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Wine, olives, figs, food and functions... there's a lot happening at di Lusso Estate!

SUMMER NEWSLETTER

There’s been a familiar pattern to Summer at di Lusso Estate. A busy November in both cellar and restaurant gives way to a quiet spell in mid-December, replaced in turn by plenty of activity (especially around the pizza oven) from Boxing Day through the second week of January (which is when I am writing from).

While all this is happening at the Winery, life on the farm in general is speeding up. Red grapes are beginning to show some red (known as veraison), we’re patching the holes in the fig netting (made mostly by kangaroos over winter), bird nets are on the Aleatico and Sangiovese; the olives begin to show their crop size as they peek out from behind their protective leaves.

And in the gardens, weekly mows are necessary – reducing to fortnightly after Australia Day Weeds threaten to take over everywhere, but for now are hidden by rampant English lavender. The Irises are a distant memory, waiting to be dead-headed.

This time of year, we’re weather-obsessed. I happened to mention to a friend in the Bush fire brigade that things seemed to be much quieter than normal - normal this time of year is constant helicopter and light aircraft action coming from the next-door Mudgee Airport. “Na”, he said, “There’s plenty of action out there – forty plus fires to the north, mostly. That's where our assets (fire-fighting equipment) have gone”.

Its been hot. Every day for three weeks from Christmas, we’ve been over 35 degrees. And there have been a few 40’s. That's on average half a dozen degrees hotter than last year. So, it’s happening all right.<

But so far, no hail this season (famous last words?). Six days of rain in each of the last three months of 2018 – three days this week already – so we’re lucky, all three crops are looking good so far.

Figs are due on stream second week of February. In time for the start of our Festival of Figs 2019. So I’ve taken the liberty of repeating the dates, in the hope that it’ll be popular, as it was last year.

We have a new winemaker!

Our new winemaker, Tony Hewitt, hails from New South Wales – Denman in the Hunter Valley to be precise.

Tony came on board in November last year, and shared duties with Dave Kyngdon before David left in December.

Tony attended Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, and has spent time making wine around Australia as well as stints in the northern hemisphere; in Germany and in America.

In addition to winemaking, he has worked in both the Olive industry and in the cheese sector on Bruny Island.

Tony is a therefore well and truly a ‘spiritual Italian’ like I am, and I look forward very much to our Italian partnership.

A note on red-white blended wines, and where Arneis fits in

Italy is better known for its premium reds than for its white wines – except for Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. Spain is the same, whereas in France, Germany and Austria the standings of red vs white is either even or balanced in favour of whites.

Yet many premium red wines have, in fact, some white wine in them. The best known of these comes from Cote Rotie in France, where the white grape Viognier is used in a number of premium shiraz wines that the region is famous for. Apart from being handy (the two varieties grow best alongside each other). Viognier adds elements of floral, spicy peach to the meatier flavours of shiraz), as well as rounding out the mouthfeel of the wine.

Champagne, of course, is a white wine blend comprised mainly of red wines. Over the centuries, each component variety has been carefully crafted to best contribute to what is arguably the greatest wine style of all– pinot noir for the body, structure and complexity of flavours, the pinot meunier (apparently - I’ve not tasted a varietal Pinot Meunier) for a ‘ready-to-drink now’ fruitiness, and Chardonnay (the most crafted grape of all) provides the elegance.

In Italy, one finds plenty of examples of (usually undeclared) red-white blends. When the Italian government embarked on its gigantic program in the latter part of the 20th Century to clean-up the mess caused by a decades of neglect, they quickly discovered that the main problem resided in the vineyard. For example, the red wine style Chianti came from vineyards that almost all contained Malvasia or Trebbiano, or both (and often more besides!). Two quite characterless white varieties, but easy to grow. The DOCG specification of Italy’s most popular red wine only outlawed the use of these two varieties in 2006, some forty years after it was ‘discovered’. (I’ve enjoyed very many Chianti’s that probably had more than a tad of the ubiquitous Trebbiano in it – I can’t say it did any harm as long as the wine itself was carefully made!).

