Wine review – six exotic varieties: blaufrankisch, nero d’avola, montepuliciano, negroamaro, fiano and picpoul

Hahndorf Hill Winery Blueblood Blaufrankisch 2013
Hahndorf Hill vineyard, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Today’s selection of lesser-known wine varieties begins with the Austro-Hungarian red, blaufrankisch. It’s a significant variety around Wurttemberg, Germany; the second most widely planted red variety in Austria; and even more widely cultivated in Hungary. It arrived at Hahndorf Hill in the early 1990s. And from 2008, under new owners Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson, graduated from the blending vat to star on its own. The 2013 offers delicious drinking – akin to pinot noir in its medium body and gamey dimension (albeit without the finesse) – but its own beast altogether in its blueberry- and cassis-like flavours and grippy, fine tannins.

Fox Gordon Dark Prince Nero d’Avola 2013
Adelaide Hills, South Australia


Sicily’s most widely planted red variety makes a range of styles in its adopted Australian homes: from the elegant and savoury Chalmers, grown in Heathcote, Victoria, to this tremendously fruity Adelaide Hills style. Fruit pulses from the glass with intense, cassis- and jube-like sweetness. On the palate, the succulent fruit combines with the variety’s substantial but friendly tannins to give a memorable sensory experience. You will either love or hate this distinctive red, made by Natasha Mooney.

Di Giorgio Montepulciano 2014
Mundulla, Limestone Coast, South Australia

Montepulciano is widely grown in Italy, but perhaps best known for the wholesome, rustic reds it makes in Abruzzi under the appellation Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Several Australian vignerons cultivate the variety in warmer regions. And now we have the di Giorgio family’s appealing version from milder Mundulla on the Limestone Coast, near Bordertown. Winemaker Bryan Tonkin let’s the fresh, bright summer-berry flavours shine through – before the variety’s tannins descend, drying out the palate with a fierce but friendly tweak.

Hesketh Negroamaro 2013
Kalleske vineyard, Koonunga Hill, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Jonathon Hesketh and Phil Lehmann make a range of wines from traditional and alternative varieties, including Portugal’s touriga, Spain’s tempranillo and Italy’s negroamaro. From Puglia, southern Italy, negroamaro tends to make full, fruity wines to drink young. Hesketh 2013 fits that general description in a vigorous, fresh, clean Australian way. Fruit flavour, reminiscent of ripe, dark cherries, gives the palate a dense, deep sweetness, which is offset by mildly astringent, drying tannins.

Chalmers Fiano
Chalmers vineyard, Heathcote, Victoria

“Fiano is an old [white] variety from Campania in southern Italy whose presence was first mentioned as early as 1240”, write Jancis Robinson and Jose Vouillamoz in Wine grapes, a complete guide to 1,368 varieties, including their origins and flavours. Though susceptible to mildew, fiano copes well with heat and is now well established in several Australian vineyards, where it makes characterful, full-flavoured wines. The Chalmers’ family, partly barrel-fermented version, from Heathcote, looks young and fresh at three years. It packs a big, fresh load of melon-rind and citrus-like flavours on a full, richly textured, dry palate.

Picpoul de Pinet (Domaine de la Majone) 2014
Languedoc, France
France’s picpoul de pinet appellation stretches from Pezenas, in the Languedoc hinterland, southeast to Sete on the Mediterranean. The region’s white grape variety, officially piquepoul blanc, produces acidic, lemony, dry whites, well suited to the local oysters. Indeed, producers market their wines under the slogan son terroir, c’est la mer (its territory is the sea). Melbourne’s imports this outstanding expression of the style: aromatic, citrusy and tangy with the acidic thrust and pleasantly tart bite to handle briny bivalves.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 26 and 27 May 2015 in and the Canberra Times