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.
Both vintages have been 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 finally have released the first three wines for sale (check out my online store here)!
2016 ‘Blood of My Blood’ Heathcote Sangiovese ($26.99)
I love sangiovese, and there is no shortage of it either from Italy or here in Australia, as 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.
One tonne of grapes grown by Mario Marson (Vinea Marson) was de-stemmed then split into two picking bins where fermentation and maceration occurred. One of the bins was foot-stomped a few times and plunged daily, while the other bin had some CO2 over it and went through a carbonic maceration. Both bins were pressed separately 10 days later – the worked ferment had completed but the carbonic ferment hadn’t – and they were kept separate. The worked bin ended up in a 300L mature barrel whereas the carbonic ferment stayed in a stainless steel tank to complete alcoholic fermentation. Once both components had completed malolactic fermentation they were blended and bottled in the Spring of 2016.
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.
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 ‘Nero’s Fiddle’ Mildura Nero d’Avola ($24.99)
Well into the 2017 vintage I bumped into Tennille Chalmers at a Melbourne Food & Wine Festival event, and she mentioned that they still had some nero d’avola grapes on the vine at their Mildura (Merbein) vineyard. I was intrigued to see if my theory about certain varieties from warm-climate dry-grown vineyards are ideal for light-bodied red wines that are perfect for summer drinking, even with a bit of a chill on it!
The tonne of nero d’avola was de-stemmed and split between two ferments, and as the pH was very high an acid adjustment was made to bring a bit more freshness. Two days into fermentation half was pressed and put into a 300L mature barrel, and the rest was pressed soon after ferment was completed and went into the other 300L barrel. The wine was blended and bottled in September 2017.
Nero (full name Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 54-68 AD). There is a popular legend that during the Great Fire or Rome in 64 AD the Emperor Nero remained behind his palace walls and played his fiddle while Rome burned. Even though it’s highly unlikely to be true (much like Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake”), I like the story and it made sense for this wine.
2017 ’Spanna in the Works’ Pyrenees Nebbiolo (LUC $18.06)
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.