In Sicily one finds dozens of white blends, some of them very pleasant indeed, made from a whole host of little-known varietals like Grillo, Greciano and Cataratto. These are given volume (and little else, in my view) by Trebbiano, and elegant structure by Chardonnay. for nthe most part, they re unpretentious, but very food - friendly and pleasant.

Here in Australia, the Sem-Sauv blend is one of the country’s biggest selling styles (and has no competition in the blended white wine sector). These varieties work well together, with sauvignon blanc adding intensity of flavour and acidity, and Semillon providing weight and complexity. A good balance.

Arneis

This white wine variety from Piedmont has been around for at least five hundred years. Prior to quite recently was used almost exclusively as a blending grape for Nebbiolo, in the making of Barolo, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo d’Alba premium wines. Small amounts of Arneis would either be co-fermented with the Nebbiolo or added afterwards…Nebbiolo is renowned for tannins, whereas Arneis is very low in them. Their use in the blend would be to bring forward the ‘drinkability’ of the wine, as does the slight sweetness and perfume it contributes to the blend. Historically, most Barolo’s needed up decades of aging to achieve enough balance and softness to enjoy for most people.

With the increased use of micro-oxygenation (which mimics the effects of slow barrel maturation) and malolactic fermentation, (where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid), the need for a blending grape fell away.

Most of the Arneis around its natural habitat around the Roero River north of Alba was taken out in the 1990’s and early 2000’s

Now, the reverse is happening. Our favourite Arneis producer is Malvira, located near the town of Canale, in Piedmont. They have totally changed their business model – from a wholesale producer of ‘industrial’ Arneis for use by the neighbouring Nebbiolo producers to a premium producer of a very select premium varietal wine producer. They boast a smart cellar door operation featuring five distinct styles of Arneis*, plus a luxury eight guest room agriturismo Villa Tiboldi (pictured below,) situated in their hillside vineyard.

                                                             The Villa Triboli…in the heart of Arneis country

  

Called Chef Ali’s Dish of Summer….Mediterranean Sardine Salad

One of the most popular dishes on our Summer Trattoria Menu is the Sardine Salad.

Ali’s recipe is from the south of Italy – picture a Sicilian seaside village – but it could just as easily be  Portugal, or Greece, or Croatia. They’re at their best, lightly fried both sides and served outside

Sardines go with everything – tomatoes, sauerkraut, curry, egg, mashed with vinegar salt and lemon, grilled, pan fried; in a wrap, skewered, on a pizza, in pasta etc.

And, somewhat to my surprise, they’re super healthy. Packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and high in minerals such as phosphorus, calcium and potassium. Healthier than salmon, even.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

12 fresh large sardine fillets (easy to find in Sydney, but harder in the country)
One tablespoon of capers, drained
500 g bag of salad leaves
100 g pine nuts
100 g currants
100 ml lemon vinegar salad dressing
I medium size red onion, very finely chopped or sliced
250 g of finely diced tomatoes – the tastier the better!

Method

Set up each plate with a bed of salad mix, capers, currants and red onion. With three for each plate, cook each fillet less than one minute each side and place on the prepared salad. Sprinkle the pine nuts, tomatoes and red onion.

Serve with a glass each of our 2016 Arneis!

 

 

Bit of a January Clear out… Some Summer Specials,
and Members’ New Release Discounts

I’m pleased to report that our new Vivo! And new Moscato have finally worked their way through the Christmas commercial lethargy, and are ready for sale.

We’ve absorbed a fair bit of cost increase through the process (whatever happened to inflation at 2%?!) to land both wines at last year’s prices. $25 a bottle for each.

The Vivo! Arrived from its carbonation in the Hunter Valley full of lively bubble and nuanced Vermentino flavours. To be enjoyed both ‘straight’ and with Aperol and soda water!

For this release, we have used Aleatico (a member of the ubiquitous muscat family) for our Moscato. The elements that make this wine truly ‘sorbet in a glass’ remain. Delicious flavours of lychee and strawberry, gently frizzante and light in alcohol and sugar; over the years this has been amongst our best selling styles, and I think this wine will be very popular, too.

