Strange as it may sound to some, Bill Calabria's Westend Estate is behind some truly groundbreaking reds at the moment, made from Riverina fruit, and sold for $15. Alongside Australia's only Saint Macaire (an ultra rare variety with Bordeaux origins), the shamelessly Italian inspired Calabria Aglianico is growing a steady following for its savoury nature, firm structure and food friendliness. Much like the Calabria's themselves, these Private Bin releases are doing a lot to help reshape the future of Australia's warm inland river regions.
Oh my. On first sniff the Calabria shows promising signs of being a textbook, new age Aussie quaffer, as the late ripening aglianico has produced an earthy and floral, rather savoury and feral wine by Riverina standards, that still underpins its fragrance with a slightly leathery expression of classically sun-drenched, ripe dark plums and cherries marked by dry cedar oak. Its palate unleashes a comforting mouthful of similarly dark, berry, cherry and plum flavour, capably enveloped by a back end of dusty, savoury tannins, forthright acids and a lingering note of licorice, but it doesn't quite live up to initial promise, because I detect a faint diluteness to its taste. It's a grievance that can easily be overlooked for $15, because the wine's good body, structure and length all meld together in vivid harmony, making it such an easy red to slide down the back of the throat. So long as you can handle the tannin, of course.
ü+ Despite one niggle, there's so much potential on display here, particularly in terms of aglianico's character and its suitability to the hot Australian sun. Given time, experience and increased vine age, I think the Calabria Aglianico could establish a new benchmark for inland reds. Drink to 2016.