September 2015

It’s Very Exciting at Chrismont

My interest in Italian grape varieties extends from the fact they can produce wines with an amazing range of flavours, textures and aromas.

A lot of these textures and flavours are unique to Italian varieties and offer an exciting point of difference to traditional French varieties that have dominated the focus of Australian winemaking in the past.

At Chrismont here in the Upper King Valley, we grow and make Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco , Arneis, and Marzemino. All of which have their own unique and exciting characteristics.

For example Marzemino, a variety with flavours of red berries and herbs followed by a tannin profile that has a distinct bitterness not too dissimilar to a good espresso or dark chocolate. These features are something quite unusual to what the typical consumer is used to, but as a winemaker it’s very exciting.

The focus on wines as a food item rather than standalone beverages gives the wine a more practical and purposeful edge.

Warren Proft, Winemaker, Chrismont Wines, Cheshunt, King Valley

Short, sharp and shiny words from Sam Scott

Deliciousness for me is savoury and textural, hence my love of Italian varieties. Luckily they love our climate and soil, and complement how we live, play and eat. Growing and making these wine styles in Australia just makes complete sense to me.

Sam Scott, winemaker

Scott & La Prova

2015 La Prova new releases 2

Searching for Australian reflections here and over there

Since 1980, the Leask family has been growing grapes in McLaren Vale; in 2011 with brothers Richard and Malcolm at the helm, Hither & Yon was born.

Meaning “here and over there” the brand name helps describe the rolling nature of the McLaren Vale landscape, the variability of the families seven vineyards spread across the region and even perhaps the slightly wayward nature of the brothers Leask themselves!

An ethos of slow down, sit back and enjoy has shaped their wine style; vineyard driven, vibrant, fruit forward wines. Black Angus beef, Fleurieu lambs and market garden vegetables are also bred, graze, and grow on the same landscape – creating a very healthy sustainable environment.


“Wine is a way to share what we do from land to table” says Malcolm, “always with food and friends”. It’s an experience they have enjoyed growing up with the wonderful Italian community in McLaren Vale. The regions warm coastal environment and free draining soils make it highly suitable for Italian varieties.

“We are searching for an Australian reflection of Aglianico and Nero d’Avola” says Richard, “but with good varietal integrity”.

With Hither & Yon, it’s all about a fresh and fun approach to the journey of growing and consuming wine.


Malcolm & Richard Leask

Hither & Yon

Gill fell for the allure of the textures and flavours of Italy

It was always going to be Italian varieties for fall from grace; Vintages spent in Italy, sharing food, feeling at home, textures, flavours, drinkability-the table is always pumping and the wines always right there in the mix, making the meal, enlivening the discussion, a place for everyone…

McLaren Vale has always been my home, a place we have journeyed from, time and time again- always returning. Italy feels like home, a big hug, the pace we enjoy, the things we value- friends, family.

Italian varieties work here, give us wines with great natural acidity, beautiful flavours, savoury layers and honesty. A blank canvas to explore and paint our own story on -we make village wines that are meant to be shared and enjoyed with food and friends using traditional techniques alongside clay pots, skin contact and minimal intervention-following the currants and expressing the vineyard.

Gill Article

Every vintage we learn something more about the varieties we use, Montepulciano, Arneis, Nero d’Avola. Each vintage another layer is peeled back and our wines evolve.

Our new vineyard overlooks the sea, reminds me of Sicily and will be planted with our favorite Italians – Italian varieties are our future.

Gill Gordon-Smith

Fall From Grace

Corrina says Fiano is a bit of a dream to grow

When our family first settled on our beautiful ‘Taranga’ farm in McLaren Vale in 1841, they planted Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro and Doradillo vines. Fast forward 174 years, and not much has changed! Well, it is true that the Doradillo vines were lost some time ago, a victim of the change in consumer tastes away from Sherry. However, Shiraz still makes up 60% of our 110Ha vineyard. For good reason as well, as anyone who has enjoyed the infinite pleasures of a McLaren Vale Shiraz or Grenache can attest.

While this all sounds very traditional, there have been some changes afoot over the last 15 years. We had started to see the effects of climate change in our small piece of the world. Heat spikes and droughts were becoming more prevalent. Our winemaking philosophy was becoming more of a ‘hands-off’ one, wanting to let the vineyard express itself with as little in the form of additions (yeast, acid, tannin, sulfur, etc) as possible.


Thus, in the early 2000’s, we, the sixth generation to farm our land, started looking towards Southern Italy to learn more about their indigenous grape varieties. Luckily, at the same time, the Chalmers Family had imported a selection of 70 Italian varietals into Australia. Armed with plenty of the Australian “have a crack” mentality, but limited viticultural knowledge of the varieties, we jumped in feet first with Fiano, Sagrantino and Vermentino.

