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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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Chardonnay Members Tasting
Words by Patrick Haddock on 13 Nov 2017
Australian Chardonnay has undergone quite a transformation since the days of ‘sunshine in a bottle’, coming of age as a world-beating white. I partly blame Selector . For cementing my love affair with Chardonnay , I mean. Seven years ago, Selector hosted the most ambitious Chardonnay tasting ever staged in Australia. In attendance were some luminaries of the industry, including Iain Riggs and Tyson Stelzer and it was my first tasting en masse with a variety I’ve come to adore. It ignited a solid relationship with the many styles and regions in this vast land. Yet weirdly, my affair with Australian Chardonnay had commenced a decade or more before. It was the golden era for Chardonnay and I remember dinner tables being awash with names like Oxford Landing, Koonunga Hill and Rosemount as we slated our thirsts on cheap two-for-one deals in the bottle shops of London. It personified a new taste on the UK wine scene that found an unquenchable thirst. Looking back, it was risible that such overly fruity and highly oaked wines could have made such a splash, but Australia saw the opportunity and grabbed it. The New World invasion of the early 90s was pulled off with aplomb. As the saying went: “No wood? No good.” A Sunny Impression
The other insidious ruse that Australia employed was to label their wines with the variety – virtually unheard of in the Old World and it was a genius bit of marketing. When the English were drinking Burgundy, they may not have known it was actually Chardonnay. A classic example was my mum saying she hated Chardonnay, but loved Pouilly Fuisse – a small sub-region of Burgundy that makes Chardonnay. However, the French are far too proud to put the variety on their bottles, causing mass consumer confusion. UK consumers were also buying into the image of Aussie life, summed up by the phrase for Australian Chardonnay, “sunshine in a bottle.” The label was seen as just as important as what was inside. Australia made wines that were soft and easy to drink with obvious flavours. Australia proudly screamed Chardonnay on the label, most often from South East Australia. We had visions of beaches and sun-tanned sheilas picking the grapes; never mind that it actually came from a mass irrigated desert wasteland somewhere near the NSW border and was machine harvested before being relegated to industrial amounts of new oak or worse still, flavoured with oak chips. A Refining Moment
Yet for all the joy of a tidal wave of wood that Chardonnay brought, it all imploded. The bargain bins remained full as the obvious flavour hit of the New World came crashing down and the wines became increasingly like caricatures of Chardonnay. We had some soul searching to do. Was Australia happy to stand on the world stage offering nothing but bargain basement wines, or did we want to be taken seriously? A decade later, in the middle of the noughties, a seismic shift began. A new wave of Chardonnay producers were re-inventing the wheel, spearheaded by intelligent winemakers in regions like the Yarra Valley , Tasmania and Margaret River . Chardonnay went from being Dolly Parton (buxom and generous) to Kate Moss (skeletal and lithe), although the best example of Chardonnay for mine is the Cindy Crawford – curvy and ample, but still chiselled and toned. Earlier picking, less oak, natural acid and throwing away the process of malolactic fermentation saw the rulebook re-written. It was time for Chardonnay to grow up and make an impression. Then in 2010, one of the UK’s most outspoken commentators, the erudite Andrew Jefford, opined that Australian Chardonnay can “compete effortlessly with the greatest wines of Burgundy.” He went on to exclaim: “There is no variety that responds better to craft than Chardonnay, and the greatest Australian examples are perfect syntheses of grape, place and intellectual understanding.” What a renaissance occurred. And the world took notice. Since then, any Chardonnay producer worth their salt has worked hard to improve the breed. Contemporary Style
Which brings us to today and as Hunter Valley winemaker and Chardonnay craftsman, Usher Tinkler describes, “Australian Chardonnay is in the best shape ever.” While winemakers and wine critics are well aware of Chardonnay’s contemporary appeal, has the everyday wine-lover caught on? To find out, we invited some Wine Selectors members and guests along to The Dolphin Hotel in Sydney for a dinner matched with a selection of modern Australian Chardonnays. As I chatted with the guests before the wines started flowing, a common theme arose. The reputation of Chardonnay was stuck in the past. As member Kirsty Bryant described:

“Although the Chardonnays that come in my regular selections have always been nice, I still have a mental association where drinking Chardonnay equals drinking a tree.”

