Monday, July 12, 2010

Rutherglen: Campbells ‘The Barkly’ & More

From our antipodean correspondent:
I opened an interesting Australian wine recently, one that I had stuck away under the house for nearly 10 years.  I remember buying it from a local liquor store where the owner warned me not to try drinking it for quite a while.  Given that most of the wine sold these days is cellared for the length of the trip in the back seat of the car between the supermarket and home, I was anxious to try my ‘rewards of patience’ [from the title of a book produced in Australia by Penfolds Wines].  

The wine was a 1998 ‘The Barkly’ Durif from Campbells’ winery in the Rutherglen area of north eastern Victoria, an area where the Durif grape is widely planted.  Durif is a big red with some of the local wines being produced with 16% or more alcohol by volume.
In many ways the wine was still a pup with plenty of fruit and some fine residual tannin to sustain it for many more years in the cellar; but, it was also a great accompaniment to lamb leg steaks with a rich potato bake.  The potatoes were sliced finely in a mandolin and layered with finely sliced onion, herbs, seasoning and cream.  Topped with breadcrumbs butter and cheese this was the perfect artery clogging challenge to any gutsy red but a big Durif was up to the mark.

Rutherglen is a special wine region to me as I have spent many hours wandering its back roads while my wife visited her mother in Albury.  Rutherglen, the area around the small country town of that name, is part of a large wine growing region stretching from alpine areas up towards the Victorian skiing slopes, down through the alpine valleys to the river flats along the mighty Murray River.  Names such as Beechworth, Myrtleford, King Valley, Indigo Valley and Milawa appear on many local wines and are, as well, on the labels of wines produced by national companies using locally grown fruit. 
A favoured locality of mine is the King Valley which was for many years a major tobacco growing area popular with Italian immigrant farmers.  When the tobacco crops lost there marketability gloss, many of the farmers were enticed to grow wine grapes for the area’s largest wine producer Brown Brothers of Milawa.  Asking Italians if they would like to grow wine grapes is like asking other Australians if they’d like to play test cricket or drink beer on a summer’s day [or any day for that matter].  This has provided us with one of the best showcases for wines produced from Italian varietal grapes in Australia.  Wines made with Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Arneis, Pinot Grigio [same grape as Pinot Gris with the distinction having more to do with vinifying style in Italy and Alsace], Trebbiano and Garganega are now widely produced and they are getting better in quality every year.   

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