There’s an expression in the Australian Wine Industry: ”Alternative Varieties.” Alternative to what exactly? In Australia: red grapes Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir are considered “Mainstream,” as are whites: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Most other grapes are considered “Alternative,” mainly due to the lower volumes harvested. Large growing areas such as the Riverina and the Riverland have less ‘heritage’ concerns such as the Barossa or Margaret River, and are able to grow these alternatives, which are usually Italian or Spanish in origin.
Calabria Family Wines, based in the Riverina have created their great value Private Bin Range of purely Italian Varieties. Suited to Australian dining and incredible value, they shouldn’t remain Alternative for too much longer.
Calabria Private Bin, Prosecco D’OC, NV
Obviously not made from their vineyards in Australia. The Calabria family have drawn this water from the heritage well and have their own Prosecco (made from the Glera grape). Made in Italy with the right methods to be labelled D’OC (Denominazione di origine controllata), it’s a great lead in to the rest of their range.
An excited bead, hundreds of tight bubbles rushing to the surface. Soft blonde in colour it has a nutty yet fresh nose of attractive balsa wood and lemon flesh. Great aperitif style with subtle lemon lime citrus that never strays to be cloying or flabby. Perfectly crisp and waiting for some Prosciutto d Parma. Pop this instead of any Australian sparkling ‘wine’ named only after a colour…such as Yellow.
Calabria Private Bin, Vermentino, Victoria, 2013*
Attractive lemongrass, just sweet grapefruit and a distinct briny tang. Light, lovely and crisp, this wine sees some barrel ageing to give it slightly nutty complexity and a textural feel in the mouth. Still fresh as a daisy. Verementino hails from the isle of Sardinia, so pair it with fresh seafood by the seashore. Seek out instead of Sauv Blanc
Calabria Private Bin, Pinot Bianco, Riverina NSW, 2013*
Quite a heady nose: Rockmelon skin, cashews, soft-cooked sweet onion and lemon rind. Richly textured, broad flavour with stone fruit and almost savoury characters. Able to handle rich pasta and white meats, try as an ‘alternative’ to Chardonnay.
Calabria Private Bin, Aglianico, Riverina NSW, 2013
Blue fruit, coffee and toffee. Perfumed with touch of spice an intrigue. Smells like the start of an autumn evening. Blue plum fruit along with fine tannins, it’s restrained and subtle. A touch earthy and herby yet with plenty of structure and drinkability. Give this a run instead of a Merlot with Sunday night pasta.
Calabria Private Bin, Nero D’Avola, Riverina NSW, 2013*
The most ‘important grape from Sicily’ and alternatively known as Calabrese! Now widely planted in Australia. Deeply scented with black cherry, bay leaf and a little pepper. Supple, yet rich with good tannins, match with any tomato/meat based Italian dish. Choose this over a mid-week Shiraz.
*Review first appeared in APN ARM Weekend Magazine as part of my regular column.
All wines samples courtesy of Calabria Family Vineyards