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Tempranillo is our flagship, and arguably the most exciting variety in the world today. It is of course the great red of Spain, but it is also the variety being most rapidly planted in the world.
We planted tempranillo for the first time in 2000, in a patch of the vineyard we call Rock Block. Not only did tempranillo have a track record in Spain for being able to make outstanding, structured wines, but our Canberra District climate was a good match for the regions in Spain where it does best. It is a variety that responds to continentality, that is, large differences between day and night temperatures, and between summer and winter temperatures.
Our first Tempranillo vintage in 2003 was a revelation, unlike any other variety we were making. It had tremendous perfume, as well as intensity and structure. That wine still drinks well today, and we deliberately make our Tempranillo in a style suited to ageing.
Our small initial planting of tempranillo was quickly expanded. In 2004 we grafted a nearby patch of pinot noir to create what we now call the ‘Little Dam’ block, and in 2009 we commenced grafting and replanting merlot, in a patch we now call ‘Dry Spur’. Tempranillo has become the most important variety at Mount Majura Vineyard, covering 20% of our 9.3 hectares.
With the increased plantings, we were able to experiment with blending, and this led to a second wine to stand alongside our Tempranillo. Every red barrel in the winery from the 2008 vintage was part of the trials, but one blend stood out, and hence our TSG was born. Tempranillo always leads the blend, giving black fruits and structure, while Shiraz gives flesh to the mid-palate, and Graciano adds spice and brightness. As the blend of the best red varieties from our site, it takes some focus off each individual variety, and instead speaks of the vineyard.
What now excites us most is that Tempranillo, whether the varietal or the blend, really speaks to us of place. It is a variety that makes not only wine of the highest quality, but wine with a real sense of personality. The three single sites within the vineyard consistently show different character. Since 2013 and in years where the quality and volume allows, one to two barrels from these single sites are bottled separately as well as contributing to our flagship Tempranillo.
Rock Block is the original patch, typically showing lush fruit and perfume that derives partly from the nearby trees. Dry Spur is usually more savoury, with a more grainy tannin structure. Little Dam typically shows violet notes and features a dense pack of very fine tannin. The three thus offer a fascinating insight into differences of soil and aspect over only a few hundred metres of vineyard. Tempranillo is expressing our terroir.
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