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Italian Heroes – Australian-made Italian varietal wines

Offering a wide range of aromas, tastes and textures, Australian-made Italian varietal wines are growing in popularity. Sampling a collection of brands – some well-known, some not – Jamie Durrant discovers regional wines of quality and diversity.

Brown Brothers 1889 Pinot Grigio – King Valley 2016 (vintage)

Unlike many gin-clean pinot grigios, this wine has an elegant blush in the glass. The label notes a pale straw colour, but we saw a slightly warmer touch of golden salmon. Why make a fuss about this? Pour and you’ll discover – it’s a thing! This is another fine upper King Valley wine featuring fruit grown at Brown Brother’s ultra-premium Banksdale vineyard, 485 metres above sea level. Punchy aromas of fresh pear, lively ripe summer peaches and honeysuckle make this a wonderfully fragrant and attractive wine. The palate is crisp with a delicate acidity born of the cool climate in which it’s grown. While there is delightful freshness, it’s also layered with ripe summer stone fruits and additional savoury notes. It finishes tight. I find this a unique wine; its beautiful lifted floral fragrances continue to impress as one drinks. The price represents excellent value for money in big brand Australian retail stores. If you’re new to the game, this is an Italian varietal wine you can pick up without fear of disappointment. Pair this one with a South East Asian spice-driven dish, or perhaps some BBQ prawns with a little chilli and garlic. Or share it with a close friend as an aperitif; it’s sure to bring you closer together!

3.5 stars – RRP $18.30
brownbrothers.com.au

Politini 2015 Sangiovese

Having matured gracefully in the bottle, the tannins in this herbaceous and lightly aromatic sangiovese are grippy, yet fine and beautifully textured. The overall mouthfeel is soft and layered in a way that reminds me more of a well-integrated Bordeaux rather than an Aussie Italian varietal wine. Featuring deep, rich cherry fruit combined with hints of chocolate, vanilla and rosemary, this wine is beautifully subtle and fragrant, showcasing a complex palate that builds further as it opens up.

3.5 stars – RRP $24
politiniwines.com.au

Traviarti 2016 Rosso

This is a fantastic newcomer, one for fans of Italian reds to watch! Winemaker Simon Grant has chosen to concentrate on classic varieties that define their countries of origin: nebbiolo from Italy, cabernet sauvignon from France and tempranillo from Spain. He has planted two clones of nebbiolo on his micro hillside site, altitude 600 metres, beside Beechworth’s Red Hill in 2010: Matura for its darker more intense fruit and bigger, grippier tannins, and 230 for more floral and delicate fruit flavours that combine well with Matura. The rich red loam soil has quickly produced luxurious full bunches of quality nebbiolo fruit. The clones are picked and vinified separately in seasoned Taransaud and Sirugue French oak barrels imported by Ric Kinzbrunner of Giaconda Wines. The differences in fruit and barrel characteristics allows greater control when the wine is ready for blending. Small amounts of cabernet and barbera fruit also are used to help build texture and complexity,
The result is a simply stunning wine. Rose petal and earthy notes marry delicately with lifted cherry and candy aromas. The mouthfeel is elegant with fine tannins, the palate weight is light to medium body. The finish is generous and seamlessly well balanced. For a young wine comprising predominantly nebbiolo fruit, it is an astonishing achievement. I adore its delicacy, softness and perfumed aromas. A class act from a winery that is worth following.

4.5 stars – RRP $28
traviarti.com

Wine X Sam The Victorian Primitivo 2017

Perfumed aromas of violets, chocolate and spice gently unfold as this wine begins to open up. While a little shy at first, with time fragrances build, including deeper layers of liquorice, prunes and blackberry. Grown in the central Victorian highlands of the Strathbogie Ranges, this is a superb, well-balanced Italian varietal from veteran winemaker Sam Plunkett. There are glorious savoury notes that will stand up to – and complement – tomato-based Italian foods. The full and juicy palate of vibrant rich and ripe fruits features distinct perfumed characteristics that are nicely weighted by fine, chalky tannins. Primitivo, which originated in the Apulia region of Italy (the heel of the boot), is also grown in California where it’s known as zinfandel and is quite rare in Australia. The variety can produce powerful wines that are rich, fat and silky. Sam has opted to create a lighter style in this 2017 offering, making it a mid-weight food wine that’s perfect for the true Italian palate. It would also make a great ‘verandah wine’, as this fragrance-packed drop drinks so well on its own. You’ll need to sign up to the club via the Wine X Sam website to gain access to limited release gems like this.

4 stars – RRP $22
winebysam.com.au

Our Wine Ratings

We judge wine on how drinkable and how memorable it is – just the way you probably do at home. To simplify things, we rate them using a maximum of five stars. To learn more about how we see it, visit:
essentialsmagazine.com.au/wine