Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
Peter Barry, managing director of Clare Valley winemakers Jim Barry Wines those the variety after a chance tasting while holidaying on the Greek island of Santorini in 2007.
“Assyrtiko immediately stood out as a variety suited to the modern Australian palate,” Barry said. “The fresh, crisp acidic qualities of the wine are perfect accompaniments to contemporary Australian food – it is a natural partner for our climate and cuisine.”
Barry sees the planting of Assyrtiko as a step toward growing grapes that have a sustainable future for the region. “Assyrtiko is grown predominantly on Santorini in arid, windy and hot conditions,” he said.
“Clare is a cool district with good rainfall but we must face up to climate change and water scarcity and adapt our management appropriately. Varieties which can grow on minimal irrigation and still produce contemporary wine styles is what we all look for.
“We’re beginning with half a hectare of Assyrtiko using two dormant cuttings from a single vine – a true mother vine and Santorini clone,” said Barry.
The cuttings were planted this week at the family’s Lodge Hill property in the Clare Valley on an east-facing slope at 480 metres, and celebrated appropriately with a Greek-style feast of grilled lamb.
“The laborious process of importation and quarantine has discouraged many growers in Australia from trying something new,” Barry explained.
Wine from the Jim Barry Wines Assyrtiko vines is still five years away, according to Barry.