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 first three 2019 wines are NOW AVAILABLE, but there are also some wines from the 2017 and 2018 vintage still available and you can find out about them below! Contact me now on email@example.com!
2018 ‘This Little Piggy’ Adelaide Hills Vermentino ($27.99) – NOW AVAILABLE!!
I chose vermentino for my first white variety/wine in 2017 as I feel it is one of the most interesting grapes in Italy and can produce great diversity in style depending on where and how it is grown and made. My 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 from Sardinia.
For the second vintage of vermentino I was able to get some fruit from the Amadio vineyard in Kersbrook. Fruit was harvested earlier, and the winemaking was like the 2017 iteration. Half of the fruit was de-stemmed and spent 25 days on skins, while the other half was pressed with one barrel fermented and the rest in stainless-steel. One of the main differences this year was the wine was stopped going through full malolactic fermentation to preserve more of the fresher characters. The wine spent longer on lees and was bottled later, this time in January of the following year.
The two most important white varieties in the Liguria region are vermentino and pigato. While they 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 and was co-created by label designer Brad Lucas and me.
2019 ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ Mornington Peninsula Pinot Grigio ($27.99)
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.
For my second vintage with the variety, about three tonnes of ripe fruit was harvested early in the morning in Merricks, and once it arrived at the winery it was immediately pressed. The juice was kept cool to help separate the solids, and while some juice was transferred to two mature barriques the majority went to a stainless-steel tank for fermentation. Malolactic fermentation was halted to keep plenty of crunchy freshness, offsetting the richness of the fruit. The wine was blended and bottled at the beginning of August 2019.
In discussion with my wife Victoria about what I should call this 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 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.
2019 ‘Straight Jakot’ Mornington Peninsula Friulano ($30.99) – NEW WINE!!
Friulano is a marginal variety in Australia and in Italy, where it’s pretty much only found in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. One of the first regions where the variety was planted in Australia was the Mornington Peninsula, thanks to the pioneering work of Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy. It was in fact Kathleen who introduced me to her good friend Joe Vaughan, one of the few growers of Italian varieties in the region. I was excited to test out a theory that I had that Friulano could work as both an aromatic and a textural wine.
Just over a tonne was harvested early in the morning at the end of vintage 2019. After bringing the fruit back to the winery we put it in the cool-room for two days of cold-soaking to lend a bit of texture whilst preserving the aromatics. After pressing and settling, roughly 60% was transferred to mature barriques and the rest to stainless steel for spontaneous fermentation, followed by élevage on lees for four months until blending and bottling without fining or filtration.
The unique Rutherglen fortified wine Tokay wasn’t the only victim of Hungary joining the European Union and receiving protection of its wine region Tokaji. Previously in the Friuli region Friulano was known as Tocai, and across the border in Slovenia it was known as Tokaj. On the Italian side of the border they officially changed the name to Friulano, but some producers – particularly on the Slovenian side – started referring to the grape as Jakot, merely a reversal of the former name. This is where I got the name Straight Jakot from, as it is also 100% Friulano.
2019 ‘The Sharpest Thorn’ Heathcote Sangiovese Rosé ($27.99) – NEW WINE!!
Leading up to the 2018 vintage my intention was to make a blush wine from pinot grigio with some skin contact, but at the eleventh hour I decided to make a white wine instead. As I repeated this in 2019 you should get an indication as to how well the first was received, so I went back to the drawing board for rosé. With much encouragement (insistence) from my Mum and younger sister, I decided to make my first rosé from sangiovese, as my favourite examples from Italy and Australia come from this. Heathcote is the only region I consider buying sangiovese from. The reason I love sangiovese as a rosé variety is that you can get a lovely pale slightly bronze colour, plenty of fresh red fruits but also a dry somewhat savoury expression.
I wanted to pick the fruit early to preserve acidity and freshness. The maceration was literally the time it took me to drive the fruit back from the vineyard to the winery, return the rental truck, and come back to send the grapes to press, all up about 4.5 hours. After juice settling, two mature red barriques were filled and the rest to stainless steel for fermentation. The wine was blended then bottled in August.
There is a saying that goes something like, “the most beautiful rose can have the sharpest thorn”. Much like the name for my pinot grigio, the image I was attempting to convey was that though this is a lovely pretty and bright rosé it is dry and has a bit of bite to it. It also means that no matter how perfect something may seem there is always another side to it.
2019 ‘Sting Like a Bee’ Mornington Peninsula Fiano ($34.99)
The Campania region in Italy’s south-west is one of the rare regions where white and red wines are almost equal. There are several white varieties that produce outstanding quality, particularly fiano. This is now one of the most planted Italian varieties in Australia in many regions. I was thrilled to discover that there was fiano planted in the cool-climate maritime region of the Mornington Peninsula, grown by Joe Vaughan in Tuerong. What an opportunity to be relished!
Fruit was machine harvested on a cold morning, then sent straight to press. Four mature barriques were filled for barrel fermentation, the balance going to stainless steel, all being fermented spontaneously. The tank wine went to barrel after fermentation, and all the wine went through full malolactic fermentation. The wine was on lees until mid-November when it was racked and blended before bottling in late January 2020.
There was a wine produced near Avellino back in ancient Roman times that was called Apianum that some have hypothesized was made from fiano. Apiana is latin for bees, and in this region it’s not uncommon to see bees attracted to the ripe fiano berries. This is where the name for this wine comes from, but with its high acidity and almost honeyed texture, it has a bit of sting to it.
2019 ‘Spanna in the Works’ Pyrenees Nebbiolo ($34.99)
In 2017 it was my great fortune to be put in touch with Robert John, proprietor of Malakoff Estate Vineyard, and 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, thus I threw myself into the opportunity with some trepidation, and I’m thrilled that I did.
This was the second time that I worked with this fruit so I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do. Fruit was hand-harvested and once it arrived was completely de-stemmed. Fermentation started almost immediately with daily pump-overs to keep the cap moist. Once alcoholic fermentation was complete the tank was sealed for a total eight weeks on skins, then pressed and transferred to mature barriques. An initial rack and return were performed in September, before the wine was then racked again to tank for bottling in mid-January 2020.
Like many Italian varieties, nebbiolo has several synonyms. 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. Purely by coincidence the style of the wine was more like Alto Piemonte than a wine from the Langhe.
2019 ‘Blood of My Blood’ Heathcote Sangiovese ($34.99)
I love sangiovese, and it is one of the most planted Italian varieties in both Italy and Australia. Sangiovese is quite adaptable to its environment, and quite malleable in the winery, meaning you can get a great number of styles. My preference is for bold yet crunchy wines with some savoury texture, and I think Heathcote is ideal for this style of sangiovese.
My third time with this variety fruit came from Whistling Eagle vineyard north of Cobinabbin on the pre-Cambrian soils. Fruit was hand-harvested and all but 20% was de-stemmed and placed into a stainless-steel fermenter with the whole-bunches at the bottom. After alcoholic fermentation the tank was sealed, with skin-contact for a total of one month. After pressing the wine went into mature barriques, with an initial rack and return performed in Spring, then bottled in January 2020.
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.