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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.


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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Following the Prosecco Road - Your Guide to Australian Prosecco
Words by Ben Hallinan on 17 Dec 2016
Australian Prosecco   is a vibrant sparkling wine style taking over Australia from the Prosecco Road in Victoria’s King Valley to the Adelaide Hills . Internationally, it is now the world's most popular Sparkling wine, overtaking Champagne in sales. Learn more about its long history, how it’s made and where to find the best Australian Prosecco with this helpful guide and infographic.   Firstly, what is Prosecco? Prosecco is a style of Sparkling wine made from the Glera grape variety. This historic variety is believed to hail from the ancient Slovenian village of Prosek, now part of Italy. There are records of  Julia Augusta drinking wine from the Prosek region as early as 79 AD . But, what we now know as Prosecco hails from the North-east Italian province of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia near Treviso enshrined in the Prosecco DOC, or the designated production zone. The characteristic ‘fizz’ of Prosecco is classed as either Spumante, the most exuberant, as a more moderate Frizzante or with no fizz at all as a Tranquillo. Prosecco is a late-ripening variety and is harvested once the varietal flavours of white peach, white pear and lemon peak and the acidity has softened. Cool climate and high altitude regions like  King Valley     or the  Adelaide Hills  are well suited to this variety. Prosecco vs Champagne and Sparkling Wines  Apart from featuring different grapes, it’s the way Prosecco is made that plays a large role in the difference between Prosecco,  Champagne  and  Sparkling Wine s . Whereas Champagne is fermented in its bottle using Methode Champenoise, Prosecco is fermented pressurised steel tanks in a process known by much of the world as the “Charmat” method. However, mention the word Charmat to an Italian winemaker and there might be trouble. In Italy, it’s known as the “Martinotti Method”, invented and patented in 1885 by Fedricco Martinotti, seven years before the French winemaker Eugène Charmat filed for his take on the method. The Martinotti method involves conducting the second fermentation in large autoclave steel tanks before clarification and cooling. This forgoes the need for fermentation, riddling and disgorgement inside individual bottles required in the Champagne method. This method is a very efficient process lowering the resources required by the winemaker. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as an inferior process, as it allows for increased control, scale, filtration and the ability to lower the required yeast lees contact during the winemaking process. This is the key difference. Methode Champenoise wines have complex and rich autolytic textures from this process with restrained fruits. Martinotti method Prosecco wines are all about lightness, freshness and fruit, designed to be enjoyed at any occasion. Joy in a bottle. A further, often neglected fact is that  we owe the Bellini cocktail to Prosecco , invented by Giuseppe Cipriani when he combined white peach puree with Prosecco in Harry’s Bar Venice close to the Prosecco DOC, or designated production zone. Dal Zotto brings Prosecco to Australia Victoria’s King Valley can lay claim to planting the first Glera vines in Australia.  The wine history of the King Valley  starts in the 1880s in the regions’ tobacco plantations, established by Chinese settlers seeking new opportunities as the Victorian gold rush stagnated. By the 1940s Italian migrants had arrived to the region working on the tobacco farms. Yet, in the 1960s, the local tobacco industry was starting to decline. Otto Dal Zotto, born in the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG region, where Prosecco vines carpet the hillsides, came to Australia in the late 1960s. Like many Italian migrants before him, Otto was drawn to the region to work in the tobacco fields. But, as the work dried up he moved into the region's emerging wine industry planting Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Gradually, the region began to plant classic Italian varieties, expressing the passion of the winemaker’s collective Italian heritage. Then, in 2000 Otto planted the first Glera grapes and the rest, as they say, is history. The Rise of King Valley and the Prosecco Road
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Hunter Valley Shiraz Member Tasting
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 31 Aug 2016
Hunter Valley  winemakers have embraced their unique style of Shiraz and it’s set to become a timeless classic Fashion is a strange beast. Whether it’s moulding what we wear, what we eat or the car we drive, it’s hard to escape its influence. Even winemaking is at the mercy of fashion with critics often the ones to set the trends. One of recent history’s greatest influencers has been Robert Parker Jr, a US-based doyen of wine who has been described in  The Wall Street Journal   as being “widely regarded as the world’s most powerful wine critic.” Parker has always shown a predilection for  Barossa  Shiraz with its bold, generous, full-bodied characters and during the 1990s he really helped put this South Australian region on the world wine stage. But where did that leave other regions whose Shiraz fell short of Parker’s preference for the voluptuous? According to Hunter Valley winemaker Andrew Thomas,  Shiraz  producers in his region attempted to emulate the Barossa style. “They left the fruit on the vine for longer, added tannins, used too much new oak.” That wasn’t the only challenge affecting Hunter Valley Shiraz at this time. Unfortunately, some of the region’s wineries were affected by a spoilage yeast called Brettanomyces, which led to the development of the ‘sweaty saddle or barnyard character’ you might have heard associated with the style. While it should be savoury, Andrew says, Hunter Shiraz shouldn’t have these characters. An Optimistic Outlook
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Will the real Pinot G please stand up
Words by Mark Hughes on 30 May 2016