Straight case dozen of the 2019 Moscato and the Vivo! $240 (Cellar Door price $284). Price for the Second and subsequent  cases $220

I’m keen to reduce the size of our 2017 Arneis stockpile, to make way for its successor, the 2018 (which in turn needs to be bottled to make tank space for the 2019 which is in good shape in the vineyard and will be wine by Easter). Ah, the logistics of a small winery!

And while I’m thinking about it, I’m in a hurry to get to the 2018 Sangiovese….so the 2017 Sangiovese Rosso is on the chopping block… $165 each a case (Cellar Door price $194) for two or more cases

And there’s free freight to most locations – or an extra bottle to Members who collect their wine from Cellar Door.

Robert Fairall
 
18 August 2015 | Robert Fairall

Post Harvest Thoughts

At the time of my previous report (alarmingly, nearly six months ago!), we were halfway through vintage 2015 at di Lusso Estate.

Well, I’m pleased to report that both the grape and fig harvest both proceeded to a successful conclusion. On the other hand, the olive harvest was light; again a victim of strong winds experienced in November, when flowering had not yet run its course.

So, with close to 60,000 litres of finished and maturing wine lying around the winery, over a tonne of fig pulp lying in bottles or in our freezers and unfortunately only a few hundred litres of olive oil in tank or bottle, di Lusso Estate winery is busting at the seams right now!

Dave Kyngdon is about to bottle the first of our 2015 vintage. The first bottling (in time for our annual Wine Festival) will consist of Pinot Grigio, Vermentino and Arneis (our first since 2013), Aleatico (again, our first in a couple of years), and Vino Rosato (only a few pallets, lovingly made predominantly with Aleatico). We’re proud of all of them; a joy to make after the ‘challenging’ 2014 vintage!

So far, it’s been the coldest winter I can remember for several years on the estate… and still is, as I write. There’s been enough rain – at least where we are, but patchy elsewhere, I understand – to suggest the right conditions to set up a good spring.

With everybody expecting a dry El Niño period ahead, there’s been plenty of vineyard maintenance, especially irrigation, happening. We’re also making a concerted effort to fill in any gaps in the vine rows to attend to in spring, replace the inevitable broken posts, wires etc., and repair the countless potholes caused by both rain and traffic.

In the kitchen, Ali’s Winter Menu has been very popular with the visitors – just the right mix of simple pastas, warming soups and hearty stews. This weather makes it hard to believe we’re only a month away from ‘calendar spring’, and taking an early look at our next menu. We might wait a couple of weeks and launch the Spring Menu to coincide with the start of the 2015 Mudgee Wine & Food Festival on the 12th of September.

Talking of that date, it also marks our next Regional Dinner; this one is featuring the food, wine and stories of Alto Adige – Italy’s mountainous region on the border with Austria. Details are available at the cellar door or on our website.

In closing, Luanne and I, as well as the whole di Lusso team, look forward to your next visit… hopefully in time to witness the wonder of a vineyard spring!

Time Posted: 18/08/2015 at 11:40 AM
Robert Fairall
 
22 February 2015 | Robert Fairall

Machine Harvesting Olives - Video

2015 Harvest

A Sicma machine harvester at work...

Time Posted: 22/02/2015 at 5:13 PM
Robert Fairall
 
22 February 2015 | Robert Fairall

Vintage 2015

Well, we’re halfway through a very interesting vintage indeed! One that started with an extraordinary warm, dry spring…then a markedly cool and somewhat humid summer. Now that the end of summer is literally a week away, in taking stock of the journey so far, I can say I would have settled for the outcome so far any day.

As I write, we’ve harvested our Aleatico and Lagrein (or half of them), Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Arneis, some Chardonnay and Savignan (both from an adjacent vineyard, for blending into our Adagio and Allegro styles).  Next week, its the turn of Sangiovese and Vermentino (and the remaining Aleatico and Lagrein).

Volumes have for the most part been on target, and we’re pleased with fruit quality, and wine,maker David Kyngdon (whose feet we see appearing under the press) is working enormous hours keeping up with nature!

Time Posted: 22/02/2015 at 4:44 PM