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Known as the “noble grape”, the Tempranillo is a fruit of Spanish origin and one of several exciting alternative varietals that help make our range so unique at Smidge Wines.
The Spanish call it Temprana, meaning “early”, because it ripens on the vine faster than other red fruit.
It’s the most common grape used to make, Rioja, and there are an estimated 500-plus clones of Tempranillo fruit across Spain and Portugal, which is why Spaniards believe it to be noble.
For years I’ve been keen to make a Tempranillo because my grandmother was Spanish, and I’m very proud of my heritage.
This Tempranillo fruit was taken from a small vineyard in the Adelaide Hills in 2016, a year that enjoyed perfect growing conditions. I tasted the grape on the vine, and it was fantastic. I knew it would be perfect for our premium Pedra Branca range.
Fortunately, my instinct proved to be reliable as the Pedra Branca Tempranillo received 96 points from 100 in the James Halliday Wine Companion.
In Europe, Tempranillo is often blended with Grenache and Carignan because of its relatively neutral profile and exhibits flavours of strawberries and plum. Some winemakers like to age it oak because it will soak in the flavour of the barrique.
With its heritage on the Iberian Peninsula and, possibly, first grown by the occupying Phoenicians, it thrives in heat and drought – perfect for the harsh conditions that Australia often experiences.
The fruit ripens quickly, so it’s usually ready to pick before the searing heat of January arrives. That’s a key reason why it has been gaining in popularity with growers for the past 20 years and can now be found in the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Margaret River.
The vines for our Pedra Branca Tempranillo are 14 years old and trellised on a north-easterly slope of the red loam in Verdun, a hamlet in the central Adelaide Hills.
The fruit for this wine as handpicked and de-stemmed. After 16 days on the skins, we combined the free-run and pressings.
I matured it for ten months in tight-grained French barriques, and it went through malolactic fermentation with no additions. After being cleanly racked and blended, the Tempranillo was bottled unfiltered and left for another year.
This process ensured we maintained the Spanish tradition of producing a deep red wine with complex aromas. Indeed, our Tempranillo has a rich, red core with a magenta rim. The nose is complex with aromas of raspberries, plums, fresh charcuterie, spice and subtle herbs.
I have to confess that my palate explodes with vibrant red fruits and its fresh, mouth-watering acidity followed up with subtle charcuterie, cedary spice and fine tannins.
If you’re keen to pair our Tempranillo with food, then I recommend traditional Spanish fare, including paella and a range of tapas, including spicy meats and goat cheese.
The Pedra Branca Tempranillo is a rare opportunity to experience the combination of Spanish history and local winemaking. At Smidge, we’ve kept our release to 75 dozen, and there are just a few cases left.
And unfortunately, the vines have been pulled out now, so there’s only a limited opportunity now to enjoy this unique Australian Tempranillo.
It’s ready to drink now, or you can store it in a good cellar for another ten years.
It’s always a privilege to create a wine that is true to its traditions in both taste and aroma.
With the 2017 Uno Momento Montepulciano, we’ve captured the essence of a classical fruit from the Abruzzo region of central-eastern Italy, where the Apennine Mountains meet the Adriatic Sea and stretch for more than 1,200km along the Italian coastline.
It’s beautiful, unique country and ideal for growing fruit that produces wonderful medium-weight wines for which Italy has become famous.
The closest countryside we have in Australia is McLaren Vale, which is where the fruit for our Montepulciano is grown.
We’ve called this Montepulciano “Uno Momento” – and there’s a story behind that.
We’d been in business at Smidge Wines for a number of years, producing an increasingly popular range of predominantly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Never satisfied, I thought we needed another red wine in the portfolio.
One local grower had grafted a small block to Montepulciano adjacent to a block of Shiraz that I already sourced fruit from. During the vintage of 2017, the weather was cooler, and I knew this to be very much aligned to the conditions for the grape traditionally grown at the foot of the Apennines.
One day halfway through vintage, I was out with the grower looking at the Shiraz, when I asked whether we could taste the Montepulciano. Upon tasting the fruit, I pronouned "this fruit is amazing...there is a lucky winery getting this" to which the grower replied that he hadn't sold a berry! The explosion of flavour was incredible, and suddenly the "light bulb" went off and I thought “wait a minute” – or as they say in Italy, “uno momento”.
I bought the entire crop on the spot.
Two weeks later, the fruit was handpicked and the bunches de-stemmed to ensure we could retain as many whole berries as possible. It was 24 days on skins with wild fermentation and no additions. Matured in two-year-old French barriques for ten months, it spent another 18 months in bottle before release 14 months ago.
Instinct served me well as the wine has received 95 points out of 100 from the Halliday Wine Companion.
Typical of many Italian varietal red wines, it is of medium weight, with good natural acidity and food friendly structure.
When you taste it, you should leave behind any expectation of a traditional Shiraz or Pinot Noir and instead enjoy an Italian experience conjured from the McLaren Vale’s red-brown over limestone soils that are very similar to those in the Apennines.
The wine is deep red with a striking perfume. You’ll experience lovely red and purple fruits with subtle savoury notes, fine tannins and fresh acidity.
This 2017 Uno Momento Montepulciano, available under the Smidge White Label, is based on the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a wine that one can trace its wine heritage back to 1AD.
Growing this fruit has become popular in McLaren Vale because the fruit typically ripens later and suits the Mediterranean warmth while retaining natural acidity and fine structure.
A total of 150 dozen of the Uno Momento has been made, and it has proven very popular. Only a few cases are left.
