In February I commented that on a visit to the United States over Christmas I couldn’t help but notice the lack of treasury wine estates products on the shelves and since then it has emerged that the americans have lost their passion for the range of products that are distributed resulting in a fairly severe reduction for the companies turnover of around 21% overall and the american market down by around 37%. To counteract this situation treasury is considering cutting loose the Penfolds brand, which accounts for around 50% of the company’s bottom line, and setting it up as a stand-alone brand and letting it fend for itself.

This would be a throwback to the 1970s well before the acquisition of all the brands that found their way into the massive portfolio that frankly was totally beyond the working of the average rep and consequently many of the products that were very popular with the wine drinkers of Australia were cut out and found their way into the Treasury dustbin. Outstanding products from Seaview, Kaiser Stuhl, Seppelts, Lindermans, Leo Buring, Rosemount, Wynns, Tollana, Wolf Blass were deleted and the company was basically set up to service the major chains such as Woolworths and Coles where volumes can be driven on price, with one buyer making decisions on behalf of hundreds of outlets, whereby the independents would have to set aside several hours to sit down with a Treasury rep who had to maintain the interest of a buyer with the size of the portfolio that would stretch the patience of the most astute buyer especially trying to serve customers as well. Following on from the last issue where we covered some of the newer grape varieties that are appearing on the shelves I thought we would carry on and also mention a few of the varieties that may have been around for some time but you may not be familiar with the style, hopefully, after reading this article you may approach the shelves with more confidence to make a change.

Durif- is a red wine that has been around for some time now and these grapes can produce simply outstanding wines. In The United States and Israel the grape is called Petit Syrah but in Australia Durif has been around for several years and is grown around the country, the wines are especially popular from Rutherglen in Victoria but now also The Riverland and The Riverina. The wine produced is inky black, quite tannic with herbal and black pepper aromas and flavours of blackberry, blueberries and plums and has an ageing potential of twenty years or more from the premium brands. Because it is not well known by most wine drinkers bargains abound but those in the know look for Campbell’s of Rutherglen, Buller’s of Rutherglen, De Bortoli (around $11 a bottle in Dan Murphy’s which is outstanding buying), Calabria Family Winemakers and McWilliams this is a wine worth trying if you enjoy bigger more flavourful red wines.

Sangiovese- is another red wine grape variety being grown all over Australia especially the wineries that specialise in Italian grape varieties. It is the most important variety in the super Tuscan Red wine Brunello from Tuscany in Italy and the more traditional Chianti, many of you will remember the Chianti bottles with their straw covering that used to be on every table in the Italian restaurants with a candle in them. Although Sangiovese was planted in Australia in the 1970’s it is only recently that it has been embraced by numerous vineyards including Coriole, Hugh Hamilton, Kangarilla Road, Pizzini, Dal Zotto, Geoff Merrill and if you want the original bottle Cecchi Vineyards from Italy the Chianti still comes in the traditional bottle with the straw bottom. Sangiovese translates from the Latin for “The blood of Jove” which leads one to think it has been around since Roman times, it has aromas of Blackberries and Dark Cherries and because of its tangy acidity is a perfect accompaniment to tomato-based dishes, BBQs and Grilled meat. When I represented Zonin here in Australia I attended the Pacific region conference in Hong Kong where the family served the 1895 vintage at the dinner and it was drinking beautifully.

Marsanne- is a white wine variety that for some unknown reason hasn’t been grown by more wineries here in Australia. Originating in The Rhone Valley in France it is one of the rarest grape varieties around and makes a terrific dry white wine, the champion of the variety here in Australia is Chateau Tahbilk who make the wine from vines planted on their vineyard in 1927. It offers an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris and is well suited to salads, shellfish and white fish dishes, Marsanne is an underrated wine it has aromas of stone and citrus fruit with a lovely mouthfeel and finishes fresh and lively.

Graciano- is another red wine variety from Spain which is often blended with Tempranillo and has been grown at Brown Bros. for over twenty years. On its own it is a big soft aromatic varietal and now has about fifty vineyards around the country producing wine from the grape including Brown Bros, Bremerton and Zontes Footsteps. We have discussed the success of Tempranillo here in Australia and how suited it is to our changing climate, it is the most planted red wine grape planted in Spain and if it is a style that appeals then look for wines labelled Rioja which is not only one of the major regions for the growth of Tempranillo grapes but under the Rioja label are produced outstanding examples of this grape variety. Finally, it is sad to see that after 143 years of family ownership it looks like the McWilliams brand is passing into the hands of a private investment company after a series of poor management decisions and the intervention of Covid, sad days indeed for the 6th largest wine operation in Australia.

Cheers Philip Arlidge arlidge@bigpond.com.au