2011 Massena Barossa Valley Barbera

Australian versions of Barbera prefer the cooler climes of Victoria's King Valley and Mudgee in New South Wales where its richness and complexity can excel. It has newcomer status in the warmer Barossa Valley where presumably the grape's ability to retain high natural acids as it ripens, augurs well for its development there. 

This is an impressive example from Massena, a winery with an interesting range of alternative varietal wines and one named in Robert Parker's top 20 value plays in Australia. 

Crimson red with a purple tinged colour. A funky apricot and red cherry nose with some anise and pepper action too. Mid-weight fruit flavours of savoury cherry and sour plum on the palate. Brambly, savoury and smooth. Finely balanced acid and grippy tannins give the wine a lovely length and focus. Edgy and distinctive. One to watch.

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $22.00. Rating: 90 PointsWebsite: http://massena.com.au/about/

2010 Aja White Blend

Aja (pronounced Asia) was developed specifically by long time business partners Mark Silcocks and David Mulham to complement the wide range of flavours found in Asian cuisines. A daunting undertaking if there ever was one. This wine made at Tempus Two in the Hunter Valley is a unique blend of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho and the obscure variety Aranel. Although no information is printed on the labels, I am informed that the blend contains 25% Aranel, one of the reasons for focusing on this intriguing white grape.

Grown in France's Languedoc-Roussillon and with small plantings in south-east Australia's Riverina/Murray Darling regions, Aranel is a hybrid grape, breed in 1961 at the University of Montpellier, the offspring of the rare Grenache Gris and the now virtually extinct Saint-Pierre Dore variety. It seems according to the literature available on Aranel that there is a direct relationship to that casanova of a grape variety Gouais Blanc, a progenitor to so many other varieties. 

Searching for information about Aranel is limited even on French language websites who seem to frustratingly repeat the same stuff. Beelgara Estate (Riverina) and Tempus Two were the only two wineries here who used to produce varietal wines made from Aranel but it appears that growers now need to pay a licence fee in order to grow it under Plant Variety Rights. The grape is said to have good levels of acid and sugar with fresh and attractive blossom, white-fleshed fruit and citrus aromatics. 

The wine is pale yellow to light green in the glass. Aromas of grass, fresh white flowers and talc flood the nose. It's as though you are laying in a wet grassy field under blossoming trees. There is upfront smooth citrus and peach fruit on the palate supported by nice flinty acidity. The palate is super fresh and well balanced. A crisp cleansing finish is just what you need to complement incendiary curries, spicy stir fries or delicate sushi dishes.
The wine is unashamedly marketed as a style to match broad Asian cuisine styles and on that level it works really well. I usually baulk at blends stacked with more than three varieties but this is a beauty. 

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 12.4%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: 
$15.00. Rating: 90 Points.
Website: http://www.ajawines.com.au/index.html