'Bored with Shiraz? Why not try [fill in grape of the moment].' I really wish there weren't articles that began in such fashion. Chardonnay is probably the grape that attracts the most flak, but when you question those who pronounce themselves members of the ABC - Anything But Chardonnay - movement, you find that their experiences with the grape are confined to one country and one price range. What if ABC stood for Anything But Chicken, with the members eschewing chook because of their experiences in KFC? Does that make sense? Similarly, I'm fed up with wine producers who say that they are making 'more complex' wines when all they're doing is adding another grape variety. Bolting on another flavour doesn't make something more complex - ketchup on your risotto sir?
Where was this argument going? Oh yes, alternative grape varieties. Tempranillo is Spain's main contribution to the world of grapes, and having tired of the main French red grapes - Cab Sauv, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir etc - many producers around the world are now planting some. Success so far has been limited, but that's not Tempranillo's fault. Sometimes the clones planted weren't best suited to the vineyard, sometimes it's just the winemaker's lack of experience with that's to blame. After all, a chef used to cooking only beef would take times to come to terms with quail.
So today's theme is Tempranillo, with two wines from opposite ends of the world
Stowells Tempranillo NV, La Mancha, Spain
This is by far and away the worst wine I've tried on the Big Brand Diet - in fact it's the worst wine I've tried since my home-brew escapades last year. Scrawny, and lacking in fruit, with a crude sweetness and some oxidation, it feels like an old wine that someone has tried - unsuccessfully - to freshen up. Avoid this at all costs. For an affordable taste of the real Spain, try Garnacha from Campo de Borja or Monastrell from Jumilla.
Hardy's Nottage Hill Shiraz Tempranillo 2006, South Eastern Australia
A vast improvement on the Stowells, but as I mentioned in my intro blurb, adding an extra grape doesn't make for a better wine. This still tastes like cheap Australian red, with that slightly confected jammie dodger fruit and an excess of vanilla flavour. Once again, why the need for the oak?
(for Australia's best Tempranillo, check out Pondalowie)