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Wine

Meet Warren Proft from Chrismont

To celebrate Chrismont’s La Zona Prosecco being our Wine of the Month for September, we caught up with winemaker, Warren Proft.

You’ve made every Chrismont wine since it began in 1999 – what major changes in Australian wine tastes have you seen during that time?

Australian wine consumers in the last 20 years have made a quantum leap from what was really just 6 varieties and styles to being interested in wines from all over the world. People are more interested in trying different styles and varieties and celebrating the diversity that is wine.

What made you decide to stay in the King Valley?

King Valley is a beautiful area close to all the places I like to hang out. But ultimately the local community is incredibly warm, generous and hospitable which made us feel at home the minute we moved in.

Prosecco is a style that’s really taken Australian wine-lovers by storm – what do you think makes it so appealing?

Prosecco is a very friendly wine to drink unlike other sparkling wines that are traditionally more acidic. Prosecco also has an image of being fun and unashamedly promotes itself with mixing cocktails as well as being great on its own.

What makes the La Zona Prosecco stand out from the crowd?

Coming from the King Valley, The La Zona Prosecco inherits the regions strong expression of varietal fruit which is an aspect we try to preserve. A well balanced level of dosage to complement the acidity and a dry finish makes the wine memorably moreish.

What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)?

When I was working in Spain, the local community held their ‘fiesta del vinos’ which was an eye opener and experience. The main parade involved everyone, children to grandparents, all dancing and squirting each other with wine having a great time. It really drove home the point to me how wine is so integrated into their society and way of life.

Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home?

I like to try everything. We are always bringing home different wines.

What is your ultimate food and wine match?

Seafood pasta with a crisp white like Riesling or Arneis.

What do you do to relax away from the winery?

Chill out with my family and friends, and make (real) cider.

What is your favourite…

Book?

Into the void

Movie?

Pulp Fiction – all time classic

TV show?

No time for TV

Restaurant? 

Rinaldos – Wangaratta

Provenence – Beechworth

Breakfast?

Fruit, yogurt, muesli

Lunch? 

Pasta carbonara

Dinner?

Slow cooked lamb

Time of day/night? 

Dawn and dusk

Sporting team? 

Daughters’ netball teams

Beer? 

Bridge road ‘Robust Porter, King River Brewing ‘Saison’

