Durif is a fringe red grape that offers consistency – at least from where I sit. Perhaps this is because, although there’s very little durif planted, most is grown in a handful of regions to which it’s well suited. And most winemakers who work with it have plenty of experience.
Those regions are, first and foremost Rutherglen and North East Victoria, and secondly the Riverina. That said, the two highest-rated durifs in my recent ‘alternative red varieties’ tasting were from the Riverland and One Tree Hill, which is near Gawler, between Adelaide and the Barossa. This is the 2015 from Tenafeate Creek, whose wines have regularly impressed me over recent years. The wine weighs in at 16% alcohol, and yet doesn’t taste unbalanced. Durif makers proudly admit to high alcohols on their labels, and my thoughts turn immediately to Andrew Sutherland-Smith of Warrabilla (tastings), Rutherglen, a staunch defender of big, high-alcohol reds.
The other top-scorer was 919 Wines 2014, from the Riverland town of Glossop. It tips the scales at a mere 15.5% alcohol. (Winemaker Eric Semmler also makes superb fortifieds, and I’m currently loving his 919 Wines Pale Dry Apera, a style we used to call fino sherry.)
Durif is almost always very dark coloured, almost opaque, with very concentrated flavour and masses of tannin. Black plum, blackberry, fruitcake, licorice, pepper, spice, dark chocolate and leather are among its flavours.
The surprise package of the durif line-up was a 2015 from the Riverina Winemakers’ Association, created to mark the centenary of Griffith. A really delicious wine, this wears the ridiculous price of $20. It was blended from a barrel of wine from each of seven Riverina wineries: Berton, Calabria, Casella, De Bortoli, McWilliams, Nugan Estate and Warburn Estate. The wine is being sold direct from the cellar doors of each of the seven wineries. It’s a steal.