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Wine

Know Your Varietal - Arneis

Adam Walls reveals how Arneis,  Italy’s ‘little rascal’ is proving a hit in Australia thanks to its rich appeal.

Crisp and floral, Arneis is a white that Italian winemakers often blend with Nebbiolo to add a touch of sweetness and perfume. In Australia, it’s proving tough to grow due to the fact that it’s low-cropping and susceptible to many vineyard diseases. However, it’s certainly an emerging hit.

Arneis - an Infographic Guide

Australian Arneis infographic guide

Origins

Arneis hails from the North Western Italian region of Piedmont where it is most famously associated with the white wines of Roero. The fact that Roero sits across the river from the famous Barolo means that Arneis has earned the nickname of Barolo Bianco (white Barolo). It is also thought that the variety’s name is derived from a Piedmontese word meaning “little rascal”. This is due to the fact that the grapes are hard to grow as Arneis is a low cropping variety and is susceptible to mildew.

Did you know?

Arneis vines were sometimes planted next to Nebbiolo vines, but largely as a form of protection – the Arneis grapes’ stronger fragrance distracted hungry birds and insects away from the more highly prized Nebbiolo.

Australian Arneis

In Italy, Piedmont is a cool region with lots of hills, so it makes perfect sense that the most successful regions in Australia for Arneis are cooler with many having rolling hills like South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, Victoria’s King Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, and the NSW Southern Highlands. Arneis from a cool climate region gives good balance between fruit and acidity. In warm vintages, Arneis shows lower acidity and a more powerful fruit profile.

Arneis Tasting Notes

Arneis produces very fragrant wines with notes of pear and apple. The elegance of the aroma hides the fact that the wines are medium to full bodied with pear, apple, stone fruit and nutty notes.

With its rich flavour profile, Arneis will appeal to anyone who loves fruit-driven Chardonnay or Verdelho.

Food matching

Given its soft acidity and texture, Arneis pairs well with lighter food flavours. Try seafood pasta, salads with creamy sauces and shellfish.

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Rosé revealed – how is it made?
The time is ripe for Rosé – spring afternoons and evenings are perfect for relishing the refreshing, savoury characters of fabulous Australian drops. But, as you sit back and sip its deliciousness, do you ever wonder exactly how Rosé is made? Up until a few years ago, Australian winemakers made Rosé as an afterthought, says Tasting Panellist Adam Walls . “Whereas now, the wines are being made deliberately, with designated parcels of fruit that have been picked specifically to be turned into Rosé.”  As Hunter Valley winemaker Mike De Iuliis explains, “There are two distinct keys to making quality Rosé. First is the variety that is being used, and second is timing of harvest.” There are many different styles of wine and as Mike describes, “Rosé is quite a personalised wine and at De Iuliis, we are looking to produce a style that is bright, fresh and vibrant. We also try to produce a drier, more savoury style that is built around texture and acidity rather than sugar and fruit.”  So, how is Rosé made? The Maceration Method Just like red wine, Rosés pick up their colour from the skin of red wine grapes. The winemaker can determine the depth of colour in the wine by deciding how long to leave the juice in contact with the skins, typically anywhere from 2 to 24 hours – the shorter the time, the lighter the colour. The amount of time a winemaker leaves the juice in contact with the skins, Hunter Valley winemaker Mike De Iuliis explains: 

“It depends on the variety you're using. With our special release Rosé, which is made from Grenache, the fruit is harvested by machine and then transported to the Hunter Valley (from the Hilltops). This time on skin is about long enough (approx. 8-12 hours), to pick up the colour that we like and also the flavour profile that we are looking for.”

- Mike De Iuliis, De Iuliis Wines - Hunter Valley
There are different techniques used for this process, including the maceration method, which allows the crushed skins of the red wine grapes to ‘steep’, or macerate, in the juice for a short period of time, before the skins are removed and the entire tank is finished into a Rosé wine.  The Saignée Method Another method is called the Saignée (‘san-yay’), or the ‘bleed’ method. This involves ‘bleeding off’ a portion of the juice – while the remaining goes on to make red wine – into a separate vat to finish fermentation. This technique can result in some really lovely examples. Saignée expert Andrew Margan is a strong proponant of this style:

When making rose using this method we soak the unfermented grape juice on its skins for about 48 hours and allow the juice to soak some colour and flavour out of the skins before we run just 10 % of that juice off into another tank and add yeast to ferment it like a white wine. Cold fermentation ensures that the fruit flavours and aromas are conserved in the finished wine.The key is to make sure you drain off the juice at the right time. Because we have much softer tannins here in the Hunter and we obtain ripeness of flavour at lower alcohols we can make a saignee style rose that does not require any residual sugar and has enough richness of flavour without being too high in alcohol to make a dry rich Rosé

