Dan's Blog


Friday, September 20, 2019

This week it is a bit of an update on what is happening with grape varieties around the world, starting with:

MADIRAN, FRANCE:   Madiran is the home of Tannat – a BIG, bold red grape variety that used to make impenetrably, monstrous wines last century until they started to “cut it back” by adding Cabernet and/or other whimpier varieties.

Recently one of the leading French Co-operatives (grower owned wineries), Pliamont Producteurs, stated that they have been resurrecting an almost extinct local ancient variety, Manseng Noir, which is related to and apparently is similar too, Tannat. One of its main features is that it produces low alcohol wine of around 11-12% Alc/vol, whereas with Tannat the local producers are these days struggling to keep the alcohol to below 16%. Manseng Noir was last made as a varietal wine in the 1880s – maybe because it was so “weak”?

The report went on to state that the Co-op management believe that within 20 years Tannat will no longer be grown in the region, because the area will be too hot thus making Tannat “to big to drink”. Being a big fan of Tannat, this was mind blowing news to me, and rather asinine. Why not develop Manseng Noir and create blends of Tannat and Manseng Noir OR explore other varietals that could be blended with Tannat to produce big but not OTT wines. Bearing in mind that many of the region’s Tannat vines are old (up to 100-years-old), contemplating discarding the variety seems bizarre to me. Perhaps they should be trialling the use of the ARINARNOA grape variety instead of Manseng Noir. Arinarnoa is a variety created in 1956 by crossing Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is already quite common for producers to add a splash of Cabernet to their Tannat in an attempt to “tone it down a bit” and make the wine more approachable.

Here in Australia, where the variety was only introduced around 20 years ago, there are a number of superb Tannat wines being produced and it has a very positive future. Many of the great Australian Tannat are produced in warmer areas such as the Barossa and Riverland, which are warmer than Madiran – where the average maximum summer temperature is normally around 30oC.

CRETE, GREECE:  The efforts to save indigenous varieties and make them popular again continues according to Beverage Daily, which has reported that Michalakis Estate on the island of Crete has just launched nine new wines made from six indigenous varieties which were threatened with extinction. The white varieties are Dafni, Vidiano, Vilana and Plyto. The reds are Kotsifali and Mandilari. Unfortunately the report did not include reviews of the wines, so we will have to wait a while (probably a very long time) to find out if these varieties make good enough wine to warrant them being saved.

SOUTHERN FRANCE:  In 1934 the grape varieties Clinton, Isabella, Herbemont, Noah, Othello and Jacquez were all banned from France for purportedly producing “low quality wines”. Recently however the European Commission has suggested that these disease resistant varieties should be re-introduced as modern winemaking techniques would allow them to produce wines of “unique character” and they could be used in blends with other approved varieties.

This suggestion was met with a typical Gallic “shrug of the shoulders” and total indifference. However as the issue of “spray contamination” (especially of people in wine growing areas) looms much larger an issue in France (with several court cases in progress), interest in these varieties has started to pick up. This is because they require half or less of the number of fungal sprays that the “classical” varieties do in a normal season.

Here in Australia, Ridgemill Estate, in the Granite belt makes an excellent Jacquez varietal wine which amply demonstrates the potential of this rare variety.

So that is just a small snapshot at the varietal swings and roundabouts happening around the world.

Have a great week and enjoy interesting and unusual wines.


Those of you who are old enough may recall that the Barossa used to make quite a lot of white wines in the 1970s and 1980s from varieties other than Chardonnay – in fact until the late 1980s there was stuff-all Chardy in the Barossa.

Yes, the main white variety in those days was Riesling, but there were some cracker Frontignac, Semillon and one of my favourites at the time, the Gewürztraminers (GT). Quite a few wineries used to make a GT or a Traminer Riesling in those days. Working for Orlando at the time, I used to drink a fair bit of the Flaxmans Traminer, which was superb, especially with the spicy Asian food that we were just starting to experiment with at the time.

Well, I have just tasted a GT that brought all those memories flooding back and thus it is the Wine of the Week this week.

The wine is the, Rileys of Eden Valley 2018 ‘Dry Style’ GewÜrztraminer (Estate Grown, Single Vineyard).

Rileys of Eden Valley are a very small producer whose wines are made by “Baron of the Barossa” wine magician, Jo Irvine. Peter Riley ensures that he gives Jo the very best possible grapes to weave her magic on, and the resultant wines are superb.

So, the Rileys of Eden Valley 2018 ‘Dry Style’ GewÜrztraminer is not the sort of wine that everybody would like, as it is BIG both aromatically and flavour wise, as GT tends to be. Some GT’s can be OTT in the aromas department, but this one is not. It is restrained, elegant and alluring.

The palate has masses of very appealing lime and citrus flavours with a splash of lychee added in for good measure, along with a beautifully balanced, slightly acidic finish – again not OTT. This makes the wine not only appealing, but also very refreshing, and rearing to go.

Equally at home with or without food, this wine is a cracker now and will continue to develop into a richer, rounder wine over the next few years.

To sum up it is a BLOODY RIPPER!

Go to their website  to check out this and other excellent wines they make such as the “Jumps Ship” 2012 Eden Valley Shiraz, another cracker wine.

Cheers and have a great week enjoying quality Australian wines!