2010 Brown Brothers Cienna

The second wine in this celebration of Australia Day is Cienna, a variety also bred by the boffins at the CSIRO Division of Horticultural Research at Merbein. Cienna was initially pollinated back in the early 1970's before being officially launched in 2000. 
Its name comes from a derivation of the Sienna colour and is the product of a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and the rare red Spanish grape Sumoll. This is also a unique New World grape variety that has been pioneered by Brown Brothers with Australian climatic conditions in mind.

The Sumoll grape is native to the Catalonia region of Spain and is a rustic variety known for its resistance to drought. However, its popularity has waned there in recent times owing to poor quality, low yield crops and changing denomination regulations. 
Sumoll's ability to thrive in some of Australia's hot, dry growing conditions was a major contributing factor in the development of the Cienna variety. 
And it hasn't just been one of the parents of the Cienna grape variety but also the other unique Australian grapes, Rubienne and TyrianIt would appear that Spain's loss has become our gain !

Brown Brothers has championed Cienna for a decade and its position in their portfolio of chilled red wine styles is important in meeting consumer demand for these products.Indeed, in recent vintages it has been used as a blending partner in a Rose and in the Moscato.With its Rose wines, a Dolcetto & Syrah blend, a Moscato Rosa and the Tarrango, Cienna completes an impressive spectrum of light-bodied red wines from which to choose.

The 2010 vintage is stunning to the eye with its deep purple colour. Imagine cutting a beetroot in half after it has been cooked.

From the outset, Cienna needs to be slightly chilled to maximise enjoyment, particularly because of the frizzante component that offers a nice refreshing tingle to the palate. Delicious upfront flavours of sweet cherry, ripe blackberry and blueberry with that little hit of spice linger well after the bubbles disappear. 

A light bodied wine despite the fruit intensity with little if no tannin to speak of and an alcohol level not much more than a full strength beer. Nicely balanced, juicy, smooth and utterly refreshing, the Cienna can start a dinner, go the full distance with a wide array of cuisine types or even finish the evening as a palate cleanser. A hidden gem.   

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 6.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 90 Points.

2008 Brown Brothers Tarrango

As we move closer to Australia Day, what better way to acknowledge our national day than to focus upon a couple of unique Australian grape varieties. 
The first is Tarrango, bred by the white coat brigade at Victoria's CSIRO Merbein laboratory in the mid-1960's, the grape named after the small town of Tarrango in north-west Victoria. 
A cross between the red Portuguese variety Touriga and that humble white all-rounder the Sultana grape, Perhaps Australia's answer to Beaujolais, it was designed specifically as a light, fruity red wine to be drunk in countries that experience hot summer months. 

To be originally grown in that region of Victoria where summer temperatures can be brutally hot, Tarrango vines have high, late ripening yields, fresh acidity, soft grapey flavours and low tannins. Brown Brothers has been producing wines from this grape since 1980 and document the use in recent years of the carbonic maceration technique by which a certain amount of the fruit is allowed to ferment whole as it is done in Beaujolais, to add both complexity and flavour to the final product.

A light cherry red colour in the glass, similar to a cross between a Pinot Noir and a Rose. 
A dry and light-bodied wine that is characterised by lifted aromas of fresh red currants, raspberries, cherries with a nice spicy nuance on the palate. There is a lovely juiciness that abounds throughout with low tannins and acid balance that add to the mouthfeel. 
Tarrango needs to be served slightly chilled and enjoyed while young, not that this vintage sent me into retroperistalsis! The wine's versatility would match a wide variety of cuisines, even the heat of Indian curries shouldn't be an issue. 
Not an overly complex wine but refreshing and delicious to drink. Get on board if you haven't yet tried it. Keep one or two in the fridge over the warmer months.

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 13.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 89 Points. Website: http://www.brownbrothers.com.au/

2008 Quealy Senza None Tocai Friulano

If the European Union had acted with such determination to settle the current debt crisis as it did over a decade ago with Hungarian objections banning the use of the name Tocai on Italian wine labels, then Europe and the world could be in a far healthier economic position. Hungary started the imbroglio claiming that there was the danger of confusion with their trademark Tokaji or Tokay dessert wine. Maybe there was some unfinished business from the old Empire days that the Hungarians needed to right, who knows? The European Union's decision gave Hungary the right to the name Tokaji or Tocai or Tokay, the law being enacted since the 2007 vintage.

It wasn't just the good Friulano growing folk from Italy's north east who copped this ban, but also their Alsace winemaking comrades producing Tokay d'Alsace or Tokay Pinot Gris as it became, who faced the same restriction. And as if to underline that we live in a global economy, Australian producers also using the name Tokay for their fortified dessert wines, have had to think creatively about what to rename their luscious bounty. So, if you've never heard of theTopaque, this is its new metamorphosis. Since 2007, Australia agreed to cease using certain terms such as Tokay amongst others in line with trade regulations and settled on the synonym Topaque, supposedly derived from the precious gemstone Topaz.

That's enough of the political and commercial discourse for now, there is a grape to describe and a wine to review. Friulano is an important white grape variety indigenous to Italy's north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia where it has grown extensively for many centuries. Also known as Sauvigon Vert or Sauvignonasse in neighbouring Slovenia, Friulano has been used in blendings to create the super-whites of that region in Italy. Confusion reigns supreme as to the origins and identity of the grape. Was it an Hungarian import or did it make the journey the other way from local origins? Just to muddy the waters even more, Friulano bears no connection with the French varieties Sauvignon Blanc or Savignin, as its other nomenclatures may allude to.

The nickname Senza Nome, meaning 'without name' or 'nameless' in Italian was given to this 2008 Friulano by its winemaker Kathleen Quealy and appears to be a sarcastic barb directed towards the implications of the aforementioned European decision. Quealy pioneered Pinot Gris to the Australian wine drinking public while she was at the helm of her T'Gallant Winery on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula and deservedly won acclaim for this feat. She hoped to create her own super-white version and was inspired by the grapes grown in the Friulian provinces moderated by the Adriatic Sea climate, which she considered similar to that on the Mornington Peninsula.

Quealy grows a few hectares of Friulano at her Balnarring Vineyard having originally sourced cuttings from a twenty year old vineyard block in Mildura. It is still a rare grape on the Australian scene and Quealy can rightly be referred to as the pioneer of this varietal too. In the glass theSenza Nome is pale yellow straw in colour. Reserved initially, the nose opens up to reveal captivating and fragrant aromas of wildflowers, pear and spicy green apple. Floral, without being overpowering. There wasn't much length to speak of but the texture and mouthfeel more than make up for this. That's the key. A dry, crunchy palate of fruits, herbs and nuts was well balanced, it's as though you are eating a salad of cucumber, dill, fennel and almonds sprinkled lightly with citric acid. Very European! Light to medium bodied, this is an easily enjoyable wine. With sushi, sashimi or indeed any other Japanese dish, Friulano is an ideal match. A great find. 

Source: Winery Purchase. Alcohol: 11.3%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 92 Points.