- Andrew Margan, Margan Wines
Blending: Another way to make Rosé is by mixing white and red wine together, although, this rather crude method is generally frowned upon and doesn’t usually make for a very nice tasting wine.  Colour and Characters: The colour of Rosé can range from the lightest shades of pale onion skin pink to salmon, coral, hot pink, and ruby red; generally speaking, the darker the colour, the more intense and sweeter the wine. Primary fragrances and flavours of Rosé depend on the type of grape, or grapes, used, but will typically sit along the spectrum of red fruits and florals, melons and zesty citrus. Sometimes, you’ll find pleasant green characters, like rhubarb or strawberries with their leafy green tops still on.  What varieties are used to make Rosé?
Rosé can be made from just about any red wine grape variety there is. In Australia, the more common varietals used to make Rosé include  Shiraz ,  Pinot Noir , and Grenache . But also,  Merlot  and  Cabernet Sauvignon . In Provence, the historical home of Rosé, winemakers will blend grape varieties, such as Cinsault, Mourvédre, Syrah (Shiraz), and Carignan, to create gorgeous examples of this pale pink wine. Now you know how it’s made, it’s time to drink to Rosé’s pink perfection and fill your spring with some delicious drops.  
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Magic Mediterranean - Vermentino
Words by Daniel Honan on 15 Oct 2017
The Italian varietal Vermentino is winning fans for its wonderfully refreshing characters and textural mouthfeel making it the drink for this summer. You heard it here first – Vermentino is the new white! There are fewer wines around that are as sexy to say, taste as good, and are perfect paired with a spread of fresh seafood on a summer’s afternoon. In fact, drinking a glass of Vermentino is like going on a Mediterranean holiday. Indeed, Vermentino hails from the type of places where warm sun and cool sea breezes, cellar doors and summer afternoons are in abundance. Just off the coasts of Italy and France are the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, which lie (almost) in the middle of the Mediterranean, split between the Balearic and Tyrrhenian Seas. Here you’ll find a melting pot of different soils (limestone, granite, sandstone and clay) and climates (maritime and continental) mixed together to provide the perfect growing conditions for this unique grape variety. Aussie Vermentino Just like its home in the Med, here in Australia, Vermentino seems especially at home near the coast, in regions like McLaren Vale , Margaret River , even the Hunter Valley . Yet, this grape variety is also finding favour, and flavour, in other places a little further from the shore, such as King Valley , the Barossa , and the Riverland wine region around Mildura. Inland wine growers, Chalmers, have been pioneering alternative varietals for over 15 years. The family first planted Vermentino back in 2000, and were one of the first wineries in Australia to make wine from the variety. 

“Vermentino was one of our first flagship wines,” says Kim Chalmers. “It’s a variety that loves warm summers and sunshine, which is perfect for our Australian conditions. Its big bunches and juicy berries make it quite resistant to long heat waves. We’ve had a lot of success growing Vermentino at our vineyards in both Heathcote and Mildura.”

- Kim Chalmers, Chalmers Wines, Riverland
That is the great thing we’ve discovered about this (and other) Italian varietals recently trialled across the many wine regions of Australia - their adaptability. If you speak to a European producer of Vermentino, they’ll probably tell you that the grapes must be grown in close proximity to the sea, so that they can possess and express their inherently unique and refreshing sea-spray aroma and flavour. “Our experience growing Vermentino would suggest otherwise,” counters Kim. “We’ve only ever grown the variety very inland, and yet we still get that delicious sea-salt, briny character in all of our wines made from the variety. I think the closeness to the ocean rumour might be an old wives tale.” Key characters
The unique textural and sensual characteristics of Vermentino are what make this variety such a delicious alternative to your typical tipple of, say, Sauvignon Blanc , or Pinot Gris . The dominant aromas and flavours expressed by the grape include juicy lemons and limes, fleshy grapefruit, crunchy green apples and crushed almonds. Sometimes, you may notice the briny scent of ocean-spray drifting over fresh jasmine. At other times, you might smell a hint of beeswax and musk, or taste fresh tropical fruits, crispy pear, with a touch of salt. This all depends, of course, on where the grapes are grown, when they’re picked, and what the winemaker’s intent is when making Vermentino into wine. If the grapes are picked early you will, typically, note freshness and citrus, with bright, crunchy acids. If the grapes are allowed to ripen and are picked a bit later, you get a fleshier, juicier, more tropical style of wine. “The thing about Vermentino is it’s a very late picked varietal, for example, in the Hunter they pick it after Shiraz,” says winemaker David Hook, who has been specialising in Italian varietals for 30 years. “Some go for that lighter, crunchier style, which is picked earlier and is great for everyday drinking. But in Orange, where I source my Vermentino, I like to wait as long as I can to pick it as it gives a bigger, richer style that really highlights the varietal characters and the texture is ramped up.” Phil Ryan, co-Chairman of the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel , echoes David’s preference for the fuller, riper style of Vermentino, saying that it offers so much more for the drinker. “The riper style of Vermentino offers far more complexity and intrigue to the wine,” says Phil. “It also allows those delicious stonefruit characteristics to come to the fore and plays to one of its major appeals, which is its texture.” Vermentino’s textual qualities (the way the wine feels in the mouth when you drink it) also boosts its food matching ability and is one of the reasons why this varietal stands out from the rest of the wine crowd.

