VARIETAL VARIETY

Friday, December 4, 2020

Those of you who have seen Jancis Robinson et.al book, “Wine Grapes”, will know that this definitive tome says there are 1,368 different grape varieties used to make wine upon planet Earth. Well that count is obsolete, as I have personally tried three Chinese native varieties at an Adelaide University tasting of Chinese wines a few years ago:

►Shuanhong – noir berry colour

►Gongzhubai – blanc berry colour

►Beibinghong – noir berry colour

In my, This Week’s Wine Review (November 13, 2020), I mentioned three new(ish) hybrid varieties – Hibernal (cross between Riesling and Siebel 7053), Sauvignac (cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) and Sauvignier Gris (cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and a white variety called, Bronner) – all bred to withstand the cold and which are being used to make sparkling wine in The Netherlands. Then recently, I came across an article (see link below) about a couple of new varieties bred by the University of Arkansas to better handle the climatic conditions of colder parts on the USA. The varieties are called “Indulgence” (a Muscat-flavoured white grape), and “Dazzle” (a pink/slightly red wine grape with Gewürztraminer-like characteristics) – typical American understated names!

Article Link, “New Grape Varieties, New Wine Program for Arkansas”:  www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataId=238479&utm_source=Daily+Wine+News&utm_campaign=b72f0da1ae-DWN_2020_NOVEMBER_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1787000e4c-b72f0da1ae-223157605

Meanwhile in Texas they have been developing hybrids to cope with the hottest of USA conditions. Likewise the French have been busy generating varieties which are much more tolerant to Downy and Powdery mildew in order to reduce the number of sprays they have to apply to their crop.

SO where is this all leading to? – You might ask. WELL, the point is that the wine industry is in a constant state of flux and the varieties that our wines are made from are constantly changing as well.

YES, the mainstream “Top 25” varieties are still producing most of the wine, but there are niche changes happening right across the wine world. For example, ten years ago you would have only been able to find two Australian made Grüner Veltliners – Lark Hill (Canberra) and Hahndorf Hill (Adelaide Hills). Whereas today there are almost 50 producers. While probably not quite as exponentially growing like Grüner, you can see similar trends/patterns occurring across other varieties. The first Aussie Tempranillo I tried was around 20 years ago, and today there are over 400 wineries in the country producing Tempranillo wines. In another example, when I joined the wine industry in the 1980s there were just a handful of Durif producers in the Rutherglen area (Morris, Stanton & Killeen, Chambers, etc.), whereas today there are 110 producers scattered right across the country, making a wide variety of Durif wines.

The point I am trying to make is that it is no longer possible to judge a wine by its variety (i.e. “a book by its cover”) as there has been a dramatic increase in the number of grape varieties being used to make wine, albeit in niche quantities to start with. Whilst at the same time the “boffins” are busy creating new hybrid varieties to better handle various conditions.  Added to this are the experimentatious souls who are making hither to unknown blends such as the delicious Mt Bera Zweigelt / Pinot Noir. In another example, a couple of years ago I tried a bottle of Jost 4 Skins – a delightful Beaujolais style red wine from Jost Vineyards in Nova Scotia, Canada, that was made from the following varieties – Castel, Lucie Kuhlmann, Marechal Foch and Leon Millot.

Finally getting to the point – which is – rather than keeping on drinking the same variety/varieties all the time, get out there and try lots of different varieties/styles/blends and your palate will be amply rewarded. Sure you will find the occasional “dud” or wine that is not to your taste, BUT your palate will be so much more amplified and enlightened for the experience. I can assure you that it is well worth the effort and can be quite a bit of fun as well.

Cheers to drinking more VARIETAL VARIETY!

This Week's Wine Review:

I have been a big fan of the emerging French white variety, MARSANNE, since I first tasted the Chateau Tahbilk 1985 Marsanne at the Belrose bottle shop (Sydney) way back in 1987 (I think). In those days there were only two producers of MARSANNE, Chateau Tahbilk and Mitchelton Wines just down the road from them in Victoria’s Nagambie Lake district, of the Goulburn Valley. Their styles were completely different, with the Mitchelton being wood matured whilst the Tahbilk was made in the pure fruit style using stainless steel tanks.

I wrote about this variety in WBM, June 2014 Edition – “Insane For Marsanne” – explaining the consistent and delightful aromas and flavours of this underappreciated variety.

Today there are 119 MARSANNE producers in Australia and whilst many of them only use it in a “Rhône style” white blend, there are a growing number of producers making a straight varietal MARSANNE.

Recently I came across, a new to me, Central Victoria winery - TRIFON ESTATE, and discovered to my delight that amidst their comprehensive three tier range of wines, they had available under their Museum Wines the, TRIFON ESTATE 2008 CENTRAL VICTORIA MARSANNE. Wow! How brilliant is it that they have a 12-year-old white wine available. It brought back early wine memories (1980s) of McWilliams Mount Pleasant cellar door in the Hunter Valley, where you could buy bottles of their well-aged Hunter Semillon going back nearly 20 years (at the time their Elizabeth Semillon was released at four or five years of age rather than at one-year-old like it is these days).

The TRIFON ESTATE 2008 MARSANNE is a light golden yellow in colour, has lively aromas of ripe fruit and some aged/complexity overtones. The palate is divine, beautifully rounded, silky-smooth with great viscosity, rich and creamy honey flavours and a finish that is pure nectar. DROP DEAD GORGEOUS & UTTERLY DIVINE!

Well that’s it for this week. Have a good week, stay safe and enjoy utterly delicious wines – preferably from Australia. Cheers!

Winery Link: www.trifonestatewines.com.au