Key Review of Wine 15 February 2015

Key points 15 February 2015
The all white issueA dozen wines reviewed, nine vermentino and three fiano. All the fiano and six of the vermentino are from McLaren Vale. The Australian wine industry constantly seeks the next big variety that will replace chardonnay. Sauvignon blanc holds the spot now, unfortunately for the Australian industry, the New Zealanders stole the crown.

As recently reported in KRoW, riesling appears to be having a resurgence but what about other varieties? I think viognier should have taken a larger share of the market but consumers didn’t. I also think Hunter Valley semilion is a wine we should treat with more respect, although I seem to be in the minority on that one.

I’m still a lover of chardonnay but think the respect it has would increase if we lost around a third of the plantings. As I continue to swim against the tide, my love for vermentino and fiano especially from McLaren Vale needs to be announced.

Mark Lloyd from Coriole Wines in McLaren Vale sent me a note on his involvement with the variety (see below). Both varieties are Italian and both have been around for several centuries. Fiano is mainly to be found in the south and Vermentino in the north of the country.

Seek out the wines and enjoy. Any comments are welcome.

Drink well,


Fox Creek McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: The nose for me was apple, pure clean fresh-cut apple. The wine sits pert at the front of the mouth and moves across the palate in a quick-step fashion, needs a little more time to settle but it’s good. 92 now, perhaps one more to come as it develops. The recommended retail is $23 but it can be found for less, and less is better value.Dowie Doole McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: Tasted later than the others so had a small amount of extra bottle time, still needs more. The nose is tart green fruits like gooseberry and greengage, the flavour is masked but one gets a glimpse of hidden gems that will reveal themselves down the line. A mean 91 now with points appearing as it matures over the next 18 months. Standard price bracket at $25.

Chalk Hill ‘Il Vivace’ McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: Subdued on the nose and spritz on the palate, gives little to begin with, the main flavours not appearing until the end. 89 points. $18 is about as much as I would want to pay for this style of wine.

Mitolo ‘Jester’ McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: More pear than apple on the nose, a fuller style that gives a greater textural feel across the palate with the faint hint of pepper underlying. Very good style, 92 points and OK price at $22.

Five O’clock Somewhere ‘ess&see’ McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: The nose is faint and I couldn’t pin it, viscous in the mouth with a sour (good) edge. 91 points OK value at $20.

Serafino ‘Bellissimo’ McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: Apple again on the nose but riper than the Fox Creek, quite forward on the palate, it spreads wide as well as long. 90 points, OK value at $20.

Oliver’s Taranga ‘Small Batch’ McLaren Vale Vermentino 2014: The fullest and richest style and one I like, it reaches all the mouth filling it with a wonderful array of flavours. 94 points and worth the $24.

Hanwood Estate ‘1913 Estate’ Riverina Vermentino 2014: Part of a new rage from McWilliams and very proud of the range they should be. This is a light refreshing wine on one hand and also easy to drink, however give it some thought and one can draw the gentle flavours out adding extra enjoyment. 93 points and fair value at $20.

Yalumba ‘Y Series’ South Australia Vermentino 2014: This can be found for under $11 at Dan Murphy’s, I have recommended this wine on many occasions to friends who require a quantity of wine for celebration without spending a fortune. It’s also one of the wines I buy, yes actually spend hard cash on, do I need to say more? The value is outstanding and it’s an easy 92 points.

Mark Lloyd: “Fiano does seem to suit McLaren Vale. Fiano to me is most interesting for its clear textural qualities….texture with freshness. It is a naturally high acid variety (as with most Italian varieties) and in McLaren Vale quite fruit forward matched with a phenolic suppleness. Other areas such as Adelaide Hills also work well but don’t have the natural phenolic quality. Some of the Adelaide Hills versions in the latest season are really developing their textural qualities with more winemaking techniques than they did in earlier vintages. This is probably a good idea.

I first found Fiano at Vin Italy in 2001. I went to that exhibition to find an Italian white variety of interest that came from the south of the country. There was at that time such a limited choice of Italian white varieties. I circled the stands with the Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini as a guide and very quickly found Fiano the most interesting and characterful wine.  It had an exciting quality that I try and describe as a “cool length in the mouth”.

Much to my surprise when I returned and asked the local vine improvement society for Fiano  they responded with a yes saying there is no vineyard but,  “we have enough grapes to supply for 1-2 acres next year.”  It had entered the country presumably in the 70s when the CSIRO had arranged the import of a number of Italian varieties from Davis in California. We planted the first vineyard in the country and encouraged others in McLaren Vale to do the same.

Fiano from Campania probably has completely different growing conditions. Fiano di Avellino DOCG is around 400 meters with 1000 mm of rain so, different from McLaren Vale! Fiano does seem heat tolerant and will stand up well to our conditions. It is not a particularly productive white grape with small thick berries well spaced on the bunches.

There is a good chance and excitement that Fiano will emerge as the new white identity of the Vale (some are calling this already). However reflecting on the journey of Viognier perhaps we should be a little cautious at the moment.

Oliver’s Taranga ‘Small Batch’ McLaren Vale Fiano 2014: Again ripeness on the nose that is attractive, seductive on the palate and a very good finish. 93 points, worth $24.

Serafino ‘Bellissimo’ McLaren Vale Fiano 2014: Beautiful nose, it’s ripe fruit but not up close, it wafts in from a distance, wonderful flavours that cross and re-cross the palate as they journey. 93 points and worth its $24.

Serafino ‘Bellissimo’ McLaren Vale Fiano 2013: The winery has moved on to the 2014 but sent a 2013 for comparison. The extra year suits the wine, it rounds it out but does not make it flabby, more puts it into perspective. The points are just one more at 94.