Alternative Varietal 101 with Alex Russell
Alex Russell of Alex Russell Wines (ARW) has been one of the most influential and innovative winemakers in the country, helping reshape perceptions of the Riverland as a premium grape-growing region, and broadening the industry’s appreciation of new wave or alternative varietals. Here he shares his thoughts on Alternative Varietals, and his work with Alejandro.
“My motivation has been to create the best possible product, resulting in a diverse range of alternative wines,” says Alex. “ARW focuses on interesting and alternative varieties of grape that are often overlooked from the Riverland, South Australia. Looking at the Alejandro range, for instance, Monastrell, Durif, Tempranillo and Vermentino are all multi-award-winning wines.”
Tell us more about the Alejandro range.
“Alejandro is a range of varietal wines inspired by the sun-beaten soils of southern Spain and the dark, fruit-driven wines served with tapas cuisine. The climate and soils of southern Spain very closely resemble that of the Riverland and Mallee, where we produce a number of varieties complementary to our production of olives, figs, citrus, potato and poultry - all things tapas.”
What’s driving this rise of alternative varieties in Australia?
“There’s no simple answer, but one of the major drivers is undoubtedly climate change. With many of Australia’s classic wine regions becoming warmer and drier and with growing seasons becoming shorter, quality-conscious winemakers have looked to vines that are suited to the new growing environment.”
And the wines that result are, in a word, delicious, presenting Australian wine lovers with a wealth of new options to explore, all with a sense of Old World charm. Alex talks us through some of his favourites!
“I like to pair my Fiano with pan fried salmon and seasonal greens. The rich creamy texture of the fish, pairs perfectly with the acidity of this variety. I would liken this variety’s weight to a Viognier or Semillon”
“This variety is from Georgia in the Soviet Union and tend to be rich, full bodied wines. Our Saperavi is grown in the Murray Darling region and displays notes of aniseed, liquorice with a touch of vanilla and toasted French oak. It is full-bodied, has intense dark fruit and a luscious mix of fruit, spice, tannin and full-bodied alcohol sweetness.”
“Carmenere is a wine variety originally planted in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France, however it’s now grown more readily in Cholchagua Valley in Chile. It is often used for blending similar to Merlot, however many Chilean producers are also making straight varietals similar to our Alejandro Carmenere. The Murray Darling in Victoria is very similar to areas of Chile where this variety is grown – long hot summers and calcareous, loamy soils; the ideal climate to get maximum yields out of this rich, full-bodied grape variety.”
Have you dipped your toes in the new wave of alternative varietals yet? Not only are they fantastic on their own or with food, there’s never been a better time or a better range of styles to choose from. Embrace your alternative side with Wine Selectors and view our range of Alex Russell wines – you’re sure to find something that excites and delights!