Five Australian Varietals You Might Not Be Drinking, But Should Be!

29/06/20235 mins read

These Australian grown varietals represent some of the best value wine currently available.

The paradox of choice is a frequent experience when one is selecting a wine - the often overwhelming selection on a quality wine list can be enough to give pause to even a seasoned oenophile. Following is a selection of some locally grown varietals likely to not only offer an incredible drinking experience, but incredible value for money - the other great skill of selecting wine.

Grillo (gri·low)

Indigenous to Sicliy, Grillo (and most Sicilian wine) was once considered low quality and only fit for the table. Lately, it’s having a huge resurgence in popularity, with many Sicilian winemakers getting great recognition for wines made from Grillo. 

Australia’s climate is extremely similar to Sicily in regions like South Australia, making it a natural step for growers to try transplanting the grape, and the results have been extremely promising. If you’re a fan of Pinot Grigio, Grillo will be right up your alley - it’s a similar temperament of grape, though slightly fuller and often with a bit more character. Pair with any seafood and pasta.

Vermentino (ver·mehn·tee·noh)

Vermentino is another varietal originally from Italy, commonly planted in Sardinia - also an arid, typically Mediterranean climate with which an analogous setting is widely available here in Australia. If you’re a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, Vermentino is a fantastic alternative if you’re looking to try something slightly different. 

It has similarly dry and citric qualities that people find widely appealing about Sauvignon Blanc, but often with an added element of minerality and a pleasing bitterness to finish. Vermentino too is a natural companion for seafood, and is particularly well suited to go with fried appetisers like stuzzichini or fritto misto di mare, with its characteristic acidity serving as the perfect foil to cut through oil and fat.

Cabernet Sauvignon (ka·buh·nay sow·vuh·nyon)

“Cab Sauv,” as we are wont to call it, has been a mainstay of the Australian wine landscape for just about as long as it has existed. As such, it’s got a reputation for being slightly old-school and lately overlooked, not having the same appeal as trendier and more novel varietals. 

The massive upshot: that means some very good Cabernet can be acquired for an absolute bargain. Coonawarra or Margaret River are the best known regions for producing quality Cab Sauv, though there can be Being among the heaviest and most tannic reds going around, it’s a great fit for beef or lamb, and even has enough substance to stand up to gamey meats like kangaroo. If you’re after a vegetable protein, pair with hearty Portobello mushrooms.

Nebbiolo (neh·bee·ow·low)

Nebbiolo is considered one of the finest of the Italian varietals, sometimes referred to as “the king of wines, the wine of kings.” It’s a lighter-bodied red that has the capacity for fine, pretty perfume and subtle spice, hence it’s regal reputation. Unfortunately, it’s aristocratic character also extends to its constitution and temperament, making it a difficult, petulant and notoriously difficult grape to deal with. 

Just to add a little extra challenge to the mix, it’s also best suited to the high-altitude, cooler climes of northern Italy, meaning that it isn’t anywhere nearly as easy to adapt to an Australian setting. And yet, there are some fantastic producers here working with Nebbiolo - most of the higher quality results come out of Victoria, where the climate is more similar to the north of Italy than elsewhere here.

Nebbiolo’s light structure, fine acidity and delicate aromas make it particularly suited to serving with fatty meats like pork, sausage, scotch fillet steak or pasta with ragu.

Rosé (row·zay)

Australian rosé has a reputation for being sweet and sickly. Lately though, many Australian winemakers are putting out wines that are more in the European style of rosé - that is, savoury and mineral, like those from the south of France, or Italian styles, which are brighter and drier. South Australia is one of the premier regions for the production of this style of rosé at present, and you are probably better off looking for a newer producer rather than a well established one if that’s what you’re looking for. 

The Riverland in particular has seen an explosion of exciting new wines recently - it’s possibly the best example of a Mediterranean climate in Australia. Rose is a wide reaching category of wine, but it is generally versatile, and most roses can be safely paired with anything from cured meats and richer seafoods through to poultry and pizza. Or, without any food at all - an unaccompanied rose can be the perfect accompaniment to the temperate weather of fading summer.

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Some top picks for Melbourne:

La La Land (CBD & Windsor)

The Collection Bar (Richmond)

Palm Royale (Richmond)

South of the Wall (Cremorne)

Navey (South Yara)

Electric Bar (Prahran)

Vineyard (St Kilda)

Jack & Bones (Melbourne City)

Some top picks for Sydney:

Speakeasy Bar (Bondi)

Bar Copo (Bondi)

The Norfolk Hotel (Redfern)

The Barrie (Chippendale)

Kelly’s on King (Newtown)

Empire Hotel (Annandale)

Bondi Liquor Co. (Bondi)

Bar Nocturne (Surry Hills)

Some top picks Brisbane:

The Catchment Brewing Co. (West End)

5 Boroughs (Greenslopes)

Hop & Pickle (South Brisbane)

Mr Edwards (Brisbane City)

City Winery (Brisbane City)

Malt Dining & Bar (Brisbane City)

Tetto Rooftop (Everton Park)

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