Pietradolce – White and red wines from the foothills of Mount Etna
Pietradolce

Pietradolce is a relatively new winery, established in 2005, by Michele Faro and family. The family’s original small vineyard holdings have been augmented by hard won purchase from local farmers (‘contadini’) and now boast vines up to 120 years of age. The winery and vineyards, in Solicchiata, are a stone’s throw from the crater of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.

Pietradolce winery with Etna in background

Directly translated ‘pietradolce’ means sweet stone, and this is a reference to the stony, rugged terrain of the foothills of Mt Etna, where the vineyards are often terraced with the volcanic rocks moved to form them. The vines are nourished by rich volcanic soils and flourish in the cool climate of the northern and eastern slopes at between 600 and 900 metres above sea level. Most of the older plantings are “bush” pruned, with younger vines espaliered.

100 year old Nerello Mascalese vines in ‘Vigna Barbagalli’ 900 metres above sea level

These wines are unique, made from native Italian varietals: Carricante with its steely, pure acidity and complex, subtle mineral and fruit notes, and Nerello Mascalese with its misleading pale-ish colour and soft persistent, red fruits, hints of tobacco and fine tannins.

When I say a “stone’s throw” from the crater, the winery is approximately 50 kilometers away from Mount Etna, but its awesome power enables it to send the odd lava bomb over that distance.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco DOC 2014 is entirely Carricante, fermented in stainless steel. Bright, pale and slightly lemon-tinged, shy but vibrant, crisp and savoury with hints of minerals, pear, peach and nectarine. This expressive wine with its cleansing acidity begs for a plate of seafood. 13%a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco ‘Archineri’ DOC 2014 is again 100% Carricante, this time from vines 100-120 years old, grown at 850m above sea level on the eastern slopes of Mt Etna. Pale colour, lemon tinged, this is super-intense, pure, long and fine showing nectarine and grapefruit nuances, with slaty acidity. This has such poise and balance, it should age well over three to five years. 13.5% a/v, good quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2014 is made from Nerello Mascalese grown on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. The pale-ish brick red colour is disarming, as the wine is fragrant showing wild berry red fruits over a silky palate framed by firm but ripe tannins. I have never tasted volcanic soil, but with the power of suggestion there is an underlying smoky/earthy/ferrous complexity which is intriguing and alluring. This has spent a modest amount of time in oak and is for current drinking, particularly with roasted white meats. 14% a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso ‘Archineri’ DOC 2013 is all Nerello Mascalese from 80-90 year old vines grown at 850m above sea level on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. Colour is medium dense and both nose and palate display abundant red fruit characters. Very serious wine, lively, flavoursome and balanced, textured and spicy with fine tannins. It spent approximately 14 months in oak (20% new) and has extra layers of richness and complexity to show for it. Drinking well now this wine has the balance and depth to age for another four to five years. 14% a/v, quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2013 is no longer available but my tasting notes from October 2014 record a light brick red colour, fragrant red cherry fruit, ripe gentle tannins; quite rich and savoury. Very drinkable wine

These wines are imported into Australia by Trembath & Taylor (www.trembathandtaylor.com.au) and are well worth seeking out for their uniqueness and quality.

E. Guigal – Cotes du Rhone 2011
Guigal CDR

Guigal is rightly acclaimed for its flagship wines, among them notably La Landonne, La Mouline, La Turque and Chateau d’Ampuis from the Northern Rhone appellation of Cote Rotie. In this company it is easy to forget that the firm also produces fine wines from all corners of the Rhone Valley, including generic Cotes du Rhone.

Etienne Guigal, founder of the firm, first worked for Vidal-Fleury before establishing his own business in 1946; Vidal-Fleury is now owned by Guigal, having been purchased in the mid 1980’s. The gorgeous Chateau d’Ampuis now headquarters of the Guigal business was acquired in 1995 and extensively restored. Other acquisitions have followed.

The foresight, energy and passion of the Guigal family is obvious in everything they do.

For example, not content with the brilliance of La Mouline, first produced by Marcel Guigal (Etienne’s son) in 1966, Marcel, recognizing the quality and possibilities of the vineyards comprising La Landonne went to great lengths to secure them. Quoting from Livingstone-Learmonth & Masters’ The Wines of the Rhone Valley, Marcel says “You can’t imagine the trouble we went to in order to buy up the La Landonne vineyard. It belonged to seventeen small holders, and I am sure I shall never have to be so patient again when it comes to buying a vineyard. It took more than ten years, buying each plot individually…” La Landonne was launched with the 1978 vintage. Read More >

Prosecco – What’s in a name?
Prosecco Grapes

I started writing this piece in December last year, and have only just come back to it, at the end of April 2014. “Writer’s Block” is my excuse; even Shakespeare may have suffered from it. I am self-medicating with a glass of Prosecco as I write. Read More >

The Man in the Van delivers again: Route du Van Geelong Pinot Noir 2011
Route du Van Pinot Noir - www.routeduvan.com

Route du Van, as reported previously is the joint adventure of Tod Dexter and Ian Bird and their families, and the aim is to produce wines for everyday drinking pleasure. Read More >

Dexter Mornington Peninsula 2012 Releases
Dexter - Mornington Peninsula, www.dexterwines.com.au

Tod Dexter knows as much as anyone about this Peninsula and his 2011 releases were a triumph given the difficult vintage conditions that year. In 2012 the weather Gods were much kinder, indeed this looks to have been a very good vintage indeed. Read More >

Paradise IV – Geelong, Australia – 2012 Releases
Paradise IV frost on vines

Paradise IV is a small, five acre vineyard planted to Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon (with small plantings of other varieties) established by Graham and Ruth Bonney in 1988. It sits on a northeast facing slope, sheltered from the hotter extremes of the Moorabool valley, at Bates ford, just a few kilometres west of Geelong. The soils are decomposed granite over limestone and deep clay. Read More >

STARWARD Australian Malt Whisky
There is an awful lot of whisky in barrel at the distillery. The-barrels-are-now-kept-standing-up-as they are easier to move around than when lying in cradles

Nothing quite like a wee dram on a cold winter’s night in Melbourne. Starward is a new brand, the latest addition to the growing number of Australian whisky producers, and I came across it due to one of my many personal failings. As the wise people say, the definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipe, but doesn’t. The Production Manager of New World Distillery, Ian Thorn is accordingly not a gentleman; nor am I. He did however furnish me with a sample and a tour of the distillery. Read More >

Curly Flat – Macedon Ranges – New Releases
www.curlyflat.com

I sat down to lunch with good company late February this year to taste the latest releases from Macedon Ranges winery “Curly Flat”, presented by owner and winemaker Phillip Moraghan, along with a couple of older wines for comparison. I did so with some anticipation because I’d had just a few wines from this producer and all had piqued my interest. Read More >

The Avoca Hotel – a grand old gold rush hotel in central Victoria, serving fine food and local wines
Avoca Hotel www.theavocahotel.com.au

As you travel about country Victoria, in every small town the best buildings are the Banks, the Churches, and of course the Hotels. The Banks are closing their small branches and leaving town, and the Churches are facing dwindling congregations. But there’s a resurgence among country hotels.
Read More >

New releases from Bass Phillip
Bass Phillip

By all accounts, vintage 2011 was a challenge for most Australia wine growing regions. Phillip Jones is quite forthright about it by describing the conditions at his Leongatha South vineyard as “wet and cold” on the back labels of his current releases. Read More >