Negroamaro, Barbera, Sangiovese, Montepulciano

Exciting timesExciting times

New varieties. That is, new to us, but often ancient in their original homes. Will any of them replace chardonnay or shiraz? I think not, but these two stalwarts of Australia really do need thinning out.

Meanwhile, it’s worth seeking out these newbies. They add another dimension to our drinking, giving a touch of the exotic. They also stretch the intellect. New tastes should make one think, not only of the wine’s profile but where they fit into wine drinking routines.

I often think of wine in very board terms, such as afternoon or evening wines. Some to me say Sunday lunch, which is different to Thursday lunch. Saturday wines again are different to me. Wine with many friends, wines with special friends, wine with a very special friend.

Daft? Maybe, but wine is meant to be wound in and around our life. It’s not meant to dominate or become more important than the occasion, whatever the occasion.

Enjoy wine, enjoy friends and enjoy yourself.


All explanations for the grapes’ origins (in italics) are taken from Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. 

Hesketh Barossa Valley Negroamaro 2014: Yet another southern Italian variety that is proving a second home can be found in Australia. These vines were planted in the Barossa Valley and are now 15 years old. A brooding style of wine that at first sits quietly at the beginning of the palate then unfurls lazily as it travels, but with great presence and authority. 95 points and good value at $25.

Negroamaro: Puglia in southern Italy is credited as being its home. There is a possible DNA connection to sangiovese but it’s disputed. 

Chalk Hill McLaren Vale Barbera 2014: Red fruit nose with hints of savoury or earth creeping in. Much the same applies to the taste. It’s soft, with the flavours rolling and swelling around and across the palate, but every now and then savoury characters creep in. 93 points and worth $29.

Angullong ‘Fossil Hill’ Orange Region Barbera 2013: The nose draws the drinker in and a range of flavours tumble and roll around the mouth as the wine journeys. It is worth $24 and is an easy 94 points.

Margan Hunter Valley Barbera 2013: A gorgeous tint of red, falling away to a pink rim. It’s the sort of red paint that companies invent nonsensical names for. A bramble blackcurrant bush nose, light on entry, but the flavour builds as it travels, with many twists and turns along the journey. Keeps the drinker thinking. Lovely perfume on the end. 94 points and worth $40.

Barbera: There’s confusion about its origins and not a lot of scientific fact, but legend says it was introduced to Piemonte by the Lombardians.

Valentino Heathcote Sangiovese 2014: Overall light on the nose, but just as one removes the glass there’s the slight smell of spice, with a hint of smoke and meat wafted in. Light on the palate but well balanced and there’s enough character to keep the drinker interested. 92 points and on the pricey side at $35.

Reillys Clare Valley Sangiovese 2013: Has the dry, almost dusty, character to be found in sangiovese. Then, for me, a raspberry fruit character comes through, with the tannins playing at the edge. Also worked at the table with a very light curry. 92 points and an OK price at $25.

De Bortoli Bella Riva King Valley Sangiovese 2013: More fruit forward than the Reillys, but not overdone. If the weather’s hot, served chilled. 91 points and value at $18.

Mount Avoca ‘Moates Lane’ Pyrenees Sangiovese 2012: Dark in the glass, fragrant on the nose and mysterious across the palate, with hints of savoury then a splash of sweetness, and dark fruit and truffle all tumbling around. I found it an incredible wine. 95 points and fantastic value at just $15.

Angullong ‘Fossil Hill’ Orange Region Sangiovese 2013: Light colour, spicy on the nose and spice comes through on the palate. It’s very pleasant and good wine, but lacking on the finish. 92 points and I feel $24 could be better spent on the Angullong barbera reviewed above.

Tar & Roses Heathcote Sangiovese 2014: A chewy wine, with flavours mixing and parting and meshing and giving pleasure all along the journey. It’s different but familiar. That is, there is the taste of Australian fruit but a wonderful sour edge that brings in the exotic. 94 points and good value at $24.

Sangiovese: It’s incredibly complex, so I will stick with the opening: “Sangiovese is half Tuscan and half Calabrian.” First mention was in 1600.  

WayWood McLaren Vale Montepulciano 2013: Dark as midnight with no moon or stars. Full, ripe plum in the mouth to start, with generosity creeping in as it travels. Good sour edge to the wine. It’s adult, worth 94 points and well worth $35.

Hesketh Barossa Valley Montepulciano 2014: The accompanying notes say the vineyard that provided the grapes for this wine produced fruit that had ‘soulful fruit flavours’. On tasting, I can agree. The dark, slightly bitter edge to the flavour could be called soulful. It’s a wonderful wine of contrasting flavours as it travels. I enjoyed it immensely. 94 points and value at $25.

Mr Riggs Adelaide Hills Montepulciano 2014: It’s a unusual description for a wine smell, but I got lavender and a mix of herbs. An unusual style, but there’s nothing wrong with individuality, and it’s enjoyable. 93 points and worth its $30.

Montepulciano: The origin is said to be Abruzzo in central Italy.

Three Ponds ‘Holman’ Hunter Valley Nero D’Avola 2014: slightly perfumed nose, which in itself is light. But do not be deceived: it bursts into life on the palate, not in a fruit style but in the savoury spectrum. Very tasty, 94 points and an OK price at $45 for its scarcity.

Nero d’avola: Sicilian all the way. First mentioned in 1669 but much older than that date. 

Running with Bulls Barossa Tempranillo 2014: Enticing on the nose and enticing across the palate, it has all the shifts in flavour as it travels that go to make an interesting wine. 93 points and well worth the $23 asked.

Yalumba ‘Y Series’ South Australian Tempranillo 2014: Has what used to be called a rustic flavour. That is, not as fruit driven, but it’s respectable wine. 89 points and can be great value as it’s in the $9 to $12 bracket.

Tempranillo: As Spanish as bullfighting.

Bloodwood Orange Region Cabernet Franc 2014: This has a different taste make-up to most Australian wine. It leans towards the green and slightly herbal. It is different. But that doesn’t make it bad or even poor; it makes it interesting. I found it better with some air and with food. 92 points and OK value at $32.

“Cabernet Franc is undoubtedly one of the most important and ancient varieties in the Bordeaux region. However, recent genetic and historical studies point to the Spanish Pais Vasco (Basque country) for its place of origin.”

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