- Krysty Bryant, Wine Selectors Member
Guest, Lisa Currie was of a similar mind, saying, “Chardonnay has always been a variety that means an intense oakey, woody flavour, very buttery and heavy, which just isn’t to my taste.” To help bring our doubting guests around to the charm of Chardonnay, we were fortunate to be joined by Usher, who offered some insights and, as luck would have it, his Reserve Chardonnay 2016 – a unanimous crowd favourite. To explain why Usher personally loves Chardonnay, he offered a succinct analogy:

“If Shiraz and Cabernet are like Kings, then Chardonnay is the Queen – like the chess piece, it can do anything from anywhere! It’s the most interesting variety to make and to drink.”

- Usher Tinkler, Hunter Valley Winemaker
It’s also extremely food friendly, depending on the style – Chardonnay can be versatile and extremely easy to pair with a variety of dishes. You only need to think of crystalline Chablis with oysters, a generously oaked Chardonnay with roast pork or chicken, and something in between for scallops and lobster. Don’t forget that Chardonnay is also excellent with soft cheeses. It certainly added an extra dimension to the tasting having food to accompany the wines. This was particularly true of the second bracket, which all had high levels of acidity, and so illustrated how food can really enhance the wine experience. The fusilli with crab, chilli and herbs helped soften the acidity, making for a harmonious matching. So Many Regions to Love It
Chardonnay is planted in virtually every region in Australia, but the ones that have excelled include Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills. Bubbling under for quality there’s Orange, Mudgee and Tumbarumba, Mornington Peninsula and Macedon Ranges, Beechworth and Coonawarra. On the night, it was the Hunter Valley and the Adelaide Hills that got the most nods with support also going to Mudgee, Coonawarra and Margaret River. The styles were varying among the different regions, but showed clearly the development of Chardonnay and the multitude of ways that winemakers are manipulating the variety in their favour to create the best expressions. And for those dubious guests, the tasting certainly had the desired effect. As Lisa described, “I found the flavour nuances really interesting, most were very balanced, yet complex.” Kirsty agreed, saying, “I was delighted to find that when it’s a good Chardonnay, even the more wooded ones don’t taste like trees. They have very inviting flavours.” For member, Robert Vukasinovic, who was already a fan, he found his “love for Chardonnay has grown stronger after the tasting because there are so many new styles available compared to the past bias towards heavily oaked styles.” What it certainly showed is there’s no doubting we’ve come of age and the new dawn of Australian Chardonnay has emerged victorious.
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Credaro | Wine of the Season
History The Credaros from Northern Italy settled in Margaret River in 1922, making them regional pioneers. Having made wine from their family vineyard for years, they became commercially involved in the wine industry in the 1980s. Today, the family manages 140 hectares of vines over seven separate vineyards across Margaret River, in the regions of Wilyabrup, Carbunup, Treeton, Yallingup and Wallcliffe. The Credaros produce all of their own wines in their 1200-tonne winery in Northern Margaret River. Tasting Notes Their Kinship Chardonnay presents a fragrant bouquet of white flowers, nectarine and pear with underlying cashew and citrus notes. Medium-full bodied with stone fruit, fresh citrus and creamy biscuit characters from lees influence, it has an elegant, refined structure and finishes with fine mineral acidity.
The 2016 Vintage Higher than average rain late in winter was followed by more in early spring, increasing soil moisture. October was unseasonably warm, and combined with the increased soil moisture caused slightly higher than normal vine growth. The long, mild growing period favoured earlier ripening varieties. Overall, the cooler vintage has resulted in Chardonnay being a standout, with extraordinary flavour depth and length at lower Baume levels. + Food With its wonderful complexity, Chardonnay is sumptuous with flavoursome white meats – try chicken tagine with almonds and preserved lemon.     2715 Caves Road, Yallingup, WA credarowines.com.au 08 9756 6520 
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Know Your Varietal - Arneis
Words by Adam Walls on 7 Sep 2017
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 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. Recommended Recipes : Blue swimmer crab spaghettini with lemon and chive sauce garlic pangrattato recipe Prosciutto with seared coffin bay scallops, globe artichokes and truffle recipe Explore our great range of recipes
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