Lycra and Italians

Calm before the storm

5.03pm, Tuesday 18th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley
At last – a bit of a quiet moment! It’s been a very big day in our corner of the world. First up, Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under finished in the Angaston main street – directly opposite Doddridge’s old forge – this afternoon. Here’s exactly that spot last night – the calm before the pushbike storm! From 6am this morning the town has been absolutely burbling with tourists and locals alike getting right amongst the Lycra-clad bicycle warrior world! Here’s the good news – Australian lad Matt Goss has won the stage ahead of the world champ Andre Greipel, and they couldn’t have had a more perfect day for it.

Me – I was elsewhere.

Pick the Italian ...

I had the good fortune to score a seat at a seminar in Tanunda: “A Little Southern Italy In The Barossa”. It was put on by the Barossa Grapegrowers Vine Selection Society and the Barossa Viticulture Technical Group, and it featured new Italian varietals and how they might suit our winegrowing world. The two presenters were our own viticulturalist Ash Ratcliffe and the man from Southern Italy himself – Puglia actually – Sabino Matera – who is importing a whole dose of these wines into Australia. Here are the two boys – that’s Sabino on the left (but you could tell that by the sharp shirt! Italian just has a style all its own!)

So it was an excellent catch up on the varieties Fiano, Grillo and Nero d’Avola – how they work at home in Sicily and Puglia, and how they transplant into Australia – including a field trip to the Amadio vineyard down the road in Kersbrook (Adelaide Hills), where they’ve got Fiano, Aglianico, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola and Montepulciano in the ground – amongst others. This was all followed by an extensive tasting of 6 Fiano, 1 Grillo and 7 Nero d’Avola wines. A big Southern Italian day out!

Here’s the thing. Even though, as Ash says, all new varieties come with a great degree of risk and may not fly in the market no matter how passionate the effort is in the vineyard and winery, these Southern Italian varieties have a lot of things going for them when you’re talking about doing well in warmer growing regions. And let’s face it – when you compare a lot of our regions to the rest of the world – they’re warm.

The Italians

I’m going to be honest with you – this was my first time with Fiano and Nero d’Avola today. Here are the three wines I tried before heading up the hill to Angaston, and the good thing was that all three struck me as top food wines – as you can see from my notes:

  • 2009 Cantele “Alticelli” Fiano, Salento, Puglia: it’s new to me but I’m going with a bit of a cross between Semillon and Chenin Blanc. Fresh, perfumed stonefruit nose that carries to the palate with a fairly snappy acid finish. I’m looking for a light beer battered garfish fillet – sweet and light for this one!
  • 2009 Planeta “La Segreta” Rosso Nero D’Avola Blend – was a combination of Nero D’Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Red fruit very cherry berry nose with a soft sweet juicy fruit palate that had this dry backbone running through it – screaming for grilled lamb loin chops and tomato chutney for mine. I’d call it a lovely middleweight, and it had a Stelvin closure.
  • 2008 Morgante Nero D’Avola, Sicily – here’s your more heavyweight plush velvety juicy dark fruit number, and I though it was in the Shiraz frame really. Sticking with what I can cook without too much drama – wait for winter and go with osso buco that’s falling off the bone.

Thanks very much Ash and Chris for letting me sit in – and I can already see a Southern Italian inspired summer for me this year. I’m already committed to the Vermentino & Sardine thing, now I’ve got more! And I think I’m going to like it! I’ve spoken to our Vermentino winemaker Sam Wigan, and we’re going to follow that fruit right through vintage, so that’s a good place to start.

See ya when the pushbikes have left the Barossa.

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