Discover Unique Varieties: Top wines for 2019

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Vintage Cellars
January 8, 2019
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Be ahead of the wine curve by trying these on-trend alternative varieties.

New year, new wine, right? At Vintage Cellars, we're diving into 2019 by embracing all the amazing alternative varieties that are taking the wine world by storm. From aromatic whites such as gewürztraminer and arneis to light styles such as gamay and bolder reds like malbec, the spectrum of alternative varietal wonder is wide and deep at every Vintage Cellars store. Allow us to guide you through the top 12 unique varieties – each one has its distinctive flavour characteristics, regional stamps

and food friends that make it incredibly compelling drinking for your new year parties, barbecues and intimate gatherings. Discover Different with these unique varieties and you're sure to land upon a brand-new favourite.

 

GEWÜRZTRAMINER

Why try gewürztraminer?

Its lush aromatics, spicy flavours and it's Asian-food friendly.

 

History lesson

Gewürztraminer’s home base is Alsace where it forms a trio with riesling and pinot gris. It’s the variety that kickstarted the Australian white wine revolution in the 1970s, its musk and lychee aromas and piquant flavours making it a natural fit with the energy and verve of riesling. Unfortunately, by the mid-'80s, lollyish and bland "traminer" rieslings from over-cropped and/or warm sites fell out of favour as consumers rushed to the welcoming charms of chardonnay. But thankfully there is currently a gewürztraminer revival in Tasmania and New Zealand.

 

Flavour profile

The key to good gewürztraminer is its sheer generosity with upfront perfumes of rose petals, fresh apricots and lychees and a lift of aromatic spices. The bold flavours are tropical with a rich, almost oily texture and warm, energetic finish.

 

Food friends

Gewürztraminer comes into its own with food, from a mild Indian curry or a chicken tagine to any Thai or Vietnamese dish. For a unique match, try pairing an oozy Alsace Munster with an aged gewürztraminer.

 

GRÜNER VELTLINER

Why try grüner veltliner?

Its white pepper aromas, honeydew melon flavours and it's brilliant with Japanese food.

 

History lesson

Grüner veltliner is indigenous to Austria with the first vines planted in Australia little more than a decade ago. However, it’s already showing great promise; back in Austria, grüner veltliner is grown alongside riesling on the northern banks of the Danube River. Australian grape growers have already worked out the best sites for riesling, so it’s a no-brainer to trial grüner veltliner in those regions with promising results. The pioneering plantings were in the Canberra District, with the Adelaide Hills hot on their heels and Tasmania now in the mix.

 

Flavour profile

A highly aromatic style with lots of peppery fragrances (white, pink and Szechuan peppercorns), an abundance of fresh citrus flavours and a similarly lemon-fresh acidity. Grüner veltliner ages well but there's no need to wait.

 

Food friends

The synergy between grüner veltliner and riesling continues at the table as a willing partner to fresh seafood, simple stir-fried dishes and especially Japanese food such as sushi and sashimi, karaage

chicken and tempura prawns.

 

PINOT GRIS

Why try pinot gris?

Its poached pear aromas, spicy flavours and synergy with slow–roasted pork belly.

 

History lesson

Pinot gris and pinot grigio are the same, it’s just about their language – gris is "grey" in French, grigio is "grey" in Italian. More importantly, pinot gris/grigio share the same DNA as pinot noir or (logically)

pinot nero in Italy. It all comes back to the inherent instability of pinot noir, which easily mutates – as it did in France hundreds of years ago. Pinot gris has a pink/grey skin (hence its name) with white flesh so handling it in the winery can be tricky with many pinot gris/grigio carrying a bronze hue. Making a skin-contact version results in a pink rosé-style wine.

 

Flavour profile

Why the difference? It’s all about terroir. Alsace is a tad warmer with typical smells of poached pears, fresh ginger and soft acidity. Pinot grigio is grown in cooler conditions, reflected in perfumes of lime

blossom and white nectarines.

 

Food friends

The flavours of New World pinot gris are fresher and brighter than its Alsatian cousin and work well with chicken and seafood. The difference between an Aussie gris and grigio is more subtle, often

related to the heritage of the winemaker.

 

VERDELHO

Why try verdelho?

Its fresh pineapple perfume, juicy tropical flavours and it's a great match to seafood.

 

History lesson

Verdelho arrived in Australia in the 1840s from the island of Madeira, where it’s traditionally made as a fortified wine in the style of the great sherries of Spain. Early Australian winemakers in the Swan

Valley, Langhorne Creek and the Hunter Valley followed the Madeira model with outstanding results. However, the move away from fortified production to dry table wines in the 1970s offered verdelho

a new opportunity with winemakers, becoming a juicy, tropical fruit-flavoured white wine. Consumers loved the easy, fruit-driven flavours and zesty acidity.

