Altero, Nero d'avola.
It’s an ironic twist, but as a child I loathed any mention of the Coorong or South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula,but these days start talking Fleurieu or Currency Creek, and like Pavlov’s Dog, my taste buds set my salivary glands into overdrive!
It must have been the English teachers I had for parents, but as a child I had the Colin Thiele classic, Storm Boy, shoved down my proverbial neck as though it contained some highly didactic and enlightening message that would provide a roadmap to world peace and contained the formula for humankind salvation! To them, it was all about the conflict between societal norms requiring young kids to attend school, and the lifestyle of a loner boy living with his father amongst coastal sand dunes. Set in the lagoon ecosystem of the Coorong, the story about Storm Boy, and his three pelicans Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival, was lost on me as a nine-year-old. But fast forward to 2019 and I’m more than a tad interested in the Fleurieu Peninsula on the Western edge of the Coorong National Park.
The Fleurieu region is quite a large one to the south of Adelaide, taking in regions like the McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and furthest to the south, areas like Currency Creek. Being surrounded on three sides by water, the cooling sea breezes make it a climate which is as “Mediterranean” as you’ll find in Australia. Historically, the region has gained a reputation for high quality shiraz, but more recently, innovative viticulturalists are investing in their vineyards an experimenting with new varietals from all over the globe. And for former Chief red winemaker for Penfolds, Mike Farmillo, it was the Spanish and Italian styles that he predicted would fare best in the local climate. Such was his confidence in the locale that he has recently launched a new range under the Altero brand – a collection that includes montepulciano, tempranillo and nero d’avola.
All of the fruit for Mike’s latest venture comes from the vineyards of Vicky and Pat Vasarelli at Currency Creek in the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula. Eschewing the tried and trusted local staples of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, cabernet and shiraz, the Vasarelli paddocks have been farmed to produce fruit that will share the character of the berries from each varietal’s homeland.
Of the three styles I tried, the nero d’avola was my pick. In tune with the Sicilian ideology, the Altero example was bright, youthful and still had enough body to fill the mouth and satisfy the senses. On the nose there were hints of tobacco, gum leaf and cherry while on the palate, flavours of plum, pepper and spice emerged but without the chewiness of a tannic cabernet or the over-ripeness of some warm climate shiraz. The tannins are understated and are careful not to disturb the brightness of the blue and purple berries. There’s a nice balance of acid and fruit and it’s undeniably fresh, lively and crying out to be served with herb encrusted lamb cutlets on a bed of eggplant!
Nero d‘avola may not be a varietal that is overexposed in Queensland restaurants and bottle shops, but keep an eye out for it in Italian restaurants and with a bit of luck, you might even find one like the Altero: from Storm Boy country!
Wine Category: Other Red
Travis Schultz is a wine reviewer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Grape Hunter extend their thanks to the Sunshine Coast Daily for allowing re-publication of his reviews