While many Australians continue to love richer wines such as Shiraz, tastes are changing and often the preference is for medium-bodied, yet flavoursome food friendly wines. Our Montepulciano meets this need perfectly, and customers rarely leave our cellar door without a couple of bottles under their arms.
It’s ready to drink now, or you can cellar it for a decade. If you like to pair your wine with food, I’d recommend anti-pasta, ossobuco or lamb shanks.
Like many winemakers, I’m captivated by the history of wine almost as much as the taste, which is why I’m excited about our Houdini Grenache Carignan.
Both the Grenache and Carignan fruits have a rich story, some of it lost in the mists of times.
The Phoenicians are said to have grown Carignan fruit as early as 9BC in territory that is now modern Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. More contemporary evidence suggests it originated in Spain, where it’s called Carinena.
The Grenache has Spanish roots, too. Also known as Garnacha Tinta, the grape is said to hail from the province of Aragon in north-eastern Spain.
Its oldest plantings these days however are not in Europe but South Australia and date back to the 1840s. They came from the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, which featured James Busby’s collection of vines transported in the 1830s from Spain and France.
Both the French and Spanish lost their Grenache vines some 60 years later in a devastating outbreak of phylloxera.
Today, the grape can be found throughout Europe once more. In France, it’s grown predominantly in the Cote du Rhone, and you’ll find it in Spain’s Catalunya, Navarra and Rioja regions. The Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily, as well as Umbria, are also popular growing areas.
Locally, Grenache features in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, where it thrives in dry conditions that are warm-to-hot. Locally, it’s a familiar blend for Shiraz and Tawny and Vintage ports.
Grenache has spicy, peppery, berry fruit characters and is often described as “warm climate Pinot Noir”, but it’s a fickle variety that doesn’t guarantee large yields.
The grape is relatively low in colour, flavour compounds and levels of tannin, all of which diminish further as the yield becomes larger. Conversely, if the yield is small, the sugar and phenolic compound accumulation can become erratic and out of balance.
Two clonal groups of the grape dominate in Australia – the dark-skinned and pink-skinned Grenache.
The pink produces an aromatic wine but with limited structure and flavour, whereas the dark skin produces wines of depth, complexity and structure.
At Smidge, we’ve made Grenache in small quantities. It began as a trial but in 2017, a cool vintage, we made our first commercial volume. The conditions through that ripening season delivered fruit with subtle flavours that translated into a wine with a lovely perfume, red fruits, spice and subtle savoury notes.
Grenache makes up 72% of our Smidge 2017 Houdini blend with Carignan is the remaining 28%.
Each fruit was picked, fermented with wild yeasts and matured separately. The Grenache matured in older French puncheons (500L) and the Carignan sat in older French barriques (225L) or barrels for 12 months before blending and bottling.
Initially, I wanted to bottle a straight Grenache with its softer red fruits and peppery spice but instead had to commit it all to blend with the more dense Carignan – and that’s proven to be a great decision.
The result is a Houdini with an aroma of red fruits, spice, pepper, plums. On the palate, it leaves a sensation of juicy red fruits, savoury notes, and a fine, long structure.
The Houdini McLaren Vale Grenache Carignan was bottled some 12 months ago and will last another seven years, depending on the quality of your wine storage.
It can be drunk on its own or with a range of foods and charcuterie. I love it with lamb shanks, tomato-based pasta, and cheeses.
Wine writer Winsor Dobbin was a little more poetic in his review, saying that once you take a sip, you should close your eyes and dream of being in a beautiful village in the southern Rhone.
It doesn’t get better than that!
Not all superheroes wear capes. The coronavirus lockdown gave us a renewed respect and admiration for our healthcare, teachers and frontline workers who kept our communities running while the rest of us stayed home.
Suddenly our doctors, nurses, teachers and even supermarket staff were our first defence, and at Smidge, we wanted to do something to highlight their heroism.
Over the past four weeks, our Facebook followers nominated people whose efforts they admired during the pandemic. Each week, we chose a worthy recipient and sent them a two-pack of Smidge Wines to say thank you and pay it forward. We got such a kick out of it - it was a simple thing for us to do but we loved sending off those packs and hope all our recipients have enjoyed their wine.
Our worthy local super heroes were:
Helen M, a nurse from Norwood Day Surgery
Cherie P, a doctor at Victor Medical Centre
Liz T, an ELC teacher
Frank G, a nurse practitioner
We were overwhelmed by the number of nominations we received, and it quite brightened our isolation to read through such inspirational examples. We’d like to thank everyone who recommended someone.
We’re trying something a bit different in May.
With the Smidge Wines Cellar Door still closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, we’re holding a Virtual Wine Tasting for our S Club members on Saturday May 16.
The hookup will be held as a Zoom meeting and all S Club members are invited.
While the ‘cellar door’ will be virtual, the wine will be very real.
As part of membership to S Club, we’re sending out two bonus bottles of wine to all our members valued at more than $75 - the Uno Momento McLaren Vale Montepulciano and a mystery cleanskin.
During the virtual masterclass and Matt will explain the origins of Montepulciano, the story behind Uno Momento and why the McLaren Vale is such a good area for this varietal.
Matt will then take us through a Wine Options game to reveal the mystery cleanskin.
We’d love you to join us! Joining S Club starts at just $149 for your first 6 x pack, with two wine deliveries a year, priority invitations to events, a wine concierge service and free delivery on all orders. Join before May 14, and receive your bonus bottles for our masterclass tasting.