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No family in Australia has done more for the continued emergence of alternative grape varieties than the Chalmers.
Since the mid 1980’s Bruce and Jenni Chalmers have been responsible for importing up to 70 alternative varieties into Australia, culminating in them establishing the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in 1999.
In the last 5 years Bruce and Jenni’s daughters Kim and Tennille have taken over a lot of the business. New vineyards have been established in Heathcote, and with Kooyong Estate’s winemaker Sandro Mosele putting the wines together, their quality has gone to another level.
You’ll find the experts’ glowing appraisals of Chalmers over in the ‘Awards & Reviews’ tab, but as Nick Ryan astutely points out, “It’s the Chalmers family from Euston who have done more than anyone to broaden our drinking horizons.” Long may they continue.
Sagrantino is a very new variety to Australia. There is debate over its origin, but it is in Umbria in Central Italy where the variety has been made famous. There are only a handful of Australian examples, like most Italian alternative varieties coming mainly out of Central Victoria and the McLaren Vale / Adelaide Hills area.
Chalmers have grown Sagrantino for some time in their Euston property, but this is the first release from their new Heathcote vineyard. Tennille explains that the fruit comes from the highest point of their vineyard in deep Cambrian soils, with the quantity produced only small. As with all Chalmers wines the winemaking is very hands off, with natural yeasts employed, no fining and very minimum filtration.
It’s a full-flavoured, perfectly structured, food-friendly wine, and if the quality of this 2012 release is anything to go by then this has an assured future as one of Australia’s premier Sagrantinos. As Campbell Mattinson said ( 92 points ), “It drinks beautifully”.
What It Tastes Like
The nose leaps out of the glass with fragrant cherries, plums, earth and spice. The palate is finely poised, with ample fruit perfectly balanced by toasty oak (French, 75% old) and firm tannins. As you’d expect with this variety the tannins are prominent, but never feel out of whack. There’s some really enticing earthy, savoury and minerally notes that add yet more interest to the wine - it’s one of those that just keep evolving in the glass. Fantastic!
92 points. “Wild yeast fermented, extended maceration, 18 months in French oak, 30% of it new. First release of a Chalmers Sagrantino was 2004 but this is from a young vineyard.”
“This release is very good. It drinks beautifully. It’s leathery, grainy, grunty, has a lift of redcurrant and an easy slide of creamy/smoky oak. Tannin is the key here, firm and authoritative. But the wine’s leathery, earthen, minerally aspect – combined with oak input – keeps the drinkability factor high.”
- Campbell Mattinson (The Wine Front)
Background: Cultivated for centuries on the hills of Umbria, Sagrantino is considered native to these parts, although there are various theories as to its origin. Some believe it to have come from Spain, others say it was imported by the first Franciscan friars, and others still claim that it was brought into Italy by the Saracens. This DOCG makes a major contribution to the reputation the Region of Umbria has earned as producer of fine wines, known and consumed by popes and governors during the Renaissance.
Winemaking: 100% destemmed and fermented in open fermenters without a yeast addition. Fermentation typically goes for 20 days. The wine is then pressed and matured in French barriques, 75% old and 25% new. Malolactic fermentation is natural. The wine is then bottled without fining and with little or no filtration after about 12 months.
Tasting Note: The 2012 Sagrantino is our first from the Heathcote vineyard where the vines are growing in a special site close to the top of the ridge in deep rocky Cambrian earth. The wine is deep and robust with ample dark cherry and plum fruits. The palate is finer than the nose suggests with the tannins driving all the way through to the finish.
Food Match: The distinctive flavour profile and earthy tannins of Sagrantino are well suited to a robust fatty food like roasted pork belly, cotechino or aged, hard cheeses.
Closure: Screw Cap
Bottle Size: 750ml
About the Producer
No family in Australia has done more for the continued emergence of alternative grape varieties than the Chalmers. Since the mid-1980’s Bruce and Jenni Chalmers have been responsible for importing up to 70 alternative varieties into Australia, culminating in them establishing the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in 1999. They are true visionaries of the Australian wine scene and we are eternally grateful for their forward thinking and courage to bravely plant what no one had planted before them. They brought with them the first ripples of the tsunami of Italian varieties hitting the Australian market.
Heathcote’s reputation is for big Shiraz. And they do it so well. But the times they are a changin’ with Italian varieties such as Fiano, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola and Sagrantino all finding themselves well at home in the ancient Cambrian soils.
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