2010 Clan Del Sud Green Man Malvasia

The name Clan Del Sud is translated as 'Clan/Family of the South' explained vineyard owner Mark Lewis whose maternal family line extends back some 600 years in southern Italy. It is in recognition of the proud and successful heritage of the Cocozza family throughout history that he continued, was behind the name. 

The Cocozza family has adopted the ancient myth of the Green Man for their wine labels, a symbol of life and rebirth found in vegetation, the natural plant world and to the earth itself. It is a metaphor continued in their philosophy and to their vineyard practices, the vines of which are located on the high, north-facing side of Mt. Samaria in Central Victoria. Lewis described that they had been members of Biodynamic Agriculture Australia for 12 years and hoped to transition to certification in the near future as part of their holistic approach to the environment. 

Malvasia has been identified as the name of an ancient family of grapes not dissimilar to the Muscat family. Its origins stretch back 2000 years to it is believed, Greece and historically was grown throughout Mediterranean countries, particularly in Italy where it flourishes today under a variety of names or clones and styles.  
The variety is not that extensively grown here in Oz - in blends more than straight varietals - and I was surprised to learn that double the number of Greco De Tufo vines existed here last year than Malvasia vines ! 
I do remember some years ago a Riesling/Malvasia blend from the erstwhile Mornington Peninsula winery Ermes Estate. Chalmers blend Malvasia Istriana with Picolit to produce a Passito style dessert wine that is common in Italy. 

The 2010 Green Man Malvasia won a Gold Medal at the 2011 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show and the Trophy: Chairman's "Wine To Watch" (Chief of Judges Max Allen) in its short career. The dry grown Malvasia Istriana grapes from which this wine is made, had only been harvested twenty months earlier with half fermented in stainless steel, the balance in old oak barrels. Simon Steele at Yarra Valley's Medhurst Wines is the winemaker says Lewis and "he is eager to work with us on the Italian varietals we grow" that include both white and red varieties. 

In the glass the old Green Man displays pale straw colours with a greenish tinge. After some breathing, aromas of bosc pear, white flowers, thyme and honey notes. Some hints of roasted almond and baking bread, which was interesting. It is fresh, warm and mouth-watering.

Round and richly textured in taste with nutty, dry herb and peach characteristics backed up by good acid and a mineral backbone. Appealing grapefruit citrus and honey finish. Savoury with some phenolic grip to it. Light to medium-bodied wine with a viscous, almost oily quality. Shows loads of heart and character, an alluring complexity and basically, it's such great drinking. Age has certainly not wearied this Malvasia and let's hope there's more stand alone varietals like this one in future years. Excellent. 

Source: Sample. ABV: 13.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $36.00. Rating: 92+ Points.

2014 Clan Del Sud Green Man Malvasia

Quite different to the 2010 Green Man, the 2014 vintage is more fresh and fruity. Owner Mark Lewis explained that the 2014 Malvasia was picked in late March last year, pressed and cold settled, fermented and aged in old oak for about 8 months, before being bottled in December.

Pale straw yellow in the glass with tinges of green.
Subtle aromas of apricot, dried herbs and lime. Some wet rock components interestingly to this Malvasia Istriana. 
Soft and powdery on entry with a mid-palate marked by apricot and orange peel. A lime backbone supports a brisk mineral component throughout. A dry, light- to medium-bodied wine with fresh citrus notes, lean, spicy and lively. Soft tannins on a seamlessly smooth palate impress. Bursting with heart, appeal and drinkability. 
Refreshing finish to what is an underrated variety that hopefully we will see more of in the future.

The variety's history is quite intriguing. The origins of Malvasia Istriana appear at Monemvasia on the Greek Peloponnese Peninsula around the Middle Ages. From there, Venetian seafarers and traders transported cuttings to most parts of the Mediterranean and as far as the Canary Islands and the Istrian Peninsula - part of modern day Croatia and Slovenia -  under the name Monemvasia. Such was its reputation, it was referred to in recent documentation as the Chardonnay of the Middle Ages. The variety later became Italianized to Malvasia and today is predominantly cultivated in Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. 

There are one or two other competing theories, most notable of which was that the returning Crusaders brought back cuttings with them to Venice from Constantinopoli in the early 1200's from where it spread and flourished in north-east Italy. As with all grape varieties, there is a story or stories to tell that gives some perspective to the wines we enjoy today. 

Source: Sample. ABV: 13.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $36.00. Rating: 91 Points.

2014 White Rock Vineyard Dornfelder

The White Rock Dornfelder is Australia's first release of this dark-berried grape originally created in 1955 from a crossing of the German varieties Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, both of whom were crossings themselves and which begs the question. Was the variety double-crossed into existence ?
Seriously, released onto the market in 1979 in presumably West Germany, the variety accounts for nearly 10 percent of total vineyard surface area there, second only to Pinot Noir in the red wine grape variety stakes.

Australia's only plantings are at the boutique family-owned White Rock Vineyard situated at Kimberley, north-west Tasmania where conditions are similar to Germany and where there is not a lot of leeway to ripen Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon according to owner Phil Dolan. "I planted the Dornfelder because I had heard that it ripens the same time as Pinot noir so would be a good alternative red variety for Tasmania" he stated. He was not to realise how good when it took out a gold medal and the overall trophy for Best Other Red at the 2014 International Cool Climate Wine Show.

Dolan continued. "The cuttings came from the Riverland Vine Improvement Association and they only had 100 vines, most of which have been pulled out because of lack of interest." 
He went on to mention that their winemaker, Alain Rousseau of Frogmore Creek is doing a great job with it. "I couldn't find anyone to make it as it was such a small crop but Alain said, "Oh, that's new. I'll do it."
He used carbonic maceration to get fruitiness and aged it in oak to add complexity. About 15% Pinot Noir is added for that extra edge, however sales are restricted but mixed cases can be done, Dolan explained.

In the glass the wine is a dense opaque ruby purple in colour due to the grape's red pulp. Floral aromas with blueberry, pepper and smokey notes on the nose. The aromas are fresh and slightly sweet.
There are some brooding elements to the Dornfelder with flavours of tart dark cherry, plum and cloves on the palate supported by smooth tannins and a soft lively acidity. Overall, good depth of flavour and structure to this medium-bodied wine. Velvety, rich textural mouthfeel that flows onto a white peppery finish. 

There's a well-crafted balance of fruit, oak and acid to this wine and it's easy and satisfying to drink. A real privilege to try Australia's first release of what could be a promising variety in our cooler climate wine regions. Excellent.

Source: Sample. ABV: 13.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $36.00. Rating: 91 Points. Website: http://www.whiterockvineyard.com/