A great black grape variety ..... Nebbiolo

Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine and acclaimed wine writer describes Nebbiolo as a “great black grape variety responsible for some of the finest and longest-lived wines in Italy.” Nebbiolo is native to the Piedmont region of North West Italy, where it makes the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Ghemme. Nebbiolo is also now grown in the New World including Australia and Californian wine regions. Nebbiolo is a sensitive variety on the vine and requires sufficient warmth to develop the sugars and fruit flavors needed to balance the grape's naturally high acidity and tannins. Nebbiolo is one of the first varieties to bud and one of the last varieties to ripen with harvest taking place late in the vintage schedule. Rains that occur during ripening can have a detrimental effect on quality so the best Nebbiolo tends to come from vintages that had dry weather in the weeks before harvest. Malolactic (secondary) fermentation is encouraged in Nebbiolo to soften some of the variety's harsh acidity. The wine usually spends a couple years in oak to soften the tannic grip of the wines however oak use must be well judged to ensure the vanilla notes of new oak do not obscure the flavour and aromas subtleties of Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo wines can require years of aging to balance the tannins with other characteristics.

Nebbiolo is characterised by a distinctive autumnal colour in the glass, taking on a brick-orange hue at the rim of the glass as it ages. Primary aromas include black cherries, plums, raspberries, violets, rose petals and herbs. Secondary aromas give this wine its distinctiveness with scents of tar, truffles, licorice, prunes, bitter chocolate, coffee, tobacco and spice.

Wines made from Nebbiolo are characterised by ample acidity and tannin in their youth, with an ability to sustain years of bottle age where they age into wines with soft online casinos rich tannins. In fact some vintages require significant cellaring before they are ready for consumption. As Nebbiolo ages, the bouquet becomes more complex and appealing with aromas of tar and roses being the two most common notes.

Nebbiolo is truly a food wine, and any dishes that mirror the complexity and depth of the wine will be a suitable accompaniment. Italian dishes are an obvious choice but any food you could serve with mushrooms will marry well with Nebbiolo. Suggested other food matches are slow cooked winter casseroles and game, meat with red wine sauce, osso buco, pasta and sausage, risotto, spicy Italian meats and aged parmesan.

Experience a Central Victorian Nebbiolo – the Tallis Nebbiolo 2008, a Signature Nebbiolo with its muted brick red colour. An attractive perfume of rose petals and spicy red fruits follow into a powerful savoury palate which belies the wines’ appearance. Orange peel, anise and floral characters are given complexity with a tarry, earthy palate. Nebbiolo is characterised by its distinctive acidity and firm tannins, and as the wine ages these characters soften to create a more generous mouthfeel. Your patience in allowing this Nebbiolo to age will be rewarded with greater complexity and smoother mouthfeel.

Vee-on-yay or vee-on-yer ... whatever takes your fancy

Viognier is still a relatively new kid on the block with many people still grappling with how to pronounce it. Just to complicate the issue further, there are two accepted pronunciations. You can try "vee - on - yay" but if that isn't working for you, try "vee-on-yer" and you will more than likely get what you ask for in the bar or bottle shop. We will look at other wine variety pronunciations some other time, but for now lets focus on this complex and seductive white. Exotic ... sensual ... voluptuous ... are just a few of the words used to describe viognier. With such a reputation it's hard to believe this grape variety was nearing extinction as recently as 1986, with just 20 hectares of the grape planted in Condrieu, its place of origin in the Northern Rhone of France. Fortunately for wine enthusiasts, the increase in popularity of Rhone Valley wines during the 1990s brought this variety back into the spotlight again.

While Viognier is the only grape variety permitted to be grown in the Northern Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Château-Grillet, plantings of the variety are increasing in other appellations such as the Côte-Rôtie. Viognier is also now grown in the Southern Rhone Valley, other appellations of France, and several of the new world wine regions including Australia. Unlike its outgoing personality as a finished wine, the viognier grape can be quite shy in the vineyard. Difficult to grow, and low yielding the most challenging quality of viognier is the tiny window of opportunity the variety offers to be picked at optimum maturity. Top quality viognier relies on the skills and experience of the winemaker to ensure maximum flavour development is not achieved at the expense of excessive sugar or diminished acidity.

While viognier is still considered a relatively new variety in Australia, its popularity is on the rise. As a table wine, viognier presents as a rich, luscious, textural wine with an array of flavour and aroma compounds including stone fruits, particularly apricot, honeysuckle, orange blossom, grapefruit, muskiness, fruit pastille, spicy and exotic characters. Viognier is sometimes described as oily so acidity is essential to balance the medium to full bodied palate weight. Full or partial barrel fermentation, malo-lactic fermentation and barrel lees stirring are just some of the winemaking techniques used.

In Australia, viognier is increasingly blended with shiraz as the marriage of these varieties enhances the qualities of shiraz. This blend originated in Côte-Rôtie in the Northern Rhone Valleywhere shiraz and a small parcel of viognier are co-fermented. In Côte-Rôtie the percentage of viognier may be as high as 20% but in Australia it is usually between 3 and 7%. The inclusion of viognier in the blend adds vibrancy to the colour of the shiraz, adds floral notes to the aroma and creates a silky textural quality to the wine. Such is the enhancement that viognier offers to the shiraz that this particular blend is currently one of the most popular in Australia.

On a much smaller scale, viognier has been used to produce a sparkling wine with quite incredible results. Tallis Wine may in fact be the first Australian winery to produce and release such a wine. In our trials with viognier as a sparkling base we discovered that less than 12 months on bottle lees produced a wine retaining many of the varietal aromas and flavours of typical of viognier however additional time led to yeasty toasty characters dominating, with undertones of stone fruit and spice. With a preference for the complexity given by additional time on lees we have chosen to use the traditional method of sparkling wine production for our viognier. Our current release Traditional Method Sparkling Viognier 2007 displays these very characters.

To read more about this exciting variety visit www.vin-condrieu.fr