Guest article by Anita from Wangolina Wines
The wine game has traditionally been considered a male dominant industry, however the industry today is a different place and women are truly coming to the party — and bringing with them some amazing wines! There are a number of names that are (hopefully) instantly recognisable in the South Aussie wine scene — Pam Dunsford, Prue Henschke, Louisa Rose, Corrina Wright, Rebecca Willson and Sue Hodder just to mention a few. These ladies (and others) have made their mark on a changing wine industry and really opened the door for others of us. These innovators have also been a part of a movement towards another trend that I am extremely passionate about.
In the past few years “alternative” grape varieties have emerged on the Aussie wine scene. These are grapes that have not traditionally been grown in Australia, but for a number of reasons are making their presence known. They give us greater choice, introduce new flavours, complement our lifestyle, and most importantly — are flexible in a changing climate. These varieties are challenging the norm of what Aussie wines look like and are a fun addition to your wine shopping cart. I am a passionate winemaker of alternative varieties and wanted to share with you some of these varieties made by some talented ladies.
Wine: Bianca Vermentino (Ver-men-tee-no)
Kerri Thompson has been making great wines in the Clare Valley for a pretty long time. The Clare Valley is a gorgeous part of South Aussie that if you haven’t visited — you really should. This is a part of the world famous for great Rieslings, and if you like a bit of Rizza, Vermentino has those feels covered. Vermentino is a grape that hails from Italy and the French island of Corsica. Kerri’s Bianca Vermentino is a crispy crunchy wine with a great lime citrus aromatic, a dried sage leaf herbal note and a nice saline acid palate. To put it simply, get yourselves some super crunchy fish and chips and a cold bottle of this, hit the beach (in sunnier weather), dig your toes in the sand and tuck in — you won’t regret it.
Wine: Sashiko Fiano (Fee-ah-no)
Fiano is not a misspelling of Fiona, it’s a grape from Southern Italy. Fiano is one of the leading ABC wines (anything but Chardonnay). Fiano should look full and rich and have a waxy or oily texture, hence why they are a great swap out for Chardonnay. The Sew and Sew Sashiko Fiano is a good example of this wine which is still friendly and approachable and something that feels familiar. Made by the lovely Jodie Armstrong who makes a really peachy version of Fiano from the Adelaide Hills (even though she’s based in the Vale). A slippery slide kind of texture with flavours of peaches and rockmelon, it retains a freshness with some nice structured acidity. Personally, I’d crack a bottle of this with some form of tasty Asian goodness, like a Thai Green Papaya salad, and just be happy with life.
Wine: Francis Cabernet Franc (Cab-er-nay Frohnc)
Now Cabernet Franc does sound a little bit more familiar, it may be the Cabernet part of the name. Cab Franc has traditionally been a minor player in many classic Cabernet-based red blend but it generally plays second or third fiddle to its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon and good ol’ Merlot. There are some trendy types kicking around that are making straight Cab Franc, and making them as super easy and delicious lighter bodied smashable reds. The gals at Penley have been knocking the smash factor out of the park with this wine for a couple of years now and have the trophies to prove it too. Made by the charming Kate Goodman and Lauren Hansen, this wine hails from my regional neighbour, Coonawarra. Known for its traditional Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Penley have been remaking some of the classics into wines that are lighter brighter and just damn fun. To be honest with you I’d drink this from a bucket if I could but society frowns on that. Always bursting with vibrant almost floral red fruit notes and a savoury silky tannin, this is date night wine — be classy and use a glass.
Wine: Nero d’Avola (Ne-ro De Aah-vo-lah)
Marnie Roberts, where do I start. Maybe the best way to get to know Marnie is to check out the Matriarch and Rogue Facebook page and see what the Clare Valley’s craziest cat has been up to recently. Marnie is much like her booze — always bags of fun. Nero D’Avola or Nero, as the lazy folks say, is one of my super favourite reds kicking about at the moment. Another Italian, it is juicy, spicy and fleshy. Marnie sources the fruit for this from the Riverland, which is the go-to place in SA right now for hunting down a great alt. variety. The dry heat of the Riverland suits a lot of the more interesting grapes of Italy, Spain and Portugal and these are shining like the Riverland sun from this region. The Matriarch and Rogue Nero is, as Andy from Masterchef would say, “bangin”. All the red flavours — redcurrant, red plums and then a touch of a caraway seed spice. To say this is a good BBQ wine can sound a bit derogatory but this is a wine I would take to a barbie with fancy snags and fancy salads. I’d pop it on the table like I mean to share it but actually just not.
Wine: A-Series Lagrein (Lah-Greyn)
Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion. I first came across this in a grower vineyard in 2015 and developed an addiction. Lagrein has all of those things that you want in a big red wine, without the punch the face. Big, rich, and inky, this is the type of wine that you can take along to a family dinner with your wine snob uncle and be proud of challenging his Shiraz-based superiority complex. Lagrein is another Italian grape but from way up north in the Southern Tyrol near Austria. The Wangolina Lagrein is made from Limestone Coast grapes and is full of dark fruits, beetroot and dry roasted spices. This is a wine made for fireplaces and lovers.
So, head to your local bottleshop — the independent one, down the road, with the bearded dude that sells your partner craft beers that you don’t like. Walk in the door and with absolutely no confidence in how to pronounce it, ask for one of these varieties. No one is judging how you say it, they are secretly proud of you for wanting to try it. Step it up and ask for a bottle made by one of our awesome SA winemaking ladies and try something different. The COVID-19 lockdowns have hit some of the smaller winemaking businesses hard. Get to and give locals some love, look for smaller brands, ones you don’t know, it may just be your new favourite.