10 Awesome Australian Fianos
It’s no secret that we love Fiano at Unico Zelo. Brendan affectionately refers to it as the ‘Goldilocks’ variety because of its medium acid, medium weight and waxy texture. In the vineyard, it’s thick skinned, resilient and a touch of sun turns it golden and slightly tropical. And man is it food friendly. It has enough acidity for ceviche and fresh seafood, but equally enough weight for creamy pasta or roasted chicken.
We love it so much at Unico that we make between 6 and 8 Fiano’s each year. Some are single vineyard expressions and others are stylistic expressions like Dreamer’s Creed (amphora) and Panda Panda (off-dry). What’s surprising is that Fiano has been in Australia since the early 2000s when Coriole planted it well ahead of the curve. It’s popularity really accelerated after 2010 when vineyards were planted through the Riverland and more extensively in McLaren Vale. 2 decades later and there’s no shortage of amazing Australian Fiano’s. Here are some of my favourites that are regulars in the fridge.
Featured in the debut Unico + Co subscription pack, this McLaren Vale Fiano was the first Pet Nat we had tried from this variety (although we secretly knew it would be a great idea). Lemon zesty acidity and freshly squeezed apple. We only wish he had made more - we drank a few of these.
You can’t do a Fiano round-up without including the O.G. Fiano from McLaren Vale. Coriole planted their Fiano in 2001 and released the first vintage in 2005 and year after year it's one of Australia's most consistently delicious white wines - and it's very well priced. 30% Barrel fermented, this is everything we like about Fiano: texture is the star, acid is poised and it's just a really delicious, crisp, white wine.
Corrina Wright is a stalwart of the wine industry, and a great champion of alternative varieties in the Vale, with Oliver's Taranga crafting some excellent expressions of Mencia, Sagrantino, Vermentino and of course - Fiano. Wild fermented, it's a lot more mineral than other expressions from the region, plenty of salinity too. Drinkability is high, loads of kaffir lime spice. This is a wine to keep a reliable supply of in the fridge for a mid-week refresher.
After making their first vintage of this wine for charity, a new wine project from Jack and Tash emerged. Their 'First Step' Fiano, a nod to that story, comes from the Riverland, and it shows all the qualities that made us really excited about Riverland Fiano in the first place! All that ripe stone fruit and waxy texture we love but that acid is still there. Love to see this coming from the Riverland! So good.
I’m including this because the region is underrated - the Granite Belt. Still in many ways an emerging wine region, but Witches Falls are putting it on the right track, with this pretty awesome expression from Fiano. Definitely more on the full bodied spectrum of the variety due to barrel fermentation but definitely a worthy example. Queensland totally makes good wine!
We did a happy dance when we found out that the iconic Australian winery, Grosset was dabbling in Fiano. Known more so for their iconic examples of Riesling, they've been growing and crafting their 'Apania' from their own organically managed vineyard since 2014, but the young vines were given a propping up by Semillon but in 2017 it's been 100% Fiano and of course it's all the better for it. Describe this wine in one word? Easy: Lush. Super limited availability.
It’s a little known fact that Fiano can be aged as well as a Riesling, and this is one of things that excites Briony from Beach Road about Fiano and she often releases them after a little bottle ageing and even has some museum Fiano’s available online. It's definitely worth your while to grab a freshly released example and a museum as well to see the potential for cellared Fiano!
Heathcote is another hotspot in Australia for Fiano due to the Chalmers family's plantings and this is one of the greats. Light skin contact of 24 hours to add some structure, then split between stainless steel and some into older puncheon for wild fermentation. Really clever winemaking makes this a really smart wine with loads of texture but it's still a delight to drink.
Momento Mori 2017 'Bianco'
Definitely one of the more Avant Guard styles in Australia, we've seen plenty of extended skin contact in Fiano from the Old World from producers like Cantina Giardino and Il Tufiello but this is one of the only really experimental examples coming from this country. Dane Johns from Momento Mori is the epitome of hands off - he doesn't even use pumps! - and his Bianco is one of our favourites. It ends up being a blend most years but 2017 was a stellar year for Heathcote and Dane was able to craft this out of 100% skin contact Fiano - 5 months on skins, 5 months aged in tank, then 5 months of bottle age before release. Meticulously crafted and if you somehow get your hands on this, you will be rewarded.
This is a really serious Fiano. From a Chalmers Vineyard in Heathcote once again, where it's handled with some skin contact and wildly, a portion being carbonically macerated before some barrel fermentation and it stays there for 10 months. Definitely a fleshier number but it's level of complexity is through the roof. Great tannin structure to compliment that hallmark Fiano acidity! On the wilder side but isn't that where we love to be!