Shades of Grey

Vines Alsace

I’d been to Libertine in North Melbourne last year to drink Tahbilk wines matched with their excellent cuisine, so when we read on the Del Zotto website that they were doing a similar thing with their wines, we jumped at the invite. There’s something about the name Libertine that entrances me. I suppose it’s my love of words starting with “L” , like lascivious, licentious and lewd. The catch was that it wasn’t all Del Zotto. I hadn’t read the small print that said it was really the third in a series of wine challenges. Last year apparently, Libertine had hosted a Mornington peninsular versus Yarra Valley pinot noir challenge. This time was a pinot gris versus pinot grigio with Del Zotto providing the grigio and a fellow King Valley winery, Prentice, providing the gris.

One highlight wasn’t the comparison between the two styles but the comparison between the King Valley samples and some European ones. The 2009 Del Zotto was compared to a 2008 from the Alto Adige region in the Tyrol and Libertine matched them with a soufflé. Initially I was disappointed as both wines were served too cold and you had to let them drop to room temperature before the real taste came through. Then there wasn’t much difference between the two. Both were steely and long on the palate. I was biased and preferred the Victorian variety.

The Prentice pinot gris was compared to one from Alsace. Both were from the 2009 vintage and the chef matched them with a chicken farci. I thought the food was a better match for them and the smoothness of the gris complemented the taste of the chicken. I couldn’t see much difference in these two wines either.

The two grape varieties are both splendid styles and ideally suited to the cool climate of the King Valley. Other examples I’ve tasted from warmer climes weren’t as pristine and the gris were rather overblown. I am a fan of the Del Zotto wines and would have voted for their wines if pressed. I also liked the modesty of Michael Del Zotto, the winemaker. His description of the grigio wasn’t complicated by wine speak.

Vines King Valley

The true highlight of the evening was the prosecco served as an aperitif on arrival. It was also served with the first course of cured rainbow trout. The prosecco wasn’t Del Zotto’s premium variety called “L’Immigrante” but the standard, non-vintage and cheaper “Pucino”. The story of how the vines came to the King Valley and why there was a passion to plant them was a winner. Apparently Michael and his father, Otto, were drinking coffee in the family’s old home town in Italy and Michael was getting sick of drinking coffee with his father and friends. Otto suggested a proseccini – a shot glass of prosecco at 10.00 in the evening. Michael was won over and determined to grow some in Victoria. The red tape involved in importing the vines from Italy was exhausting. I don’t think the Italians want the grape to leave their shores. However, hidden in the archives of imported grapes to Australia was a record of prosecco being imported in the 1960s to South Australia. Michael tracked the vines down to someone’s back yard and took cuttings.  The rest as one might say, is history.

By Michael Metcalfe


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