In David Bray's 47 years in daily journalism, he was wine writer for The Courier-Mail 1967-1999 and restaurant critic 1977-99. At the 2003 RNA wine show he was awarded the Wine Press Club trophy for most significant contribution by an individual to the wine industry in Queensland. He was founding president and is a life member of the Queensland Wine Press Club, and in his distinguished career in the fourth estate was a foreign correspondent, enjoyed a long stint in production and spent "some pretty nice years as travel and arts editor".
One of the really good things about the Australian wine industry is that it has both the willingness to use grape varieties from pretty much all around the world, and the ability to make good use of these exotic imports.
We have not just the technical skills, of which our grape growers and winemakers have an abundance, both practical and academic, a vast continent providing an enormous range of climate and soil combinations, and more than a sprinkling of comparatively recent arrivals of European origin bringing with them wonderful traditions and skills.
So we find on our bottleshop shelves, on restaurant wine lists and in bars and cellar doors, wines we had not even heard about a few years ago. Some of them may not be there in a couple of years but others will win a long-lasting perhaps even permanent, place in our affections.
Like Prosecco. For Prosecco, go to the King Valley in Victoria’s High Country. It has neat little online story which goes in part like this: “The vineyards, perched on the fertile slopes that rise above the King River, are home to great wines and their makers. First, second and third generation Italian migrant families continue a tradition, today treating the Australian palate with their Mediterranean-inspired wines. Pinot grigio, arneis, verduzzo, sangiovese, tempranillo and barbera formed their first wave.
“Then in 2000, inspired by a childhood growing up in the town of Valdobbiadene, the birthplace of Prosecco, Otto Dal Zotto planted the first Prosecco vines in the King Valley. Its fresh, crisp, palate proved instantly popular with those seeking a relaxed yet stylish, celebratory drink.
Since that first planting, five other King Valley winemakers have followed suit – Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Ciccone, Pizzini and Sam Miranda. “In 2011, all six joined forces to create an exciting new food and wine trail especially for lovers of the sparkling Italian white. Intimate tastings with the makers, savouring rustic Italian cuisine and conversations about the meaning of life over a game of bocce, are all stops along King Valley Prosecco Road.”
Well, that’s their story. Here comes another, from Terra Felix, which operates in the Upper Goulburn region, and produces Terra Felix Prosecco NV, sourcing the grapes from Gentle Annie vineyard, Dookie. Head winemaker at Terra Felix is Terry Barnett, who had previously been in the same position at Brown Brothers, major producers of Prosecco (among many other excellent wines).
Here’s this winery’s “ramblings” about the grape: “For many years Australians have associated sparkling wine styles with Champagne and its imitators. There has been some recognition of Spumante but as a frivolous, low-quality, low-cost beverage. Recently Moscato has become popular for its crisp fruity flavour and modest alcohol levels”. (That’s around 11.5 per cent, a bit below most wines, but a bit above some others)
“Now Prosecco has joined the party. Grown and produced in Italy for centuries, this unique variety is now being grown in Australia and several other countries. This popularity has worried the Italians so much that they have somehow managed to change the official variety name in Italy from Prosecco to Glera and have reserved the Prosecco name for the now-protected region. Fortunately this change has no effect in Australia where Prosecco is legally recognised as the official name of the grape.”
They make Prosecco into wine by fermenting the juice to dryness then running a secondary fermentation in tank under pressure to produce the fizz. So it’s not fermented in the bottle and won’t generally improve with cellaring. In other words, drink it now, by itself or in various mixed drinks, including the Bellini cocktail. The winery’s tasting notes record lifted aromas of pear, lemon zest and tropical fruits ...enhanced by the sparkle of carbon dioxide ... exuberance an easy drinkability… enjoy on its own as an aperitif or with a range of summer foods including seafood platters, salads and fruit. Likely price around $20.
Next time, another interesting comparative newcomer, Savagnin.