Tempranillo, the Spanish grape varietal, has been increasing in plantations and production across Australia quite well – with good colour and fruit, not heavy tannin or acidity, can be varying and interesting in it’s palate, and goes very well with snacks (eg. Tapas). I have found this grape reasonably easy to drink as a straight Tempranillo, and love it when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon it has a fantastic palate! (And blended w Cabernet, can extend its suitability for roasts and casseroles)
I’m particularly fond of a Cabernet Tempranillo wine I once worked for at the Good Food and Wine Show (Darling Harbour), where it was unknown but proved great success on people tasting their wines – Byrne and Smith Wines, from McLaren Vale (http://www.byrneandsmith.com.au/). I mentioned before their “Antiquarian” range, released somewhat 7 years after bottling, and for a fantastic price. Most of their wines are exported straight to American restaurants, so not much is left here, but you can still order from them online or at McLaren Vale. They source their wines from all these little vineyards just at the back of the big vineyards of McLaren Vale. Their Thompsen Estate Cabernet Tempranillo is awesome: smells berry-ish and warm; on the palate plenty of small berry type fruits, some spice including good Vanilla-ish length, and an underlying smooth oak and a small amount of lingering tannins – all in a medium bodied wine.
I bought a case of their Cab Tempranillo and have saved most of it until now. The Antiquarians bottled at 2001 vintage were also great in the past 3 years, and just finished the last bottle (Also, if you’re into Sparkling Shiraz/Cab, their Larra Pinta is fantastic and great value too)… As far as I know, their wines are not released every year, but only certain good vintages. Anyway back to the Cabernet Tempranillo. These I believe these are still below $20 a bottle which is great value, highly recommended! I think you need to personally contact them to order wines from them.
Some other good producers of Tempranillo/Blends: Capital Wines; Casella Wines; Brown Brothers; Chapel Hill; Tempus Two; Hollick wines; Kaesler; Yalumba; Nugan Estate and a recent James Halliday highest rated Tempranillo (in 2005), Manton’s Creek Vineyard in Mornington Peninsula.
Tempranillo seems to be the exciting upcoming red varietal, and Sangiovese produced in Australia now has Tempranillo quickly catching up with it. Many are drawn to the grape as it’s an interesting but softer style palate that can suit many people, and a perfect accompaniment w Tapas (which are also increasing in popularity at wine bars etc) as well as a lot of other foods (mushroom risotto etc) and simple pre-dishes such as olives. Keep an eye out for these Tempranillos winning trophies/awards in future wine shows… !