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Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
The Riverina  is home to 20,000 hectares of vines, making it the largest wine producing region in NSW and the second largest in Australia behind Riverland in South Australia. The region is well established, having been pioneered in 1913 by the famous McWilliam family of the Hunter Valley. Riverina wineries are largely family owned with many having Italian heritage including Calabria Family Wines, Mino & Co, Lillypilly Wines and De Bortoli . Some of the families behind these labels actually began making wine out of necessity when they first migrated to Australia, so they could enjoy a glass with their meal as they would have back home in Italy. “At the end of the long working day, my grandfather found he looked forward to a glass of home-made wine,” Elizabeth Calabria of Calabria Family Wines explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to invest in all of the necessary equipment to make it, so he took over my grandmother’s laundry tubs and improvised,” she continues. “Soon enough, he was producing wines for the local Europeans who had also made Griffith their home.” Ideal conditions
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Wine
Debortoli Dream Vertical – Taste of Yarra
Words by Paul Diamond on 4 Dec 2017
Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber put on a tasting that reflects 30 years of Yarra Valley history. It’s almost 30 years since newly wedded Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber headed to the Yarra Valley to take up the family dream of building a cool climate addition to De Bortoli’s wine portfolio . Much has happened in those decades and the De Bortoli offering is, like the family itself, getting better with age. To reflect this, Selector headed to the Yarra, where Steve and Leanne dug out some old bottles and dusted off the stories that came with them. Where it all began
Vittorio De Bortoli from Castelcucco in Italy’s alpine north, immigrated to Australia in 1924, leaving his young fiancé Giuseppina behind. He landed in Melbourne, but soon found himself in the newly irrigated Riverina , sleeping under a water tower and eating from his vegetable patch. After four years, he had saved enough to buy a farm and send for Giuseppina. In the first year of Vittorio and Giuseppina’s Bilbul farm, there was a glut of grapes, so Vittorio constructed a concrete tank and crushed 15 tonnes, officially kicking off De Bortoli Wines. Deen makes his mark With Giuseppina and Vittorio together, the farm thrived and they soon had three children: Florrie, Eola and Deen. Of the three, Deen was fascinated with the machines that operated the winery and as he got older became a permanent fixture. He was a passionate about progress and as the responsibility passed from Vittorio to Deen, he began expanding, experimenting and looking toward the future. Deen married Emeri Cunial, a Griffith girl with Castelcucco heritage and soon the third generation – Darren, Leanne, Kevin and Victor – arrived. The third generation
Deen’s passion for wine was passed down to all his children. Oldest son Darren, now managing director, studied winemaking at Roseworthy College and decided to experiment with botrytis affected Semillon grapes . That wine eventually became the highly awarded 1982 Noble One that propelled De Bortoli to become one of Australia’s great wine brands. Third born Kevin pursued viticulture and now manages the 300 ha of the family estate that produces some 60,000 tonnes of grapes per vintage, while Victor, the youngest, is export manager. Leanne followed her brother Darren to Roseworthy and completed a diploma in wine marketing and was advised by her big brother, “whatever you do, don’t marry a winemaker!” But she did exactly that and married Steve Webber, who was making wine for Leo Buring and Lindeman’s. In 1987, the family purchased the Dixon’s Creek property in the northern edge of the Yarra Valley , which Leanne and Steve moved to in 1989, beginning the Yarra chapter of the De Bortoli story. To help tell it, Steve and Leanne presented us with a range of wines that best reflect their Yarra journey.  The Tasting
​ Sauvignon Blanc is a polarising variety, so it makes sense that Steve and Leanne did not add the ‘blanc’ to their labels. Plus, their versions are textural and savoury, inspired by the Sancerres of the Loire rather than those from across the ditch. “They need to be delicious, and great with food,” said Steve. “When we went to France, we loved the delicate, savoury wines of Sancerre and we decided that was what we wanted to make here.” The 08 Estate Sauvignon was surprisingly fresh, fine boned and creamy, whilst the 2010 single Vineyard PHI, and the mouth-wateringly juicy 2017 Vinoque reinforced that Steve and Leanne make wines they are proud to share at their table. The evolution of Chardonnay Next came the 1990 Estate Chardonnay and as the first wine they made at Dixon’s Creek, it was a treat to taste and contemplate how far Steve’s winemaking and Australian Chardonnay have come . “When I think about some of the wine we made in the early days, we thought we were doing some pretty amazing things,” Steve recalled. “But really we were just babes in the woods.” “Now we have a greater understanding of climate, viticulture and how to approach winemaking, with less interference, letting the wines make themselves.” The 2000 was in great shape with secondary stonefruit, fig and nut aromas and a poised, fleshy, peach-lined palate, but the next three wines really illustrated Steve’s points. As we moved from the 2005 Estate to the 2015 Reserve and the 2015 A5 Section it was like the volume was turned up on complexity, minerality and concentration, while the background noise of weight, oakey textures and mouth-feel was quietly turned off. The A5 Section Chardonnay topped the bracket as it had the greatest complexity, but was delivered without weight, showing citrus blossom characters, with mouth-watering flinty minerals. Reflecting on Pinot
