Monday, November 21, 2011


- Riverina, NSW
- $14.95
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

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.
90 points


  1. Nice find Chris. Sounds like it'd be perfect with a big plateful of charcuterie. Or carne if I'm being linguistically correct I suppose.

    Love to see how it turns out with some age. One to keep an eye on.


  2. Loved the 08, so great to hear that the 09 is on song as well.

  3. Chris, agreed all round with your note, I'd be frightened though to try to drink it without food!

  4. Cheers Stu. I think any sort of outdoor dining with the sun up and a couple of tumblers ;) would well suit. I can't take credit for the find though. Think the first place I actually read about it might've been Red's site....

  5. Red,

    I'm quite excited about this wine for a number of reasons.

    Mainly, when we hear about Australia's wine glut and how we're 'over-planted' to vineyards here, the first place many people think 'pull up' is the inland river regions. It's fair enough, but wines like this, as well as Westend's Durif, show that on a basis of quality, with the right variety at hand, those regions are capable of matching it with Australia's more fashionable regions when it comes to value for money around the $15 mark - a very important market. In future years I wouldn't be surprised if these regions were planted to a entirely new set set of varieties.

    I do ponder about the marketing difficulties of such wines (not this one though), particularly to more sophisticated drinkers, when most producers are happy using rather broad terms like South-East Australia or Australia, rather than Riverina or Riverland...

    Personally, I'd rather know more precisely where my wine is coming from. Could just be me though. I would be very interested to know if local markets would be more likely to buy an $8 wine if it said 'Riverland', or 'South Australia'. I can certainly see the logic in labelling cheap wine under the broad South Australia name, particularly for overseas markets. I'm clearly floating off topic here...

    Chris P

  6. joshgtv,

    I decanted this for about 60-90 minutes and had the first half of the bottle food free. Rest assured, it got more intensely tannic as it went!

  7. Chris,

    (I hope you're around. You've been quiet and I hope everything is OK)

    I just got a bottle of this, and everything you said in your review I concur with! I picked mine up for $11 (!) so I'm very happy.

    I've had a couple of Durif's recently and wanted to try something new from the region; although Durif is my unsubtle style, this showed promise.

    Your comments about the Riverland region competing by focusing on the varieties they have competitive advantage in are 100% right too. We've tasted the future, my friend.