Pinot Grigio and Pinto Gris are two of our most popualr white wines. Are they the same? What is the difference? Which do we prefer? Is it all to do with fashion and marketing? We held a Wine Selectors Members' Tasting to answer these questions and more. About four years ago, Selector ran a State of Play tasting on Pinot Gris/Grigio where the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel reviewed over 60 of the best Pinot Gris/Grigio in the country. Apart from collating a great list of the top scoring wines, what we hypothesised at the end of this tasting was the fact that Australia may in fact produce a wine that is not strictly Pinot Gris and not strictly Pinot Grigio, but instead, a gorgeous white that we labelled as ‘Pinot G’. To explain this further, we have to go back, (it sounds counter-intuitive, but stick with me, as it is a bit of a ‘grey’ area). If you didn’t get that joke, here’s the explanation – Grigio and Gris both mean ‘grey’, but in different languages because Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape, just grown and celebrated in different areas of Europe. Grigio, as the name suggests, is the Italian version, grown predominantly in the regions of Fruili, Veneto and Alto Adige. It is generally picked early and produces a fresh, zesty style with some savoury characters. Gris is the French style, cultivated mainly in the region of Alsace. Its general characteristics are of a rich, full-bodied wine with plump stone fruit flavours and some spice. Popular means ‘plant it’ Although Pinot G has been planted in Australia since about 1980, it has only been in the last decade or so that it has really become popular. And when I say popular – it is immense – five fold since 2006. When this happens, every winemaker and his dog chuck in a few vines in an attempt to earn some dollars at their cellar door. And why not, that’s business. But, one of the problems is that Grigio gets made in a region that might be better suited to Gris, Gris gets made in a region perhaps more ideal for Grigio, and both get made in regions that are perhaps not suited to either. Furthermore, because the name ‘Grigio’ sounds a bit trendier at the moment, the marketing folk insist on putting Pinot Grigio on the label, even when the style of wine is really that of a Pinot Gris. The end result is that it is all very confusing for the consumer. All we want is a nice white wine! The Members rally
To help in this battle to better understand the wines we drink, we asked three Wine Selectors Members (and a guest of a Member) to come into Wine Selectors to join the Panel and taste their way through 16 Pinot Grigio/Gris, handpicked from noted producers across the country.   Long-term members Jeffrey Roberts, Julie Hughes (yes, my wife), and Josh Doolan (plus his guest Linda Thomas) sat down with Wine Selectors T asting Panellists Trent Mannell and Adam Walls , and Selector publisher Paul Diamond for an afternoon of fun and informative vinous examination. Before we even poured a glass, a quick   Q&A confirmed what we had surmised – that the general drinker found it difficult to delineate between an Australian Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, and that most consumed Grigio more often than Gris, except for Julie, who came into the tasting not really a fan of either style, but admitting she had only tried a few. The wines of the Pinot Gris/Grigio tasting Bracket 1 – Pinot Grigio David Hook 2015 Adina Vineyard 2015 Primo Estate Joseph d’Elena 2015 Tomich T Woodside Vineyard 2015 Norfolk Rise 2015 Bracket 2 – Pinot Grigio Devil’s Corner 2015 Ninth Island 2015 Sam Miranda 2015 Brown Brothers 18 Eighty Nine 2015 Gapsted Valley Selection 2014 Bracket 3 – Pinot Gris Eden Road The Long Road 2015 Austins Wines Six Foot Six 2015 Natasha Mooney La Bise 2015 Pipers Brook 2014 Coombe Farm 2014 Lisa McGuigan Platinum Collection 2013 The Grigio brackets
The range of styles of these wines was on show from the first Grigio bracket. Jeffrey, Josh and Linda were all taken with the plush fruit and savoury aspects of the David Hook Pinot Grigio 2015 from the Hunter Valley , while the Panel felt the Tomich T Woodside Vineyard Pinot Grigio 2015 (Adelaide Hills) and the Norfolk Rise Pinot Grigio 2015 ( Mount Benson ) had more of those Grigio varietal characters: crisp, bright pear and Granny Smith apple flavour with savoury notes and a umami-like persistence. When anyone gets the chance to taste 16 wines in a row opposite some of the best palates in the business, they embark on a real education. Apart from learning about the subtleties of wine, what our Members discover, as do all our guests who come in for these tastings, is that they actually do have quite a discerning palate. They know what they like, and what they don’t, but the main difference is the ability to describe and catalogue all the vinous information. But once they have some understanding of what to look for in the wine, the varietal characteristics, and the differences in styles, they quickly display some real wine tasting nous. This new skill set was on show with the second bracket of Pinot Grigio, as the scores of the Members and Panel started to align. Sourced from cooler climates than the first bracket, these Grigio were tighter and more acidic. Jeffery, Josh and Linda were all taken with the Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio 2015 (Tamar Valley), which was described as having excellent balance between the juicy fruit and fine acid frame, while the Sam Miranda Pinot Grigio 2015 ( Alpine / King Valley ) also appealed with its bright, ripe fruit and restrained persistence. However, Julie stuck to her pre-tasting mantra and was non-plussed by either of the Grigio brackets, finding it hard to get past a taste she described as ‘bitter’. The Gris The Gris bracket showed the differences in style between Grigio and Gris. While there was the characteristic pear and green apple fruit, the Gris had a fuller texture and almost creamy mouthfeel. Julie came to the party giving great scores to the Austins Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2015, which she described as dense, layered and soft, as well as the Coombe Farm Pinot Gris 2014 ( Yarra ) and the Lisa McGuigan Pinot Gris 2013, which found favour with luscious soft acid and juicy savouriness. The end result The fact that there were 10 Grigio and six Gris in the tasting is reflective of the popularity of the styles in Australia. Grigio is more trendy, sells better and pairs well with summery dishes such as seafood and mezze plates, while Gris has a more acquired taste, matching well with richer, creamier recipes. However, the big thing to come from 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. Perhaps, we can now drop the ‘Pinot G’ label and confidently use Grigio and Gris. Try these wines yourself and see if you agree.  
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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