Weird and wonderful whites
This variety is one of the most interesting native Greek grapes. I enjoyed several glasses with a meal of fish and vegetables. There was also a very good Santorini assyrtiko from a reliable producer, Argyros (tasting), but these wines are more of an acquired taste for Australians used to drinking whites with plenty of fruit.
Also impressive was a Douloufakis dry white from Crete, sub-branded Dafnios and made from the vidiano grape (tasting). This was a deeper coloured, fuller-bodied, powerful wine with prodigious palate length.
All three wines were imported by Douglas Lamb Wines, which has become a Greek wine specialist in recent times.
I was also impressed by three Australian grüner veltliners, from Lark Hill (tasting), Hahndorf Hill (tasting) and Pike & Joyce (tasting). The first two mentioned have been pioneers of this Austrian grape in Australia, while the Pike & Joyce is I believe their first. And a promising start.
Grüner is certainly proving a suitable variety in this country, especially in the Adelaide Hills. As a footnote, there was also a very good, inexpensive Austrian example, Fred Loimer ‘Lois’ 2014 (tasting), from the Niederosterreich region, imported by Red + White. Lovely.
Other oddball whites that excited me were Tarrawarra Estate’s 2014 Roussanne Marsanne Viognier (tasting), a beautifully textured wine with savoury almond and smoky, leesy, nutty complexities. And Levantine Hill’s Mélange Traditionnel Blanc 2014 (tasting), which interestingly doesn’t disclose the grape varieties anywhere on the bottle. Inquiries with winemaker Paul Bridgeman (ex-De Bortoli and ex-Yarra Yering) revealed it’s a blend of sauvignon blanc (76%), semillon (21.5%) and viognier (2.5%), but you’d be hard pressed to pick the varieties.
Obviously, there’s a strategy. The wine is priced at $85, and while I have for some months now been scratching my head at the pricing policies of this and some other new start-ups in the Yarra Valley, I can’t fault the quality. If the wine was labeled sauvignon blanc, semillon, viognier, there might be a serious limit to the price they could charge. But, if drinkers focus on the wine and not the grapes, shutting out any preconceived ideas about how such a blend should taste, they will be pleasantly surprised.
Barrel fermentation (by a mixture of wild and selected neutral yeasts) and maturation in a combination of large and small barrels, 20% of which were new, and lees-aging have added layers of flavour and texture to the wine. It is truly an excellent dry white wine. As for the price, it’s a matter of how deep are your pockets.