 

Flavour profile

Verdelho smells of the whole basket of tropical fruits – pineapple, pawpaw and custard apple – with spicy hints of lemon myrtle and cumin. The palate is typically fruity with a ping of citrus-bright

acidity refreshing the finish.

 

Food friends

Try a good Hunter Valley or Margaret River verdelho with sweet white fish such as flathead or King George whiting. The inherent spiciness of verdelho lends itself to Thai green curried chicken or a

Sri Lankan fish curry. Enjoy well chilled.

 

CHENIN BLANC

Why try chenin blanc?

Its lemon honey aromas, energetic palate and synergy with scallops.

 

History lesson

Chenin blanc is an amazingly versatile variety capable of making top-notch sparkling wines, bone dry to sweet. Chenin blanc’s home is the middle of the Loire Valley with appellations such as Anjou, Touraine and Saumur, reaching a pinnacle in Vouvray. Chenin blanc was the backbone of one of Western Australia’s most famous wines – Houghton White Burgundy. And, though only having a minor presence in Australia, a number of grape growers are looking to elevate chenin blanc to the lofty status of its Loire counterparts.

 

Flavour profile

Chenin blanc mirrors semillon in that it’s a very shy variety with subtle stone fruit and spicy aromas, discreet flavours with an understated palate defined by racy acidity, which allows the best dry and

sweet styles to age so well.

 

Food friends

Chenin blanc works well with the myriad seafood of its Loire Valley homeland – oysters, langoustine and fresh-water fish, especially trout. Chicken works well, yet the sweeter styles match better with custard-based desserts and blue cheese.

 

ALBARIÑO

Why try albariño?

Its citrus fresh aromas, lemon pith texture and it's great with sardines.

 

History lesson

Albariño is indigenous to the Galicia region of Spain, at its very best in the Rías Baixas appellation under Spanish wine laws. Albariño is able to withstand the high rainfall of the coastal region. Albariño was almost extinct before a revival in the last 30 years – it's now one of the most sought-after whites in Spain.

Albariño had a false start in Australia when cuttings sourced from Spain turned out to be savagnin, an obscure white grape from the Jura region of France – and not to be confused with sauvignon blanc, although they sound similar.

 

Flavour profile

Albariño exhibits bright aromatics of Nashi pear, honeydew melon, pink grapefruit, as well as complementary citrus-fresh aromas. Albariño offers a background of ginger spice – a light and refreshing drink.

 

Food friends

The palate is rich and textural with crunchy, lemon pith flavours and a spice-laden finish. From a coastal region, it makes sense to pair albariño with seafood. Enjoy with oily fish like sardines and white anchovies or a good paella.

 

FIANO

Why try fiano?

Its pear aromas, bright palate flavours and its marriage with salt and pepper squid.

 

History lesson

Fiano hails from Campania, a warm, southern Italian region near Naples, and bears a long history   throughout the region. Although fiano has only been planted in Australia this century, the variety is growing well in temperate regions like the King Valley, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and even warmer sites such as the Riverland of South Australia and the Riverina in New South Wales. The key is fiano’s ability to maintain acidity under warm growing conditions and the zap of acid giving energy and pizazz to the finished wine product.

 

Flavour profile

Winemaking is similar to most refreshing whites – chilled juice, cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled early to retain its freshness. The aromas are floral – citrus blossom, Fuji apple, wild honey and hints of almond skin.

 

Food friends

Enjoy fiano with antipasti like artichokes, frittata, green olives and mortadella. With its zesty finish, fiano pairs well with seafood – perfect with fish and chips or chargrilled octopus – but works well with

a number of dishes.

 

ARNEIS

Why try arneis?

Its Nashi pear aromas, zesty palate and its pairing with deep-fried school prawns.

 

History lesson

The arneis grape variety migrated from Piedmont, Italy less than 20 years ago and found a new home in the King Valley before venturing further afield to the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and to the Orange region of New South Wales. Arneis likes a cool climate as reflected in its origins in the Roero and Langhe

regions of Piedmont. Even there, the volumes were minuscule until a recent planting boom within the last 20 years. In the 1950s it was thought there were less than 50 hectares of arneis under vine across Piedmont.

 

Flavour profile

The beauty of arneis is its fresh, bright perfumes – Josephine pear, citrus fruit, almond blossom and white peach. Oak is rarely part of the winemaking with freshness the key and a gentle mouth-filling

texture and acid-etched finish.

 

Food friends

Try arneis with kingfish sashimi, poached chicken or pan-fried whitebait. And the name? Arneis means "little rascal" in Italian. And some winemakers claim this name and its Italian meaning is perfectly accurate for the variety.

