Tony Cox discovers how thinking outside the bottle can deliver a sustainable future for a group of wine growers and makers facing environmental challenges

by @JohnCaruso on Wednesday, 08 Jun, 2016

‘Sustainable’ appears to be the current buzzword. Ask someone to actually define it with workable criteria and they are generally left unable to do anything but stutter. It is probably right up there with a former PM’s use of the word ‘misogyny’ with recent events suggesting she should have checked the attitudes of those in the NSW Branch of her own party.

Let’s get back to sustainability. If ever a region in Australia needed to rethink their agricultural processes due to decreasing water flows and increased salinity, it is the Sunraysia/Riverland area of Victoria and South Australia. The Riverland Alternative Wine Group features approximately 30 growers and winemakers who see the future in Mediterranean varietals, such as Vermentino, Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola, which are well-suited to the warm, dry growing conditions.

These wines have to tackle a couple of challenges for ‘Joe Punter’ to stick a glassful in his gob. Firstly, they have a Riverland address. This generally equates to Joe wanting to part with less than a tenner for a bottle. Secondly, for Joe it isn’t that easy to pronounce some of these varietals and they aren’t well known like Chardy or Cab Sauv or Shiraz.

So we have small-scale production (read higher production costs per bottle) and an unfashionable address. Time to call in the business brains as this is looking a little tricky even for us optimists.

The team at Delinquente have come up with what looks to be a winning strategy. Con-Greg Grigoriou is producing some interesting wines from varietals including Vermentino, Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola. Combine it with edgy labelling and extensive use of social media targeting hipsters and younger generations not filled with the biases of Joe Punter, and you have a great little thing going on.

Let’s take a little peak at some wines pushing the boundary for their region in terms of varietal, price point and packaging and really challenging the perception of what Riverland can do:

- The “Screaming Betty” Delinquente Vermentino, a varietal whose home is in Sardinia, is firmly in the lemon/citrus spectrum with zingy, fresh acidity. Perfect to slurp a few oysters with. [pic supplied]

- The “Pretty Boy” Delinquente Nero d’Avola Rosato, a grape which calls Sicily home, smells and tastes of beautiful sweet strawberries. Before you judge it as a sweet rosé it brings on a fantastic combination of acid and tannin to leave your palate as clean as a whistle wanting to glug another glass.

- One for the true hipsters is the “Tuff Nutt” Delinquente Petillant Natural made with Bianco d’Alessano grapes. The Petillant Naturel method involves putting the wine in the bottle while it is undergoing its first fermentation. The resultant carbon dioxide creates some bubbles and the lack of filtration leaves the wine cloudy. Unlike Champagne there is no second ferment. In this instance there is a blast of tropical fruits, fresh acid and a refreshing tingly spritz all thrown into one mouthful. A fantastic little party! [pic supplied]

Don’t be afraid to have a crack at the above wines as they will cause you to think beyond your established framework for the region and maybe push us beyond our comfort zone. Given I have written this article in between hurtling down ramps on a skate board I think it is me stepping out of the comfort zone. Good drinking!!

Read more articles by @JohnCaruso

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