Pinot was next and the same evolution was occurring. Less new oak and a focus on producing perfume not structure became evident as we moved from the 2000 and 2005 Estate and 2005 PHI, through to the glorious 2010 and 2010 PHI from the recently acquired Lusatia Park vineyards. “Pinot has to taste like it is grown, not made,” Steve remarked as we finish discussing the merits of the 2010 and 2014 Phi Pinots . “When it comes to winemaking, it’s sometimes really hard to do nothing, to sit back and let the wines find their way. But that’s when you start to see texture and finesse come into play and reflect this place.” The conversation then turned to the future as we tried three styles that reflect a desire to show the potential of blends and lighter styles reds. The Vinoque Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir blend was light, concentrated and dangerously delicious. The Vinoque Gamay Noir was in the same vein, but with appealing layers of dried strawberries, rose petals and savoury blackberries and the Gamay/Syrah blend from the La Bohéme range showed that Gamay, particularly as a blending partner with something with more concentration and tannin, has a bright future in Australia. This wine was silky and textural with the fruit hallmarks of Shiraz, but with a soft and juicy red fruit casing. You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah
Shiraz was next, or I should say Syrah, as this is what Leanne and Steve call most of their Shiraz, as it’s closer to the European, savoury and mid weighted style. The 1992 Estate bottle showed how beautifully these wines can age with delicious leathery development and a soft core of plummy, black cherry fruits. The 1999 was similar, whilst the still very youthful 2004 Reserve was mirroring the stylistic, bright fruited, savoury and textural changes that had occurred with Chardonnay and Pinot at that time. The 2008s, one with Viognier, one without, were both excellent; broody and lifted with silky mocha lines. Lastly came the 2014 and possibly the most exciting Australian Shiraz tasted all year. Juicy and complex with fine layers of mace, five spice, white pepper and mountain herbs, it had soft tannins and layers of acid that make the mouth hum. Looking ahead The De Bortolis have certainly put their stamp on the world of wine and equally, Leanne and Steve on the Yarra. Their genuine love for the place that they call home shines through in the wines they produce and share. As for the next chapter, Steve and Leanne are keen to provide a sustainable future for their kids and enjoy their home. “The Yarra is a beautiful part of the world,” said Leanne. “There’s a wonderful food and wine culture with cool people doing cool things with gin, beer, cider, wine and food. What’s not to love?" Enjoy a De Bortoli dream tasting of your own De Bortoli Section A5 single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Restrained, fine and seductive with elderflower, lime and peach blossom aromas and balanced layers of white peach, citrus and grapefruit flavours. De Bortoli PHI Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Captivating and ethereal with complex dark cherry, stalk and mineral aromatics. The palate is savoury, textural and fine with plums, spice and blackberries. De Bortoli Section A8 Syrah 2016 Concentrated and fine with perfumed, floral, black fruit and spice aromas. Generous, mid weighted and savoury, dominated by cherries and plums.
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Castagna Wines - Cult Wines & Legends
Words by Paul Diamond on 16 Aug 2017
If you are an Australian wine lover and haven’t heard of Castagna, don’t be surprised. Julian Castagna and his family, located just outside the Victorian Alps town of Beechworth , produce a small range of high quality, biodynamic wines that fly well below the radar. They aren’t in any of the chains and to find them you will have to visit one of the handful of independent wine shops scattered around the country or be sitting in a restaurant looking at one of the few special wine lists that carry them. There is no cellar door that you can ‘just visit’, you have to make an appointment. And, if you are not on his mailing list or buy directly from his site that often has ‘sold out’ next to his products, you will struggle to find them. It’s no accident that these wines are not easy to find. A filmmaker earlier on in his life, Julian understands the value of having to dig to search something out, get to understand and eventually cherish it.

