produce thin wines. For that reason, it’s better suited to cool Australian regions like Victoria’s King Valley.
Barbera normally prefers a cooler climate, where it produces richer, more complex wines. The high altitude of Victoria’s King Valley and the mature vines of Mudgee are two Australian regions where Barbera has excelled.
Sangiovese (pronounced; san-gee-oh-vey-see) is Italy’s most widely planted red grape and provides the backbone for Tuscany’s Chianti wines. This food friendly, savoury red wine is cultivated all over Italy and is used to make everything from cheap basic wines to expensive, richly flavoured ‘Super Tuscans’.
Sangiovese was introduced to Australia in the 1960s and its popularity has been steadily increasing ever since. In cooler climates like Victoria’s alpine regions, the wines exhibit denser and tighter layers of plum, cherry, bramble, cinnamon and mocha. The warmer climates like McLaren Vale produce riper constructions of strawberries, cherries and plums with tarry, spicy notes. Sangiovese has good aging potential that will reward those willing to wait.
Mudgee has benefited from Italian winemakers who have experimented with Sangiovese. South Australia’s McLaren Vale also has many expat Italians, but Sangiovese has largely been driven by the Lloyd family at Coriole. In Victoria, the cool climate of the high country of Beechworth and the King Valley combined with a big Italian community provide the right environment for elegant, savoury Sangiovese, particularly from Castagna and Pizzini.