In 2016 I decided to test some of the theories that I had developed about Italian grape varieties in Australia and I purchased my first tonne of grapes; sangiovese from the Heathcote region. My intention was to use some techniques that I hoped would create a wine that was fresh, crunchy, textural but above all, delicious! I was so thrilled and surprised with the results, that I decided to continue in the 2017 vintage, and thus the Vino Intrepido project was born.
The first two vintages were documented on my YouTube channel, and you can see the playlist below. Hopefully it should explain my processes for all the wines thus far, but if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch. I’m excited to say that the 2016 vintage is SOLD OUT! There are wines from 2017 and 2018 available and you can find out about them below! Contact me now on email@example.com!
2017 ‘This Little Piggy’ Riverland Vermentino ($24.99)
I chose vermentino for my first white variety/wine as I feel it is one of the most interesting grapes in Italy and can produce great diversity in style depending on where & how it is grown & made. My particular interest in this variety in Australia is to attempt to produce a fresh vibrant wine that is more textured and saline, a style of vermentino I love particularly from Sardinia.
Two tonnes from Ashley Ratcliff (Ricca Terra Farms) were split in half between a whole-bunch press and a de-stem. The pressed juice was fermented in two mature barriques or stainless steel tank, whereas the de-stemmed tonne was split into two skin-contact ferments, one being pressed after ferment and one an additional ten days on skins. The skin-contact components were placed into barriques, and after each component completed malolactic fermentation they were blended and bottled in September 2017.
The two most important white varieties in the Liguria region of Italy are vermentino and pigato. While these two grapes are somewhat distinct they are in fact the same grape, meaning pigato is a synonym for vermentino. The name of this wine is a play on this synonym, and was co-created by Brad and myself.
2017 ’Spanna in the Works’ Pyrenees Nebbiolo ($33.99)
After a very successful first vintage I looked forward to working with Heathcote sangiovese again in 2017, but unfortunately this fell through and I needed to find something else. It was my great fortune to be put in touch with the incredible Robert John, proprietor of the iconic Malakoff Estate Vineyard, and somehow I ended up with some of their nebbiolo. As Italy’s most lauded but most demanding variety, I hadn’t intended to work with nebbiolo until I had a few vintages under my belt, plus I was still unsure if we had the right region for nebbiolo in Australia yet. I threw myself into the opportunity with some trepidation, and I’m thrilled that I did.
Just under two tonnes got harvested extremely late (end of April), and once they arrived at the winery were immediately de-stemmed without crushing (not that the grapes needed it), before being split into two fermenters. While one ferment was pressed after two weeks on skins, the other was sealed and pressed two months later. The first press went into 2010 barriques, whilst the second went into 2012 barriques. The wine was initially blended in late October then went back to barrel, then it had a final rack before bottling in mid-January.
Like many Italian varieties, nebbiolo has a number of synonyms. In Val d’Aosta it’s often called picutener, and in the Valtellina region of Lombardia it’s called chiavennasca. In northern Piemonte around Novara and Vercelli it is called Spanna. With my sangiovese plans for vintage 2017 scuppered, I thought a name for the eventual product of what I released was Spanna in the Works, as I had to rapidly change what I was doing in the winery. The results I hope will speak for themselves.
2018 ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ Sunbury Pinot Grigio ($28.99)
OK, I know what you’re thinking. “Another Pinot Grigio? Really? How many more do we need? They’re pretty much all the same anyway!” Whilst I don’t completely disagree with such sentiments, there are a few regions in Italy where they not only take this grape seriously, but they make some seriously incredible wines from it. My goal was to make something a bit more than your average pinot grigio white wine, and I hope I’ve achieved that.
About two tonnes got harvested by hand with good ripeness, and once they arrived at the winery were sent straight to the press. The juice was kept cool to help clean it up, then transferred to one of two mature barriques for fermentation, and the majority into a stainless steel tank. Malolactic fermentation was avoided to keep plenty of crunchy freshness, offsetting the richness of the fruit. The wine was blended and bottled at the beginning of August 2018.
In discussion with my fiancée Victoria what I should call the newest addition to the Vino Intrepido range, we discussed the grey part of the variety’s name, and started thinking about grey animals. The wolf was one of the first that came to mind, majestic and yet dangerous, and the term ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ stood out for me, as this pinot grigio is probably not what you’d expect, packing more punch than you might have become accustomed to.
2018 ‘Blood of My Blood’ Heathcote Sangiovese ($30.99)
I love sangiovese, and there is no shortage of it both in Italy and here in Australia; it is one of the most planted Italian varieties in both countries. Sangiovese is quite adaptable to it’s environment, and also quite malleable in the winery, meaning you can get a great number of styles, from rosé to full-bodied and complex reds. My particular preference when it comes to sangiovese is for lighter crunchier styles that show a bit of savoury texture, and I think the Heathcote region is ideal for this style of sangiovese.
For my second attempt at Sangiovese I decided to try to replicate what I liked about my first attempt but find the elements that were missing. Fruit came from the famous Camelback vineyard of Galli Estate in Heathcote, and the 2018 vintage was not unlike the 2016 vintage, very generous and bold. Rather than two separate ferments there was only one, but 30% of the fruit was neither de-stemmed nor crushed and placed at the bottom of the fermenter to generate a carbonic maceration. Wine was pumped over throughout fermentation and held on skins for one month before being pressed and transferred to mature barrique before blending and bottling in late November 2018.
The name ‘Blood of My Blood’ is in part a reference to the meaning of sangiovese (blood of Jove), and a reference to the popular novel and television series Game of Thrones (a Dothraki saying between a Khal and his blood riders). Credit for the name and the concept of the Vino Intrepido labels must go to the designer Brad Lucas, who also owns and operates Cult of the Vine, one of Melbourne’s best wine bar/shops.