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Thinking Outside The Barrel: Alternative Red grapes

By Alex Russell on April 12, 2018 in Food

Vince & Marco Cirillo pruning their 1850 Grenache vines, by Alex Russell.

Continuing on from last month’s article about alternative white grape varieties, we now move on to the reds…

Okay, so it’s not exactly that left-field, but many people know very little about Grenache. It can be made in some very different styles, from wines with really bright fruit flavours to more savoury wines, from wines that are dense purple to far more translucent, lighter styles. If you like Shiraz, try this.
Some of my favourite producers are Cirillo (his 1850s Grenache is one of my favourite wines), Head wines, d’Arenberg (they make quite a few of them) and many, many others. Barossa and McLaren Vale in general make great and very different wines from this grape.

You’ve probably noticed this around by now, but it’s really been picking up over the last decade or so. Very popular in Spain and Portugal, wines from this grape are both low acid and low tannin, so they’re particularly approachable and go well with many types of food. It’s grown in a wide variety of regions in Australia.
It really is a good wine and you can have it with just about anything. Meat dishes go particularly well, especially dried meats and cheese. Pop this with tapas or an antipasto plate and don’t look back.
There are some cracking examples available for some very reasonable prices. Check out the Little Wine Company (Hunter), you can order from their website. Actually, try a mixed six-pack with their Gris, Gewurz, Vementino, Sangiovese and Barbera for $166 delivered – bargain.

Touriga Nacional
Touriga is another grape that goes well in the heat – something that winemakers are considering with climate change. This is one of Portugal’s favourite grapes, mostly as a grape that is blended for port, but table wines fare well too. It blends well with Cabernet Sauvignon (and Franc). The wines tend to be dark and high in tannin, meaning you want to give it time if possible, or have it with a big juicy steak.
For a cracking Aussie example, check out First Drop wines. Their McLaren Vale Touriga ($25) is awesome value, and the rest of their wines are brilliant too. It’s worth putting together half a dozen or a dozen bottles from the First Drop website – they don’t make bad wine there.

For some, this is the king of red wine grapes. Famous in Northern Italy for its key role in the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, the flavour profile doesn’t sound that appealing (tar and tobacco, but also cherries, rose and violets), but do try it. They’re light in colour at first, then develop an almost orange tint with age.
There are quite a few producers making it in Australia now. A personal favourite is Luke Lambert Wines – jump online and order.

There are many others: Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Zinfandel, Durif, Lagrein, Aglianico, Saperavi and so many more. To help you find Australian producers and other options, check out the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show website and explore the results. There are some really cracking wines in there. Go on, step outside of your comfort zone!