Out of italy
Rob Ingram encounters a ‘new’ white with a considerable history.
he waiter mentioned that we “might like to try the fiano — it’s a new variety”. He was half right about the ‘new’… or perhaps three-quarters.the fiano was a fine suggestion and while it’s certainly not a new variety, it is a relatively new style to Australian wine lists. It is quite likely that when Henry V of Germany first went to Italy on a working holiday in the 12th century and ended up being crowned Holy Roman Emperor, he might have invited a few of the boys around for a fiano or two. And certainly it is recorded that in the 13th century, Charles d’anjou — King of Naples — had 16,000 fiano vines flourishing in his vineyard. The variety originates from the Campania region east of Naples, and Fiano di Avellino is rated DOCG, Italy’s superior wine classification. By the 20th century, fiano was in decline in Campania, mainly as a result of growers beginning to use the grape for blending and then turning to varieties that produced more juice. But around the town of Avellino, fiano retained its exalted status. Mark Lloyd of Coriole Vineyards fell for its charms when looking for a new southern Italian variety to grow in South Australia’s Mclaren Vale.the first Australian fiano was released by Coriole from the 2005 vintage, and today around 40 Australian producers have a fiano in their range. Mclaren Vale remains the prominent region and South Australia the prominent state, with fianos also popping up
Tin the Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, the Riverland and the Barossa Valley. But a distinctive and appealing style is also coming out of Victoria’s King Valley from producers such as Gapsted and Redbank. In Italy, the classic fiano wines come from the Irpinia district around Avellino, which is sheltered by the nearby Appenine Mountains. Although it is grown throughout the region and all the way down to the coast, the best fiano vineyards lie among the forested hills of Irpinia. It’s said that the forests are the source of Italian fiano’s distinctive piney herbaceous flavour. The fruit for Redbank’s King Valley fiano is harvested from a vineyard that’s 700 metres above sea level in Victoria’s High Country. King Valley proudly wears the ‘Little Italy’ name tag on behalf of the Italian migrants who established vineyards in the district.the wines display a crisp elegance and they’re also rich in Italian heritage and authenticity. As well as having its own King Valley vineyards, Redbank relies on a small group of growers, some of whom are descendants of the original Italian settlers.the 2014 Redbank Fiano comes from a small parcel of vines planted at Myrrhee, a tiny hamlet in the King Valley. Fiano is most acclaimed for its dry examples but is sometimes also made into dessert wines that are usually air-dried to produce something luscious that would be the perfect complement to a frangipane tart.