Yearly Archives: 2019

Illuminati Riparosso – enduring, satisfying Abruzzi red wine

Dino and Stefano Illuminati in the vineyard, Contraguerra, Teramo Province, Abruzzi, Italy. Dino’s grandfather founded the family estate in 1890.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso 2016 (Illuminati)  $9.50–$14
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Ilico 2015 (Illuminati)  $14.30–­$14.99

Illuminati’s Riparosso first arrived in Australia in 1991 following a Farmer Bros buying trip to Italy. People immediately took to the savoury, medium-bodied red and it became the company’s biggest selling Italian red. When Farmer Bros collapsed in the mid nineties, importation and sales direct to consumers continued through Coles and later Woolworths, the current importer.

In theory, cutting out the wholesaler gives the retailer a greater profit opportunity. But as other retailers do the same, the potential gain is substantially competed away, meaning lower prices.

This is good news for drinkers and Chateau Shanahan continues to enjoy Riparosso as much now as 28 years ago when those first containers rolled off the ships.

We recently enjoyed Riparosso 2016 (screw cap) and its cellar mate Ilico 2015 (cork) side by side over a meal in Melbourne. Riparosso appealed for its initial fruitiness, then its rustic tannins and overall savour – a satisfying quaffing red, showing the earthy, savoury character of the Abruzzi region’s signature grape variety, montepulciano. Ilico amplifies the montepulciano experience and adds a touch of finesse.

The wines come from leading producer Azienda Agricola Illuminati of Contraguerra, Teramo Province. The winery sits on a ridge with views to the Adriatic to the east and Apennine Mountains to the west.

Nicolo Illuminati founded the estate in 1890 and following the early death of his son, raised his grandson Dino Illuminati. On Nicolo’s death Dino took over and today, at 88, continues to work in the business, now run by his son Stefano.

Woolworths imports Illuminati wines through its subsidiary, Pinnacle Drinks, and sells them through Dan Murphy and BWS retail stores operated by another subsidiary, Endeavour Drinks Group.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – Clonakilla

Clonakilla Canberra District Riesling 2018 $32
To every thing there is a season. And for Clonakilla riesling, the warm, dry 2018 season produced a riper, richer wine than in the cooler 2017 vintage. Despite the heat, ‘Grapes held excellent acid’, says winemaker Tim Kirk.

That tangy acidity balances a delicious riesling with rich, citrus-like varietal flavour in the pure, delicate Clonakilla style. It’s impressive now as a vibrant, fruity young wine. But it’ll change in pleasing ways over the next decade – best experienced by cellaring a case and enjoying a bottle every year or two, potentially over decades.

For example, the 16-year-old, 2003 vintage (the first sealed with screw cap), ‘Looks fantastic’ according to Kirk, combining mellow aged character with freshness.

Kirk says 2018 marks the first year his riesling came predominantly from young vines on a cool south-facing slope near the cellar door building. Previous vintages had been sourced from a combination of estate-grown fruit and grapes from nearby Long Rail Gully.

Clonakilla Riesling 2018 is due for release in March.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – Freeman, Hilltops Region, NSW

Freeman Rosso Corvina Rondinella 2017 $20
It’s dusk at Lake Conjola, and on a small jetty the tailor continue to take my friend Mario’s line, if not mine. He’s bagged enough for tomorrow’s brunch, and I think, well no bites for me but I can at least pour a drink. Try this I say. Mario tastes the red wine. Lemon, he declares, bloody delicious, fruity and tangy.

And it is, too, a distinctive dry red wine made from the Italian varieties corvina and rondinella. Brian Freeman grows both on his 175-hectare estate in the Hilltops region, the high country in the vicinity of Young, New South Wales.

These are the varieties behind the medium bodied, savoury dry reds of Bardolino and Valpolicella in Italy’s Veneto region. At their best, both offer a refreshing combination of fruit, savour and tangy finish – not unlike Mario’s impression of the Australian wine.

Freeman says they’re late-ripening varieties, which he harvested in early April (weeks behind other reds) in the benign 2017 vintage.

Fermentation in stainless steel vats captured varietal flavour and 12 months’ maturation in old oak mellowed the naturally savoury tannins.

The resulting wine pulses with vibrant berry flavours, in the clean, fresh Australian style; but there’s a deep, savoury, soy-like element, too, accompanied by the pleasantly tart but soft tannins experienced in the better wines of Bardolino and Valpolicella.

Clearly rondinella and corvina grow successfully in the Hilltops region. And this cleverly made wine, revealing minimal winemaking artifice, allows us to experience their unique flavours and textures at a fair price.

Freeman Rosso 2017, made to enjoy now, is available direct from Freeman Vineyards.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019