When selecting wines, it can be tempting to stick to varietals that are known, loved, tried and tested, but venturing into the unknown can open the palate and result in an incredible drinking experience. That's why we're deep diving into five of the lesser-known wines we produce, giving you the knowledge you need to find a new favourite that may pleasantly surprise you.
The fiano grape hails from southern Italy, more specifically around Campania and Sicily. Grown for hundreds of years, this humble grape was mostly used in blends before experiencing a local revival in the 90s and finding its way onto the world stage. Now, it's becoming a popular alternative to pinot gris for drinkers who are seeking more flavour without going overboard. Fianos are typically fuller bodied than most other whites, and burst with strong flavours of lemon, honey and stone fruit, as well as being highly aromatic. There’s currently more than 100 hectares of fiano growing across Australia, including here in the Hunter Valley. Whilst we may not be as coastal as its Italian hometown, fiano is thriving in our warm, dry climate, and is ripe and ready for you to embrace.
Pairs with: seafood pasta, Asian-style dishes, creamy cheeses
Try fiano if you like: semillon, pinot grigio, unoaked chardonnay
Although its name may be unfamiliar to those outside of the Hunter Valley and Portugal, the vibrant tropical fruit flavours of verdelho are instantly recognizable to Australian wine drinkers. Similar in style to a bright and zesty sauvignon blanc, this is a casual, easy-drinking wine, perfect to share over lunch or an afternoon picnic. Originating in Portugal, verdelho has been growing in Australia since the early 1800s and has a history of being used in blends; however, Hunter verdelho is held in such high esteem that it's recognised with its own highly competitive category at the Hunter Valley Wine Awards. It has notes of citrus zest, honeydew melon and ginger, and a medium–high acidity.
Pairs well with with: oysters, chicken (smoked or barbecued)
Try verdelho if you like: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay
Corvina is a centuries-old red wine grape that originated in the northeast Italian town of Veneto, famed for its use in the iconic Bardolino and Valpolicella wines. On its own, corvina has a distinctive character due to its sour cherry flavours and hints of almond, cinnamon and green peppercorn. It is light to medium-bodied, with low tannins and high levels of acidity, and gives off the bolder flavours and intensity associated with softer pinot noirs without the aggressiveness of something like nebbiolo. And with its warm summers and cool breezes akin to the wine's original terroir, the Hilltops region is the perfect home for corvina.
Pairs well with: salumi, bruschetta, fatty fish dishes
Try corvina if you like: Valpolicella, Bardolino
Whilst still not a household name, gewürztraminer is a German grape that's been growing in Australia since 1832 thanks to the influence of German settlers. Known worldwide for its intensely perfumed aroma, this white grape has a thick skin which gives the wine a full-bodied, oily texture and richness on the palate. It's often mistaken for riesling locally, as the two were blended for many years, but there's a world of difference between that flavours and modern gewürz.
The spiritual home of gewürztraminer is Alsace in northeastern France, with the grapes growing in the reputed Grand Cru vineyards. Australian gewürztraminer has aromatics of rose petal and Turkish delight, sometimes with spicy notes, and the palate is flavoured with lychee and citrus fruit. It's a stellar wine that shouldn’t be missed.
Pairs well with: Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine, pad krapow gai, green chicken curry
Try gewürztraminer if you like: riesling, moscato
Another Italian native that is growing in popularity in Australia, vermentino is a light-skinned grape that produces a lovely and vibrant white wine. Flavours of lime, green apple and peach make it a clear winner for summer nights, whilst its medium-to-low sweetness means it also fares well when matched with food. For those after the refreshing flavours of sauvignon blanc without the grassy nose, vermentino is just the thing and, when left to ripen a little longer, this typically dry white transforms to something rather special and rich in pineapple. This hardy grape is thriving in the Hunter Valley climate, so you can expect to see plenty more of it.
Pairs well with: Mediterranean food and herby flavours like grilled fish and vegetables
Try vermentino if you like: sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio