2010 Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling

There are a number of white wines in Australia that are real crowd-pleasers and this unique blend of 67% Crouchen and 33% Riesling from Brown Brothers, is one of them. We all know that Riesling is one of the world's classic white grape varieties but I will concentrate upon the Crouchen component of this blend primarily as it falls under the mantle of rare grape varietal status.

Crouchen or Crouchen Blanc originated in the Pyrenees wine region of south-west France and by all accounts it appears that this obscure white grape variety has disappeared from production there although it does come up as a variety that can be used in the wines of Bearn. South Africa - where it is called Cape Riesling but is not related to the actual Riesling varietal -  and Australia are the only two countries in the world commercially producing the variety.

A fascinating story and identity crisis of sorts emerged in Australia that lasted more than a century before the Crouchen variety was identified in the mid-1970's. Prior to this revelation, the grape it appears arrived in the 1850's from South Africa as Riesling making its way to the Clare Valley. There, it became known as Clare Riesling. It also found its way to the Barossa Valley and Riverland regions where it was called Semillon, which Australians at the time believed to be the Riesling variety! Sanity or something like that prevailed, and the name Clare Riesling stuck around until the eventual identification. Given all these machinations, another intriguing tale narrates that James Busby introduced Sales Blanc or Sable Blanc in the 1830's, both synonyms for Crouchen and a variety used in the Vin de Sable wines of the Landes department in south-west France, adding more complexity to the early history of this rare grape. 

Crouchen is rarely made as a varietal wine possibly because of its neutral flavours yet it does do well in blends. This 2010 blend has a pale straw colour with a greenish tinge to it. Enticing aromas of ripe pear, honeydew melon and citrus are graceful on the nose. The lively palate is not sweet but packed with rich fruity and spicy flavours that are balanced by the Riesling's acidity leading to a crisp yet smooth and generous finish. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this wine, having preconceptions that it would be too sweet for my liking. There is residual sugar but it is well integrated. Serve chilled and drink while young with Asian spiced foods. Widely available from local watering holes to cruise ships on the high seas, believe it or not !        

Brown Brothers has a market stranglehold on the grape and has produced the Crouchen Riesling blend since the early1970's and a further two wines of late using the it in other blends: the Crouchen Sauvignon Blanc and the Crouchen Riesling Rose, where a small percentage of Cienna is used.  

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 10.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 89+ Points. 
Website: http://www.brownbrothers.com.au/

2009 Campbells Wines Trebbiano

I can't say if I've tried much varietal Trebbiano in the past. Those that were consumed usually came blended with Chardonnay or Colombard and in four litre cardboard handbags from some winery like Woop Woop Estate. The mere thought of these wines gives me a headache as if I'm suffering some kind of retrospective hangover. But I guess they had their import in the greater scheme of things as far as industry objectives and consumer demand were concerned at the time and possibly still do if you take a look into some retail outlets today. 

Trebbiano or 'White Hermitage' as it was known, has been in Australia since James Busby introduced it in the 1830's. Most plantings are found in New South Wales and South Australia with few these days offered as varietal wines. Campbells, one of Australia's first families of wine now 140 years young, grew the grape originally for sherry production at its Rutherglen Winery in north east Victoria. The slow decline in public consumption of fortified wines towards the latter half of the 1960's meant that in order to meet the increasing popularity of table wines, Campbells reinvented their two white varieties one of which was Trebbiano, into varietal wines. The multiple award winning Glenburn Trebbiano was their first release and a trail blazer for this varietal in Australia. 

Trebbiano is a variety indigenous throughout Italy enjoying the title as its most widely- planted white grape variety and is included in over 80 DOC's. The whites from the Orvieto region of Umbria are probably the most renown of Trebbiano-based blends using a local clone Procanico in the mix. A fun fact. The Trebbiano grape is also used in the production of balsamic vinegar. 
Furthermore, Trebbiano holds second position as most planted vine in the world in terms of acreage, behind the Spanish white grape Airen! The what? It appears however that in recent years the crown Airen wore as the world's most planted grape has slipped, that distinction now held by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Airen still holds the mantle as world's most widely-planted white grape variety.    
Under the name Ugni Blanc in France, the Trebbiano vine holds most widely-planted white grape status and appears to have had more success there than anywhere else. It grows extensively along the Provencal coast, the Gironde and Charente regions where it is mainly used as table wine. In the Cognac and Armagnac regions where it is known as St. Emilion, Trebbiano is used in providing wine for distilling into brandy.

Despite the records and importance in various regions, Trebbiano cannot escape the fact that it produces varietal wines of bland uniformity, better known for high quantity yields rather than for quality vintages. In the glass the 2009 Campbells vintage is a clear mid-yellow in colour. Aromas of honey suckle and dried grass are quite restrained with the palate clean, zesty.and to a degree, mouth-puckering. A light-bodied white whose green peach, lime fruit and herbal nuances are overwhelmed by the tart acidity and alcohol. There's an unpleasant razor's edge feel through to the finish. It's a wine, not unlike Muscadet that screams out for fresh shell fish but without food, I unfortunately cannot call this more than a quaffer. 

Trebbiano's reputation precedes it and it is difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Campbells Wines has probably made a wine as best as it could given the grape's blandness and for that it should be commended.

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 85 Points.  
Website: http://www.campbellswines.com.au/