Vermentino always goes down well by the glass, here. We’ll often get people sitting at the bar snacking on a bowl of salty, crispy white bait. Personally, I love it matched to a plate of grilled blue mackerel with fresh tomato, olives and chilli.

- Stuart Knox, , Owner and sommelier of Fix St James, in Sydney.
For renowned Vermentino producer Joe Grilli from Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, the big attraction of Vermentino is the combination of freshness and texture. “Our Vermentino has aromas of fresh melon fruits, then some intriguing almond notes, followed by the slightest touch of citrus to finish,” says Joe. “What makes Vermentino so delicious is when all these facets are wrapped up in a lighter bodied wine with still enough texture to really satisfy the tastebuds.” In fashion There is no doubt Vermentino is one of the hottest whites around. Its increasing popularity in wines bars and restaurants around the country is reflected in its growing success at wine shows, particularly the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, held each year in Mildura. Organiser, Kim Chalmers says that Vermentino is one of the most popular wines of the show. “It’s massive,” says Kim. “We’ve had a Vermentino class since 2008 and for a number of years only a handful of wineries entered wines into that class. Within five years, the numbers have boomed. Last year there were 93 entries, and now the class has split into two separate classes: one for the lighter and fresher styles, and one for the more fuller bodied, richer styles.” There’s even a third style to be found in Australia, these days. It’s said that the name Vermentino derives from the Italian word, ‘fermento’, which relates to the fizzy characters of the young wine and this might have inspired Fowles Wine, from the Strathbogie Ranges, to make a fun, sparkling style of Vermentino. “I’m a huge fan of the tangy lemon and light florals of Vermentino and thought it might be fun to see those characters sparkle,” says Matt Fowles. “We make our sparkling Vermentino in a Prosecco style, and, I must say, I’ve been surprised just how well it’s been received!” The tasting For this tasting, over 50 Vermentinos were submitted to the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel . For a wine considered to still be an ‘emerging’ varietal, the pass rate was impressively high with around 75% scoring a medal. The top 20 wines were hotly contested and, as expected, the spread of regions was vast with multiple entries from the Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale and Barossa, as well as Riverland, which doesn’t often get much kudos in wine shows, but is proving to be a real contender with Italian varietals. The styles were varied, which is to be expected, given all the variables, but the underlying characters remained true – delicious stonefruit flavours balanced with freshness and texture with subtle sea salt notes and energetic acidity. You just have to find the particular nuances that appeal to you. Yep, Vermentino is here. Whether enjoying a warm afternoon with a sumptuous spread of seafood or sitting in a cosy bar planning a potential Mediterranean sojourn, pairing your activity with a glass of your favourite Vermentino seems like the perfect thing to do. The Standout Vermentino from the Tasting Trentham The Family Vermentino 2016 (Murray Darling) Chalmers Vermentino 2016 (Heathcote) Stone Dwellers Limited Release Vermentino 2015 (Strathbogie Ranges) Lovable Rogue The Italian Jobs Vermentino 2016 (Hunter Valley) Parish Hill Vermentino 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Seppeltsfield Cellar Door Collection Vermentino 2017 (Barossa) Tulloch Cellar Door Release Vermentino 2017 (Orange) Chalk Hill Wines Vermentino 2016 (McLaren Vale) Saddler’s Vermentino 2015 (Barossa) Alejandro Vermentino 2016 (Riverland) Alternatus Vermentino 2016 (Mclaren vale) David Hook Central Ranges Vermentino 2016 (Orange) First Creek Vermentino 2016 (Hunter Valley) La Maschera Vermentino 2015 (Barossa)
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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