What we quickly discovered was that Fiano is a bit of a dream to grow in our vineyard. Drought tolerant, heat tolerant, disease tolerant, high natural acidity, later ripening than Shiraz, great textural natural tannins……Maybe we were onto something? Maybe the Italians have been onto something for millennia! Our adventure has continued with the floral, richly tannic and savoury Sagrantino, and the fresh, crisp, oyster shell-esque Vermentino.


To be sure, Shiraz and Grenache will continue to reign supreme in McLaren Vale for the foreseeable future, and the styles that you already know and love will not be at risk. But the Fiano, Vermentino & Sagrantino, along with the numerous other varieties being championed by other McLaren Vale producers, definitely add layers and richness to our wine offering. For those who are keen to come on a journey of exploration with us, there are many rewards to be reaped.

Corrina Wright

Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards

Winemaker & Director

Pikes and Italian Varietals

OK, so it may be a stretch to suggest that the Clare Valley is like the Mediterranean, however we do  believe that the climate here is similar to the Tuscany region of Italy. Warm days allow long slow ripening periods, and the moderately high elevation of Clare creates cool, crisp nights to assist in the retention of the natural crunchy acidity of the grapes…perfect for Italian varietals.

After many years of nurturing traditional varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet and Riesling, we have more recently turned our hand to Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio and Fiano. The results have been rewarding for both our production team and our consumers.


Our range of Italian varieties offer a glimpse into Italian style, whilst maintaining a definitive Aussie character. A perfect way to dip your toes into the Mediterranean.

Ciao for now,

the Pike Family

Garry’s curiosity about Italian grape varieties

In the early 1980s, just as I was planting my vineyard here on the Mornington Peninsula, I became aware of a bit of a push from Italian wine producers into the Australian market. I would experiment at random by purchasing a bottle or two. Not knowing what to expect, I would more often than not be disappointed. I mentioned this one day to a good friend who was, and still is, a wine importer and he set me on the right path with some Italian wine suggestions and reading on the subject.

The single greatest influence on my understanding of Northern Italian varietals has been the book BAROLO by Garner and Merrit. This book is why I now consider Piemonte to be my “spiritual home”. I visited Piemonte for the first time in 1992 and still travel back there every 3 years or so. I personally believe Nebbiolo to be the greatest variety in the world, even (controversially) above Pinot Noir.

In the early 1990s I was talking to a wine maker colleague from Great Western in Victoria who told me about the occasion the famous ampelographer Paul Truel visited his vineyard. Truel took one look at his vines and pointed out that what my colleague and his family had (for generations) thought to be Malbec planted was in fact Dolcetto. Upon knowing this he then changed the varietal name on his bottles from Malbec to Dolcetto, but in doing so the wine proved impossible to sell. No one had ever heard of Dolcetto.

Given his lack of success with the wine I asked if he would sell me some Dolcetto grapes. He happily did so and I purchased some for vintage 1992. When the wine was released in 1993 I found that with the correct marketing approach, it actually sold quite well.

Soon after this I became aware of some Italian tobacco growers in the King valley in North East Victoria (the Pizzinis), who had small plantings of Barbera and Nebbiolo. I began to buy these varieties from them and I also sourced planting stock of Sangiovese and Marzemino, which I then went on to contract purchase from them annually. Believing it was, by and large, too cool for these varieties at my home vineyard I avoided planting them on the Mornington Peninsula. The exception to this was Arneis; in 1996 I was offered 500 Arneis vines that I bought and planted at Dromana.


By the mid 1990s there was quite a bit of curiosity in the industry about what I, and a handful of others, were doing with non-traditional (as distinct from traditional or French) varieties and I felt some guidance was needed for people wishing to plant, make or grow them. I also knew that the Wine Press Club of NSW had an annual award for industry and/or media of $5000 for a recipient proposing a project that would enhance and benefit the broader industry.

I wrote a proposal and was awarded the grant in 1998. It soon became obvious to me that what I had intended simply as a monograph deserved a larger body of work so I decided to expand the proposal by funding the extra dollars required myself. With the support of the Australian Centre for Viticultural Excellence, where I met my co-author and assistant Alex Mc Kay, I eventually got the publication to print.

The book was published with a limited edition of 2000 copies on the basis that it had little appeal to anyone outside the industry. It soon sold out, primarily to grape-growers and winemakers.

A second run of 1000 copies was then printed, the total of which equates to roughly one copy for every winery in Australia (3000 copies).

It has been out of print for about 10 years and I sometimes think of trying for an electronic version. But the work and information is probably out of date and the broader industry, especially in warmer areas, has moved on and is now well ensconced in the growing of southern Italian and Spanish varieties. As much as I enjoy this new movement I will, however, stay true to my greatest love; Nebbiolo.

Garry Crittenden