By now, if you've been following what we do at Unico Zelo for the last little while, you'll have probably noticed we don't chat too much about many varieties, mostly two: for White Wines it's Fiano, and for Red Wine it's Nero D'avola/Nero. We can talk about why we love those particular varieties till the cows come home, but today we're just going to focus on Nero - that delectable black grape from the kicked soccer ball that is Sicily. One of those varieties that we see every year just become more and more at home in this country, particularly in heat. This thing is absolutely thriving in dry, hot vintages, and is coping remarkably well in desert like climates (see: our Halcyon Days). But we're not the only people who think that, there is a raft of other producers that are making some absolutely phenomenal Nero around the country. So we're here to shout them out, and give you guys a bit of a wider look at Australian Nero, and give you some HOT TIPS on which ones you should try. We're gonna try give you as much diversity as we, most of this stuff is grown in McLaren Vale, but never fear - there are some bangers from round the country.
The Genesis of Australian Nero. Literally. The incredible Chalmers family were the first to take a punt on this variety in Australia, planting a singular vine in Heathcote in 2001. From there, it's been able to grow and thrive and spread around the country, now there are over 200,000 vines Australia wide grown from cuttings from the Chalmers Family. An incredible story of viticulture, but beyond that, it's just a bloody tasty wine, capturing everything we love about Nero. Juicy, high acid, crunchy with a lick of spice. Exceptionally drinkable. No nonsense, no mucking about, just really, really bloody delicious.
The Wild Man himself, our great mate and Master of Wine Tim Wildman's Pet-Nat project has been at the core of Australian natural wine for damn near a decade, despite only releasing 2 SKU's each year and in TINY volumes. His Astro Bunny is one of the more sought after and at the top of the Australian Pétillant Naturel tree, but we've got a real soft spot for the Heavy Petting cause, duh, 100% Nero (actually 99% but the 1% is Zibbibo and we love Zibbibo). If you haven't tried it, its a fresh, fizzy, sour cherry bomb of fun that is the perfect thing to pop just as the sun goes down. Real good fun. A little birdy told us that he's changing the name for the soon to be released 2019 Vintage so keep an eye out - it won't be around long!
Fall From Grace's Gill Gordon Smith is truly one of Australia's greatest wine people. Literally, ask anyone. She's not only one of the most kind women around, but she's currently Australia's greatest wine educator through the South Australian TAFE System and a kick-ass wine maker to boot! She spends a few months every single year in Italy so you're gonna be damn sure she know her way around some Nero. As you'd expect, a pitch perfect example of the variety, more traditional than you'd expect, more focused on integrated tannin structure and that line of spice is a bit more on show than most New World Styles. But don't worry, that deep black fruit presence is here, and is as seductive as ever. Top drinking.
What's oft described as the tippy top of the tree that is Australian Nero D'avola (it's fine guys, we're not hurt. We're not crying, you're crying!). But we can't be mad at Brad Hickey because he's absolutely one of the best winemakers in this country, and of course this Nero is no different. Definitely one of the more interesting takes too, as Brad ages this in some Amphora! Six months in locally made clay pots and on skins for that entire time (destemmed) has given this wine a level of complexity rarely seen in this variety - at least in this country. Layers, on layers, of intricate aromatics, balanced with one of the more fine grained tannin lines you'll see south of the equator. Tippy top of the tree? Yup. Most defintiely. Absolutely incredible.
To be expected from someone who cut their teeth at Coriole, Alex Sherrah makes some really epic examples of varieties we love, - we included his delicious Fiano Pet-Nat in our first Unico Subscription Service Pack! This, his Nero, is a bonafide belter. A balance of fruit intensity and acidity, by the way of 2 seperate picking dates, and then a 14 day whole berry fermentation, before 9 months of maturation of older oak, Alex makes the wines that we love to drink. Purity of variety and fruit, and a stellar example of place - his place is the Vale, and gosh he makes it seem like a wonderful place. Refreshing and complex all at once.
Not a rosé, not a red, somewhere in the delicious middle. Angela Townsend and Andy Coppard are the duo behind Lino Ramble, a little McLaren Vale winery focussed on some epicly farmed alternative varieties from around the way, but our favourite little wine of theirs is the 'Pee Wee' Nero. Ultimate park wine. As drinkable as a Cotees Raspberry cordial at half time, chasing down an orange wedge. This is a complete don't think, just drink wine, falling in that category of Rip, Tear and Share - like, right now. If you're gonna grab a bottle, grab a few, they disappear rather quickly...
A rad couple doing some real rad things. In seemingly a very short time, Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly have established themselves as a winemaking force out of the Vale, and chocking up accolades like it ain't no thang. 2017 James Halliday Best New Winery, Top 50 in the Young Gun of Wine 2018, and some BIG gongs at the McLaren Vale Wine Show over the years. But for us, we just love their wines as they're true to their mantra of delicious but interesting - and this Nero is just that. More of the peppery almost 5 spice aromatics are the core of this wine, but don't be fooled, it's still ALL about refreshment, drinkability and plush juicy raspberry fruit quality. Top stuff from an outrageously consistent producer. You'll be hard pressed to find a bad drop in their line-up.
Thank god we're getting some Nero from the Barossa, because fruit gets a level of ripeness there that make complete sense for a grape like Nero - and Gibson make a stellar value example. Under their 'Discovery Road' label, they've been playing around with some "alternative varieties" like Tempranillo, Montepulciano and some Zinfandel! They're all delicious but our total fave is the Nero. Definitely one of the richer and plump versions of the variety but we're stoked it doesn't sacrifice to much in the way of acidity. A Nero for the cooler weather, and that is an important category, and Gibson are bloody crushing it.
We love wines like this. Just plain fun. Made by Californian cult adored Forlorn Hope winemaker Matthew Roderick, where is Sierra foothill made wine has become underground winemaking legend, naturally made from some obscure varieties like St. Lauren, Picpoul and some Trousseau! In a complete shift from making wines from the very-cold mountains of Cali, he's come to the hot, dry plains of the Barossa and is trying his hand at some old vine Grenache, skinsy white blends and this Nero - a lightly handled, 50% whole bunch, joyous, slippery little red that holds all that glorious acidity we love about Nero. If you're into your chillable Natchies, get your lips round this!
This really some old school cool and definitely one of the more "Italian" examples of the list, everything's dialled up here. Mount Horrocks have been making this example for 7 vintages after planting the vines in 2007 and it's a supremely well made wine coming out of Clare - and the vineyard is certified organic for good measure! 9 days of skin fermentation gives this thing a little more tannin structure, and bit of new oak gives it body, but once again that Nero acidity binds this thing all together, and stops this thing going too far one way or the other. Cracking stuff coming from the Valley.