A FOR ASSYRTIKO (a-seer-tee-ko) This is a white grape variety virtually unique to the Greek island of Santorini. There, under the ancient koulara method, the vine canes are woven in continuous circles to form a basket to protect the grapes from the strong winds, arid climate and harsh summer sun. The variety came to Australia’s Clare Valley because Jim Barry Wines’ managing director Peter Barry and his wife Sue visited Santorini in 2006 and were charmed by the wines. After a 10-year tussle to get cuttings and a two-year Australian quarantine on them, Peter managed to get assyrtiko vines established and producing their first wine in 2014. The inaugural commercial release of Australia’s first assyrtiko was made in 2016 and 2017, 2018 and 2019 have followed. The $35 current-release 2019 is at jimbarry.com.
B FOR BARBERA (bar-bear-uh) Italy has 50,000 hectares of barbera largely in its north-western Piedmont Region and, after sangiovese and montepulciano, it’s the country’s third most planted red variety. Australia’s first barbera vines were planted 41 years ago by Carlo Corino, the Italian-born winemaker for the then-Carlo Salteri and Franca Belgiorno-Nettis-owned Montrose-Craigmoor wine company at Mudgee. The variety has since caught on with Aussie winemakers, notably Andrew Margan, who established the first Hunter plantings in 1998 using cuttings from Carlo Corino’s Mudgee Montrose vines. Andrew has great success with the variety and the current-release $40 Margan 2018 Breaking Ground Barbera is available at margan.com.au and at the 1238 Milbrodale Road, Broke, cellar door for sales and pick-up. Another good Hunter one is the $36 Peter Drayton 2018 Anomaly.
C FOR CARMÉNÈRE (car-men-yeah) Along with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, carménère is one of the six grape varieties permitted in France’s Bordeaux appellation reds. It’s rare now in France and mostly a minor blend component. It is prolific in Chile and one of the few Australian plantings is a half-hectare block planted 10 years ago in Central Victoria’s Heathcote area. It’s on the Mia Mia property of Liam Anderson, Wild Duck founder David Anderson’s winemaker son. Since 1992 Wild Duck Creek has used the carménère to add middle-palate zing to cabernet sauvignon-dominant Dabbler label blends. Order at wildduckcreekestate.com.au. Continued on page 25
D FOR DURIF (dew-rif)
Working at the University of Montpellier in the 1880s, French botanist Dr Franois Durif created durif by crossing an ancient clone of shiraz with the obscure peloursin variety.
The variety was much-scorned in France and plantings today are few there and the rest of Europe.
It was introduced to Australia in the 1890s by viticultural pioneer Francis de Castella, an ancestor of Australian marathon great Robert de Castella. Lately it has thrived, particularly in the NSW Riverina, and in the 2019 vintage the national durif crush was 11,845 tonnes, up 29% on the previous year.
Durif table reds are rich and aromatic and often described as “steak in a glass”. An excellent current release is the Nugan Estate 2016 King Valley Durf, which sells for $24 at Vintage Cellars and Liquorland and on their websites and the De Bortoli 2017 Deen Vat 1 reviewed below is great value at $11 to $15.
E FOR ESPARTE (es-part-ay)
MATARO, esparte, mourvedre and in Spain, monastrell – they are all names that apply to the one variety. Eparte was the name used on some well-remembered Seppelt Bin BW5 Hermitage-Esparte reds in the 1960s.
Now, however, that name is seldom used and the variety is officially designated mourvedre (mour-ved-dra), although many South Australian producers insist on calling it mataro.
Either way the variety is most often seen in “Rhone Ranger” GSM blends with grenache and shiraz. If you’re looking for a 100% mourvedre Broke-based Margan winery has one at $50.
The Margan 2018 Limited-Release Saxonvale Mourvedere is online and from Broke cellar door pick-up.