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I received an email from Malcolm who is going to try out a Fiano as a change and would I have a look at Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Valpolicella and Chenin Blanc as alternative varieties to wine styles you are more familiar with. Let’s begin with Chenin Blanc a white wine grape variety, which actually has been planted in Australia from the day we started to plant vines after landing on this great continent.

Unfortunately, Chenin Blanc suffers from the same problem that Semillon and Verdelho does, you can also throw in Riesling for good measure as well, that is we can produce great wines but for some reason Australian wine drinkers just ignore them preferring Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay instead. With Semillon, if you blend it with Sauvignon Blanc as they do in Western Australia the public drink huge quantities of it, even sometimes when it is called “Classic Dry White” it doesn’t detract from its sale.

I remember some years ago doing a tasting at a premium liquor store in Adelaide representing Galafrey Wines from Mt. Barker in Western Australia and overall the comments were very positive, although everyone seemed to have a relative who worked in the industry, however the main bone of contention was the use of the words “Classic Dry White” instead of the grape varieties, however this has now changed thank goodness. Chenin Blanc came originally from The Loire Valley in France where it is made into a dry white wine, a botrytised dessert wine or a sparkling wine and it is naturally high in acid making it a very versatile grape variety which you’ll see it labelled ‘Vouvray’.

Here in Australia, it was planted from day one in The Swan Valley in Western Australia where a lot of the original cuttings came from South Africa as the ships stopped off on the way to Australia and where the grape was planted over four hundred years ago. The wines from Western Australia are in the main pretty dry matching any Sauvignon Blanc, can be drunk with cheese platters, spicy Asian, fresh salads and chicken, or if an oaked style with creamy pasta dishes.

They may not be easy to find but Voyager Estate and Paul Conti are stocked in Dan Murphy’s, whilst Amberley Estate ‘Chimney Brush’ is pretty popular but if memory serves me well it used to be made in a sweeter style. There are a few French and South African Chenin Blancs out there but again the wine from South Africa can sometimes be a little sweeter. In the Swan Valley in Western Australia, the outstanding John Kosovich winery produce some stunning examples of Chenin Blanc and they age very well if kept properly. Sangiovese is the classic red grape variety of Tuscany and as in Australia with our Shiraz can be made into everyday drinking wines such as Chianti to Super Tuscan wines such as Brunello.

If you ever visit Italy Tuscany should be a must on the travel agenda and not just for the outstanding wines but the countryside with towns perched on hilltops surrounded by thick walls, Sienna with its annual horse race through the town square and Florence with its classical buildings. To date in Australia the grape variety hasn’t really produced any great wines, perhaps it needs more time as the plantings are less than forty years old. As with other Italian grape varieties, Australian wineries such as Coriole and Pizzini make better examples and it suits mature cheeses and big steaks, but at this stage, it is probably better to seek out the real thing from Tuscany.

Montepulciano pronounced “mon tae pul chee ah noh” seems to be a superstar just waiting for the public to discover this relatively new to Australia red wine grape. Just to add confusion in Italy in Tuscany there is a town called Montepulciano but the grapes aren’t grown there but in Abruzzo further south where the climate suits the variety. At the recent Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show 25 Australian Montepulciano wines were submitted producing two gold, one highly commended, five silver and eight bronze medals which is a pretty high ratio.

A couple of old agencies of mine Calabria wines from The Riverina and Woodstock Wines from Mclaren Vale now grow the grape and knowing the quality of their winemaking skills the wines would be excellent. Amadio, Bird in Hand, Brown Bros. First Drop Wines, Kirrihill, Mr Riggs and Di Giorgio are other wineries who are making wine from this grape variety sometimes labelled just Monte and again it will suit a mature cheese platter and good quality meat dishes.

Valpolicella is a red wine from The Verona district of Italy and is made from three different grape varieties, Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara and at this moment it would be wise to stick to the imported model and an old favourite of mine Zonin probably make all of the above wines from Italy as well as anyone and are widely available from Dan Murphy’s and BWS as it is an exclusive agency, not expensive wines but always of a good quality.

Cheers, Philip Arlidge arlidge@bigpond.com.au

Alison in the golf shop stated: “I have just cut out last month’s quote from Hemmingway and stuck it on the fridge”. I asked what she thought of the article, she replied she didn’t read it! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

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