The Genesis range, like all the Castagna wines we tasted, presented somewhat of a conundrum. Old wine that tastes young?! Australian Shiraz that tastes like France?! 

Julian’s Path
Like most Australians full of youth and wanderlust, Julian ventured to Europe, searching for his path. After a stint in Spain, he found himself in London, working in film and advertising, and hanging out with people who were into the wine scene. “I got absorbed,” explained Julian at a recent tasting of his wines at his kitchen table. “They didn’t know very much but pretended to know a lot. “So I started reading, going to tastings and the guy that I worked for who had a lot of money, said “buy me wine” so I did. “So when I went anywhere to taste, I was treated very well, and got to taste a lot of wine because I spent a lot of money…that’s where it all started.” Julian eventually made his way back to Australia to make a film that didn’t get off the ground, so he continued with advertising in Sydney and began buying, travelling and exploring the wines of Australia. After a while he became disenchanted with the advertising world and began asking himself questions about his and his family’s future. “I was sitting in boardrooms and they were paying me so much money that it was a sin,” Julian explained. “But they weren’t listening…research and numbers were becoming more important than experience and creativity and I knew that was the precursor to ‘not’ working. “So I asked myself, ‘What do I know? I know two things. I know wine and film, so if I’m not going to do film maybe I’ll do wine? As he explored, he discovered a lot that he didn’t like, but a chance meeting with a glass of Giaconda Cabernet piqued his interest and led to him forming a relationship with Giaconda’s Rick Kinzbrunner and Beechworth. “I kept coming back to two places; Margaret River and Beechworth, he explained. “I really didn’t want to come back to Victoria having grown up here, but I was wrong.” Putting down roots
In 1996 Julian and his wife purchased land just outside Beechworth, planted vines and built a house. “The intention was to make something really great, but I didn’t know what type of wine I wanted to make,” remarked Julian. “For me the wine that I wanted to make came from the land. “I came here, looked at the land and it seemed to me the wine that would work here would be Sangiovese and Shiraz .” Driven to make wines that were taken seriously, one of the many decisions Julian took to was biodynamics. “I believed and still do, that wine with character comes from the vineyard, not the winery,” he explained. “ Biodynamics as a complete way of farming made so much sense.” Julian is not evangelical about the methodology or its underlying principles. He simply sees it as common sense. It’s a refreshing attitude, given the fervent advocacy behind the current perception of biodynamics and its connection to the natural wine trend. The Castagna website says it best. “The land is farmed biodynamicaly using Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic principles. We believe this is the best way to achieve optimum fruit quality that best expresses its terroir. Our intention is to make, as simply as possible, wine which is an expression of the place where it is grown.” The Wines
On a cold, wet and foggy Beechworth morning, Wine Selectors Head of Product, Matt White, and I were treated to a spread of wines that showed just how special Castagna is in our wine industry. The 2002 Allegro Shiraz Rosé was first and it was, quite simply, a revelation! Most Rosés fall over after about five years, but this wine, with 15 years under its belt, was aging incredibly. It had some developed aromatics and a little colour development, but it was still showing primary fruit with a fresh vibrant mouthfeel. The wine had the kind of flavours and complexity that you get in vintage Rosé Champagnes and a palate length that went on and on. When asked how this was actually possible, Julian grinned, shrugged his shoulders and remarked, “It’s the vineyard,” and left it at that. Next was the 2010 Ingénue, a 100% Viognier that had some delicate and pretty blossom florals, preserved lemon and beeswax aromatics that you see in only a select few Australian Viogniers. On the palate, the wine was all structure and complexity, with tight but flowing lines of grapefruits, rock melons, ginger and almonds. Again, the youth of this wine defied its age. Two vintages of Julian’s Un Segreto Sangiovese Shiraz came next and the seven year span seemed hardly noticeable. The Sangiovese is weighted in the majority with 60% and the savoury, mid-weighted mouthfeel was a signature for both wines. The aromatics were sweet and perfumed with dusty red fruits, cassis, sour cherries and white pepper spice. In the mouth, both were fine yet complex with mocha, cocoa tinted red fruits, both stunning wines that again showed youth, despite their age, with class to match. Next were two examples of Julian’s La Chiave Sangiovese . Generally, Sangio is not taken too seriously in Australia and is known mostly as a fleshy, ‘drink now’ food wine. But, like the age potential of Castagna wines previously sampled, these wines defied normality. They had the juicy, tar and cherries hallmark of Sangiovese, but there was a density to the mouthfeel that was juxtaposed with restrained, earthy flavours. These were delicious wines that could have you thinking you were sipping Brunello. Biblical proportions
Three examples of Genesis followed and if there was going to be red wine that showed you what was possible with Shiraz from Beechworth, these wines would have to be at the top of the list. Julian’s intention is clear with Genesis in that he wanted to emulate the best Shiraz in the world and for him, these are the great wines of France’s Rhône valley. Like the medium weighted, fine and perfumed wines of Côte Rôtie, Genesis has a small amount of Viognier co-fermented with the Shiraz, but the wines show characters from other great Rhône regions. The 2005 had the gnarly grunt and structure and spice reminiscent of Cornas, the 2004 had the earthy complexity and slippery mouthfeel of Hermitage, and the 2010 had the dried herbal aromatics and tight, complex black fruited layers and youth that had not decided whether it was Côte Rôtie, Cornas or Hermitage. We rounded out the tasting with Castagna 2009 Sparkling Genesis. This is the same wine as the still Genesis, but it has spent two years on its lees and has been treated with a nicely balanced dosage that keeps the acid in check and the tannins slippery. Quite possibly the best in the country, this wine has complexity and depth in spades and the savoury, medium-bodied fruit makes for a compelling and delicious mouthful of bubbly Shiraz. The Genesis range, like all of the Castagna wines we tasted, presents somewhat of a conundrum. Old wine that tastes young?! Australian Shiraz that tastes like France?! Beautifully crafted, insightful wines using weird farming practices from someone with no training? And from a place that is not considered a major region? It’s a beautiful, inspiring story made sweeter by the wine that underpins it.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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