From the tasting team

The Italian white shining in Australia

By Ned Goodwin MW

10 Dec, 2020

Fiano is often pointed to as a variety that’s perfect for the Australian environment. But as Ned Goodwin MW points out, there’s more to its success than just that. Here, Ned shares his thoughts on the exceptional producers and what they’re doing right.

While it’s tempting to discuss the ‘emerging’, ‘alternative’, or Mediterranean grapes making their mark in warmer viticultural parts of Australia as a whole, recent tastings for the Halliday Wine Companion strongly suggest that among the newer white cultivars, one leads the way: fiano.

Fiano is among Italy’s great grapes of either colour. Its spiritual home is in Campania, stretching towards the volcanic hillsides outside of Naples. There, it reaches its apogee around the town of Avellino in medium- to fuller-weight wines with aromas of stone fruit, bitter almond and fennel, with saline freshness against their palate-staining viscosity.

Fiano’s success in Australia is chiefly due to climatic suitability. It is robust, far from thirsty and well suited to hot environments, having evolved across the ebbs and flows of Mediterranean antiquity. Planting in the right regions and sites and appropriate rootstock and clonal selection also play a part. But good wine is about more than this. Great wine, so much more.

Increasingly, fiano’s triumph here is due to courage and a search for truth. Courage to sample widely and understand what constitutes quality wine. To make wines of texture and with an indelible stamp of place, rather than the early-harvested, cool-fermented and acidified examples that have defined so much Australian fiano before.

Plantings of fiano in Australia are nascent, and winemakers are just getting started. However, having tasted a slew of recent examples, I can say optimistically and unequivocally that the better producers are crafting wines we can, at last, get our teeth into – that are optimally ripe and layered, often fermented spontaneously, and embellished with some lees handling, skin contact and larger format oak. These wines are ample and textural and so much more than just another fresh white.

Far from comprehensive, the list of fianos below is indicative of the most exciting tasted to date for the Halliday Wine Companion.

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