The Drop with Olivia Evans – Mediterranean summer in an Australian glass
Wine is a unique way to travel, particularly when you can’t. Grape varieties continue to be cultivated on Australian land, with rising interest in alternative strands that differ from the likes of your everyday pinot grigio. It makes for marvellous diversity and creative breadth for wine producers. For those of us who long to travel to regions out of reach, we can dream in our glass with produce that is both exotic and our own.
Vast, dry plains of sandy soils might look reminiscent of the Spanish countryside, but are actually those of McLaren Vale in South Australia, where grenache and tempranillo are lifted and fresh. The Margaret River on Western Australia’s coast has long, warm growing seasons. Ocean breezes deposit cool air over its vineyards, allowing grapes to retain natural acidity and therefore an overall freshness in the final wine. These subtleties make one feel like the Mediterranean is in a glass, just at the end of your slightly sunburnt nose.
It can take up to 11 years for a cutting from Europe to clear through quarantine before it is then propagated, planted, grown and made into an Australian wine. Thankfully it has already been decades that winemakers, grape growers and organisations such as the CSIRO have had this common drive of curiosity and patience for varieties that now thrive in their new surrounds.
If ever there were a variety that felt like licking the salt off your skin after a day on the beach, greco – an Italian variety hailing from the region of Campania – is it. Like all provincial food, the wines are made to match and nothing cuts through creamy mozzarella like a bright, mineral greco. Its fresh, electric acidity makes it great with food dowsed in salt and olive oil.
Vermentino is native to the island of Sardinia, the second largest Island in the Mediterranean Sea that produces bright whites full of citrus and sunshine. Sauvignon blanc lovers, prepare to swoon. This wine says peach, pink grapefruit and pithy lemon. I’m busy making sardines on toast – so have a glass ready for me when I’m done.
Like an unoaked chardonnay or slice of honeydew melon after lunch, fiano is full of pleasure and refreshment at the same time. It hails from the island of Sicily, which tells stories of the oldest wine remnants in the world. Fiano is a friend to our drought-ridden landscape as it requires almost zero irrigation, making it reign supreme for the future of thoughtful farming.
Nero d’Avola is like the buoyant table seated next to you at the Sicilian restaurant who ask your table to join theirs. You weren’t expecting to feel like red, but summer nights still need satisfying and the concentration of Nero d’Avola will do so. It’s a vibrant berry bomb that loves the heat and going to sleep at 3:00 am.
We may not have the same nuances of Mediterranean summers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Australian sun is a little brighter and a little higher, and brings relief to hot days by setting a little sooner. Our fish is fresh and our barbecues are hot. We even make great olive oil too. We have the fruits that Europe has shared with us and some bloody fantastic wine. Happy sipping.
Greco: 2020 Chalmers – Heathcote, Victoria or 2020 Tim Wards Skin Contact – Heathcote, Victoria
Vermentino: Somos Wines – McLaren Vale, South Australia or 2020 LS Merchants – Margaret River, Western Australia (pictured)
Fiano: 2020 Bondar Wines – McLaren Vale, South Australia or 2019 Charlotte Dalton – Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Nero d’Avola: 2019 Brash Higgins – McLaren Vale, South Australia or 2019 Unico Zelo – Adelaide Hills, South Australia (pictured)
Our knowledgable wine friend Olivia Evans is a certified sommelier, currently responsible for curating the wine list at Brunswick Heads institution Fleet Restaurant, as well as a budding wine writer and documentarian. Look out for new editions of The Drop on the last Thursday of each month.
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