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Wine

Know Your Variety - Australian Fiano

Adam Walls teaches us the finer points about Australian Fiano and why it could be Australia's next big white wine.

When Coriole in McLaren Vale released Australia’s first Fiano in 2005, it signalled an exciting evolution for white wine lovers, myself included.

This Italian white thrives in hot, dry climates, making it perfect for many Australian wine regions. This ability to handle the increasing heat spikes we’re experiencing during vintage makes it a very environmentally friendly variety as its need for water is low.

What’s more, Fiano retains its acidity in the heat. So while other whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay often lose their acidity when the temperature rises, Fiano can be made into a beautifully balanced, refreshing wine.

Fiano at a Glance

Australian Fiano

Origins of Fiano

In its Italian home, Fiano is mainly grown in the hills surrounding Avellino in the Campania region. It has been traced back to ancient Rome and is thought to have been the primary variety in Apianum, an ancient Roman wine, meaning ‘bees’ in Latin. Even today, swarms of bees are drawn to the sugary pulp of Fiano grapes in Avellinese vineyards.

Australian Fiano Regions

As I mentioned, Fiano grows best in our warmer regions and has had great success in McLaren Vale and Clare Valley. But what I’m really excited about are the wins that have been had with the variety in the Riverland and Riverina regions. While these are regions traditionally famous for producing cheap, bulk wines, Fiano has given local winemakers a chance to show they can make exciting, cutting-edge wines.

Characters

At the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, Fiano is divided into two classes: light and fresh, and full-bodied and textural.

The stye in which it is made is determined by the winemaker. For example, if a winemaker decides to pick the grapes later in the season and/or uses lees during fermentation, their Fiano will be a richer, more textured style.

Fiano Food Matching

Given that Fiano hails from a region that is coastal bound, it makes sense it is a wine that works well with seafood – baked fish, shellfish, etc. It’s perfect with vegetarian pasta dishes, too, as the acidity in the wine offsets the richness of cream-based sauces and complements the acidity of tomato-based recipes.

Recommended Recipe: Stefano Manfredi’s potato gnocchi with burnt butter and sage

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Best of Member Wine Tastings 2016
Words by Mark Hughes on 17 Jan 2017
In 2016, some fortunate Wine Selectors members had the pleasure of joining our tasting panel to put Hunter Shiraz, Pinot G and Sparkling to the taste test. Hunter Shiraz
The winemakers of the  Hunter Valley  craft a style of  Shiraz  that's unique to the region with its vibrant, fruit-driven appeal. While wineries and experts are on board with this style, we wanted to find out what wine-lovers think. Our guests discovered Shiraz that lived up to the regional reputation for being medium-bodied and savoury, but also found the Hunter could produce excellent fuller styles such as those from The Little Wine Company and  Pepper Tree  . The wine that drew unanimous praise was the  De Iuliis Shiraz 2014  ,which was described as having "beautiful balance with long, spicy, elegant tannins." Overall, our members vowed they'll explore and add more Hunter Shiraz to their collection. Find out more about our  Hunter Valley Shiraz member tasting experience here. Pinot Gris and Grigio
Over the last few years,  Pinot Gris and Grigio  have become very popular white wines, but generally the drinking public don't know the difference between the two, so we invited some members to discuss the difference in styles. In a nutshell, Grigio is the Italian style that's fresh and zesty with a savourycharacter, while the French Gris is richer with more body, stonefruit flavours and some spice. Mainly due to marketing, winemakers in Australia have tended to use the trendier Grigio on the label, even if the wine is more in Gris style, which understandably only adds to the confusion. Fortunately, the big thing to come out of this tasting was the development of winemaking techniques that show that noted producers, at least, are making Grigio and Gris more in line with their European counterparts. Find out more about the  differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio we discovered here. Sparkling
Which  Sparkling  is trending this summer? We asked some lucky members:  Traditional, Prosecco or Blanc de Blanc?  The results of this very festive tasting revealed that all three styles are well liked, it was just a matter of what type of occasion our guests were attending that would determine their choice of bubbly. One of our members, Trudi Arnall voiced everyone’s thoughts when she said, “If I was to turn up for an afternoon BBQ with the kids in the pool, a  Prosecco  would be great. If I was going to a dinner party, I’d go with the  traditional Sparkling  and if I really wanted to impress, I’d go with a Blanc de Blanc with some age.” Find out more about the results of our tasting  here  or learn more about the  difference between Prosecco and sparkling wines  with our handy infographic and guide. Find out more about becoming a Wine Selectors Member today!
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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.
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Seven New Wines to Explore this Spring
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"Wonderfully aromatic, Roussanne delivers all the stonefruit and honeysuckle characters that Chardonnay drinkers can’t resist,” says Tasting Panellist, Dave Mavor . Roussanne hails from the Northern Rhône and its name comes from ‘roux’, French for ‘russet’, which describes the reddish-gold colour of its skin when ripe. It thrives in moderate to warm climates such as Barossa Valley , McLaren Vale and Rutherglen . Its rich texture makes it ideal with creamy sauces – roasted poultry, shellfish with cream sauce, pork dishes. Discover the delights of Roussanne for free with each Chardonnay Charm Dozen 2. Vermentino 
“ Sauvignon Blanc fans will love how Vermentino is just as mouth-watering and full of citrus flavours,” says Tasting Panellist, Nicole Gow . Find out more about the variety with Nicole's Vermentino guide here . Most famously grown on the Italian island of Sardinia, it makes perfect sense that Vermentino suits Australia’s warm climate, especially that of McLaren Vale . Styles range from light and fresh to rich and textural. It thrives in cool to warm climates giving different characteristics. Grown increasingly in Australia, most notably in King Valley , McLaren Vale and the Hunter Valley . Bright acidity and textural elements make it idea with a range of simply-prepared foods – grilled white fish, calamari, and tomato based sauces. Experience the refreshing citrus flavours of Vermentino for free with the Symphony of Sauvignon Blanc Dozen. 3. Arneis
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“ Gruner Veltliner is very similar to Riesling , but with just a little more richness and a distinctive peppery aroma that I know you’ll adore," says Tasting Panellist, Trent Mannell . Gruener Veltliner is the most famous and widely planted white variety in Austria. Here in Australia it’s gaining a great following due to passion of producers including Tomich Wines, Cape Barren and Geoff Hardy . It thrives in cool climates such as Adelaide Hills . An elegant, complex and savoury variety, ideally suited to aromatic dishes, spicy vegetables, tofu and Japanese. Venture into the world of Gruner Veltliner for free with the Flourish of Riesling Dozen 5. Zinfandel
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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