 

Did you know?

Pronounced "ahr-nase", the Italian variety arneis boasts a similar body weight to that of chardonnay and verdelho, and its flavours range from peach and pear to apricot and almond. Australia and the USA are the only other countries in which it thrives outside its home turf of Piedmont, Italy.

 

TEMPRANILLO

Why try tempranillo?

Its raspberry aromatics, liquorice-spiced palate and it's perfect with lamb kebabs.

 

History lesson

Tempranillo is the hero variety of Rioja, Spain spawning millions of bottles of medium-bodied spicy red wine that ranges from dangerously drinkable to seriously collectable. Why the first tempranillo vines only arrived in Australia 30 years ago remains a mystery. However, tempranillo is settling quickly into the

local scene, which has an amazing similarity to its Rioja homelands on the high plateau north-east of Madrid. Rioja can be blazing hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, a climate mirrored by

continental regions in Australia.

 

Flavour profile

Tempranillo smells of fresh raspberries, cola and liquorice with bright raspberry and red cherry flavours and modest tannins. It’s a variety that doesn’t demand too much oak, though bolder styles happily mop it up.

 

Food friends

Tempranillo shines at the table with any Spanish-inspired dishes its forte – chorizo, paella, lamb in all its forms and Manchego cheese. Affordability is an added bonus, though the top drops are serious reds at an equally serious price.

 

Did you know?

As Spain's number one red grape variety, tempranillo is indigenous to that country and dates back to 1100BC. The name tempranillo is derived from the word temprano, which means “early” in Spanish, as it's an early ripener.

 

GAMAY

Why try gamay?

Its juicy red berry aromas, slinky palate and it's lovely with sausages in any form.

 

History lesson

Gamay is the mandatory variety of Beaujolais, where the wines vary from simple, highly gluggable nouveau styles through to the more focused Beaujolais Villages and to the depth and concentration of the 10 crus with flowery names like Fleurie, Julienas and Brouilly. It’s strange gamay is little planted in

Australia, especially when you realise it’s a rustic cousin of pinot noir. Even more compelling is that gamay enjoys a warmer climate than pinot noir and to top it off, gamay loves granitic soils and we’ve lots of ancient volcanic rocks in Australia.

 

Flavour profile

Part of the drinkability of Beaujolais (and gamay) is a winemaking technique called carbonic maceration, where whole bunches are allowed to begin their fermentation without yeast. This internal

fermentation yields soft, fruity flavours.

 

Food friends

Gamay happily takes a chill down, helping to define its abundance of red fruit flavours (strawberry, redcurrant and cherry) and sharpen the palate. Try it with a margherita pizza, terrines, white rind

cheeses or Lyonnaise sausages.

 

GRENACHE

Why try grenache?

Its earthy red fruits, modest tannins and its compelling drinkability.

 

History lesson

Grenache is a long-time Australian resident arriving with the famous Busby collection in 1832. However, it’s only recently entered the limelight as we’ve moved to labelling our wines by variety rather than under generic labels. Grenache is the main grape of the southern Rhône region, forming the backbone of the Cotes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations. Its supporting cast includes syrah and

mourvèdre. Grenache happily flies solo when sourced from old, dry-grown vines in the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale.

 

Flavour profile

Grenache smells of ripe cherries and red plums with a whiff of liquorice and star anise. The flavours are rich and juicy; the tannins are present but not overpowering. Oak should be underplayed allowing the

exuberant fruit to shine.

 

Food friends

Grenache is the perfect barbecue red, happily partnering with sausages, lamb chops, braised meats, pork or a rare steak. Pizza and pies are also on its menu, making a perfect complement to the earthy red fruits of the variety.

 

MALBEC

Why try malbec?

Its bold black fruit flavours, earthy complexity and pairs well with a juicy steak.

 

History lesson

Malbec is the hero variety of Argentina, finding its way from France in the late 19th century, hitting its pinnacle in the alpine vineyards of Mendoza. Australian malbec pre-dates the Argentinian plantings by 50 years, though it has flown under the radar as a generic red wine. In Australia, malbec happily plays a partner when blended with shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. Malbec grows best in Langhorne Creek, the Clare Valley and Orange with increasing plantings in Western Australia either as a single-varietal wine or as part of a cabernet blend.

 

Flavour profile

The malbec grape variety is deeply coloured – "blood red" is a good descriptor for this wine – with lots of bold black fruit flavours and lush berry aromatics, blueberries, mulberries and even boysenberries.

 

Food friends

Full bodied though never heavy, it’s the earthy tannins that define the variety and make it so red-meat friendly. Try with beef empanadas, shepherd’s pie or a mixed grill. For vegetarians, a rich kidney

bean and lentils dish would be perfect.