When someone first mentions red, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe Julia Gillard, Red Skelton, Red Buttons (that’s a bit too Rip Torn for my liking), reds under the bed or even Red Adair (he was a Texan who fought oil-well fires and fixed blowouts and, for theatrical types, was absolutely nothing to do with Ginger Rogers. I don’t even know if Red could dance).

Mention red again and thoughts turn to the product of the grape. Shiraz, cab-sav, merlot, chianti, grenache, zinfandel,  sangiovese, et al. But there aren’t too many first thoughts of tempranillo, originally a grape variety from Spain that is now going gangbusters in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.

Which brings me to a chat last weekend with the manager of my local Swords outlet, something I often do. Swords made its name selling resealable and recyclable bottles usually filled with a more-than-decent drop. After I had bought some pinot gris to have with some seafood pasta (it went very nicely, thank you) the manager suggested I try a new tempranillo he’d just got in … and I’m glad I did.

It’s labelled (in butt-ugly type) Siento Tempranillo 2008 from the Barossa and weighs in at a healthy 14.5% alcohol.

If you believe the notes on the back of the bottle, it smells of plum (yeah I got that) and blueberry blossom (excuse me, but I don’t know anyone who knows what the hell that smells like, and anyway, I reckon there was a hint of leather there early on). In the mouth it tastes of blueberry and vanilla (yep to both) and it is a smooth, medium-bodied drink. And it claims that the tannins are velvety (a definite yep — think cats and velvet. Yep, it’s that smooth).

In a shock twist, I drank just half a bottle and buttered up the next night for the rest. And it was definitely better for the break. If you haven’t yet tried tempranillo, do it. At $17.95 a bottle (although Swords has a two for $30 deal on it), it drinks a treat.

The seafood pasta was a chance to try a new Guy Grossi offering: squid ink linguini (it was a gift from a friend who also weighed in with some of Grossi’s olives that are yet to be tried).

The seafood was squid rings, scallops and prawns, tossed quickly in some finely diced sautéed onion softened in olive oil (flavoured with fresh oregano, lots of garlic and a couple of bay leaves), cherry tomato halves and a decent slurp of white wine (it was a fruity chardy). The black pasta cooked in about two minutes (which threw things out a bit) but the end result was worth it. A big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a quick squeeze of lemon juice and it was a done deal. Life’s good.

Red Adair was a focused man who once said: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” That’s a bit like wine. It’s caveat emptor when it comes to drinking cheap wine (three-day growth notwithstanding) — buy it at your peril and hope you get lucky.

*Follow @mickthesub1 on Twitter and on his blog A Single’s Survival Guide

Peter Fray

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