I recently got caught at my local IGA with one of those salespeople offering a free wine tasting. Normally I’m a bit skeptical of these, concerned that they are just peddling substandard products ‘on special’ for the Friday night impulse buyers who are looking forward to the weekend and a nice relaxing glass for Friday night.
With that in mind my expectations were not high, and to be fair I was broadly right, not only did the purveyor of the free tastings not seem to know much about his product, he was selling on price, offering a 25% discount on the wines on tasting over their normal retail prices. To make matters worse the tasting was in tiny plastic containers allowing a short sharp mouthful but no chance of capturing aromas (Do IGA not know that 80% of the ‘taste’ of a wine comes via the nose!!???).
There was however one exception and a real stand out wine from the others on offer that I want to bring to your attention.
Calabria, Three Bridges, Durif – 2015 retailing at $24.99 and for one night only at $19.99 on the Friday night of my tasting. It’s widely available and I have since found it also at Dan Murphy’s and various online retailers.
So why was it a stand out? The first thing that struck me was the complexity of the nose (I struggled with this, see above) – Okay, I’ll try not to be too ‘Wine Wanky’ but it did smell great and had all sorts of flavors and smells going on which made me think that this was going to be good.
I took in dark plums, dark chocolate, blackberries with a hint of oak and various other dark skinned fruit. Now that was me, you might find other smells but it didn’t smell like a typical Shiraz, the most common grape variety for wines of this type, it had a few flavors dancing around which made it very interesting indeed for a wine at this price point. The wine is made from grapes sourced around the Riverina region from local producers and is predominantly Durif, known as Petite Sirah in other parts of the world (California, France and Israel).
For those who are interested Durif or Petite Sirah produces dark, inky colored wines that are relatively acidic, with firm texture and mouth feel; the bouquet has herbal and black pepper overtones, and typically offers flavors of blue fruit, black fruit, plums, and especially blueberries. Compared to Syrah, the wine is noticeably more dark and purplish in color, and typically rounder and fuller in the mouth, and offers a brightness that Syrah lacks. The wines are very tannic, with aging ability that can exceed 20 years in the bottle. Petite Sirah can sometimes be rather “short”, that is, the flavor does not linger in the mouth, hence the benefit of blending with another grape, which may lack mid-palate depth, but add length and elegance. I suspect this wine may have been mixed with small quantities of Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon but I might be wrong.
The color of this wine was dark, dark crimson almost as dark as some wine I have tasted from Cahors in SW France. That said there were violet tinges associated with a younger wine so I was expecting something easy to drink but powerful. The first thing that struck me were the tannins. Here was a wine with depth and complexity and again at this price point plenty of age still in the bottle that made me think that it would taste even better in 5-10 years (if you can wait that long). The taste was lovely, different from standard Australian Grape varieties, but delicious nonetheless. I could have drunk it on its own or with cheese, a big steak, beef bourguignon, a bowl of crisps or frankly with anything with a strong flavor to complement the food.
Calabria family wines are based in the Riverina region of NSW, the region enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with winter dominant rainfall and variations of soils from deep red tones through to brown clay loams. The Riverina is centred around the city of Griffith, which was established in the early 1900s. Today the region is the second largest wine grape-producing region in Australia. The Calabria Family source their fruit supply from local family grape growers and Bill Calabria is one of 5 winemakers here making some really interesting wines. Originally from Southern Italy they are now on the third generation of winemakers.
The sad thing is that many wines you buy at supermarkets and liquor stores are drunk immediately and designed to be drunk immediately. If you are prepared to pay a bit more and also prepared to wait, the investment will pay off and reward you with some amazing tastes and flavors if you know what to look for.
This is a great example of one such wine. At $19.99 it was an absolute bargain, even at $24.99 its great value – IF you drink it in a few years and not now. Now don’t get me wrong, it won’t disappoint if you drink it now, and I am sure many people will but if you have the patience and the desire to drink wines that will be worth considerably more in several years to come then hold on to this one and give it time. Enjoy!