Wine Lists

Alternative wines to try

By Halliday Promotion

26 Apr, 2023

These 10 wines are made from varietals outside the mainstream – add them to your list.

Diverse and distinct are two words to describe the Australian wine landscape. These 10 producers continue to showcase their innovation through alternative or lesser-known varieties and experimental blending.

Each of the below wines is different to the other. Try a Piedmontese-inspired blend of dolcetto, barbera and sangiovese; a montepulciano; a touriga; a gamay; a roussanne; a mataro; a unique meslier brut rosé; a blend of grenache, shiraz, mourvedre and cinsault; a blend of fernão pires and verdelho; and a mencia. Add these alternative wines to your list.

Charlish and Co Rosso 2021

2021 Charlish and Co Rosso

A Piedmontese-inspired blend of dolcetto, barbera and sangiovese. Lifted perfume of red and blue fruits accompanied by morello cherry with supportive acidity, approachable tannins and a delightfully fun palate.

Winemakers Rebecca Stubbs and Duane Coates MW say: This wine is delicious, interesting, light on its feet and easy to match with food.

Dolcetto and barbera from the Adelaide Hills have a delightful freshness and great natural acidity ideally suited for lighter-bodied red styles. A touch of sangiovese adds a little extra dimension and structure to the Rosso blend.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
RS & DC. Gentle handling with cool fermentation temperatures and partial whole bunch using wild yeasts. Soft pressing before ageing six months in seasoned French oak, then bottling unfined and unfiltered at the winery. All fruit is sourced within one kilometre of the Kuitpo winery – meaning minimal wine miles and low sulphur.

Best enjoyed: The 2021 is best enjoyed with food and friends! Being a Piedmontese-inspired blend, the Rosso works brilliantly with antipasto or carne cruda.

RRP $30 | Drink to 2027 |

Colab and Bloom Montepulciano 2021

2021 Colab and Bloom Montepulciano

It's a rustic red, in a good way, with a ruggedness to it. Tar and blueberry flavours mix with bay leaf, meat and toast. Its flavour and mouthfeel make it tailor-made for drinking at a barbecue, though in truth it is worthy of your better glassware. – Campbell Mattinson, Halliday Wine Companion.

Winemaker Mike Farmilo says: This wine will take you to the heart of Italy. It is rich, smooth and oh so drinkable – it’s a classic montepulciano, filled with forest berries and bay leaf aromas. Our vineyards enjoy a Mediterranean climate that’s just perfect for ripening this soulful red. It’s warming and hearty and full of good feels, serious and is playful all at once. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
MF. After picking these big bunches of grapes at optimal ripeness, we ferment on skins for up to 14 days in a cold soak to release all the deep colours and aromas. Following pressing, the juice goes into old French oak hogsheads to allow the ample tannins time to soften and meld. We regularly rack and return the wine to gently expose it to oxygen. We taste it every month and wait patiently until the wine is ready to bottle.

Best enjoyed: Decant the 2021 an hour before serving, and then pair this wine with simple Italian cuisine – you can’t go past a great pizza or a slow-cooked ragu.

RRP $22 | Drink to 2027 |

2018 Flowstone Touriga

2018 Flowstone Touriga

Medium deep red with purple hues. Notes of red and dark berries, mulberry, spice, mocha, hints of violet on the nose. The palate offers ripe plum, cherry, rhubarb, chocolate and licorice flavours, supple tannins, and mild acidity. Time in French oak adds soft spices and talc-like tannins to finish.

Winemaker Stuart Pym says: Touriga is a grape variety prominent in Portuguese ports and table wines. It is a rare planting in Australia, and this wine is the first from our very own vineyard. It's one of those wines that we've become passionate about – 2018 was a great vintage for Margaret River.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
SP. Hand picked, fermented in small open vats, and plunged thrice daily. The batches remain on skins for seven to 14 days to soften the tannins, then pressed, settled, and into French oak barrels (25 per cent new) for two years. Giving this wine time to rest in bottle has really allowed it to be at its best now. 

Best enjoyed: This touriga is best with food – lamb pie with mint sauce or vegetarian moussaka topped with ricotta. Open the bottle an hour or two prior to drinking to allow the wine to really blossom.

RRP $40 | Drink to 2032 |

Golding Gamay

2022 Golding Ombre Gamay

Vibrant in hue and exuberant in youthful personality, this wine delivers a lifted nose of raspberry, cherry and floral notes with layers of earthy spice and subtle tannins on the palate.

Winemaker Darren Golding says: Gamay is a light-bodied red variety that shares some characteristics with pinot noir when it comes to the red fruit notes that drive the aromatics, however it will typically exhibit more of a floral spectrum on the nose. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
DG. Gamay grows beautifully on the gentle slopes of our cool-climate site in the Adelaide Hills, which ensures high levels of natural acidity and subtle tannins. Our Ombre Gamay is whole bunch, open wild ferment with a small portion aged in older French oak.

Best enjoyed: Due to its balanced levels of natural acidity and tannin, gamay is a versatile wine when it comes to food pairings. It's equally delicious accompanying a roast chicken with lemon and herbs as it is with slow-cooked beef cheeks with rich Asian flavours. The 2022 is best served in a Burgundy-style glass and can be served slightly chilled in the warmer months.

RRP $32 | Drink to 2032 |

2022 Jester Hill Wines Touchstone Roussanne

2022 Jester Hill Wines Touchstone Roussanne

Roussanne is characterised by bright floral aromas with stone fruit, nuts, baked bread, and spices. On the palate, its rich oily and viscous texture opens up notes of chamomile, sweet anise, white peach, pear, beeswax, and lanolin with surprising acidity on the finish. The combination of natural acidity and weight provides a silky texture that roussanne devotees find to be irresistible.

Winemaker Michael Bourke says: The berries are distinguished by their russet colour when ripe – ‘roux’ is French for the reddish brown colour russet. It can be very difficult to grow, with vulnerability to mildew, poor resistance to drought and wind, late and/or uneven ripening, and irregular yields. For us, with the cool climate of the Granite Belt, we have it down pat! The 2019 and 2022 vintages have received gold and trophy awards. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
MB. My approach to winemaking at all times is focused on the vineyard. A minimalist approach to winemaking has produced some amazing roussanne over the years. Fermented in French oak – roussanne is an extremely versatile variety when planted in the right terroir. Jester Hill Wines prides itself on producing estate-grown wines only. We have produced an amazing shiraz roussanne blend.

Best enjoyed: Although still on the richer side, the 2022 works with a range of seafood, chicken, duck, salmon, and turkey. Roussane can even pair with roast pork or pork belly. Aged roussane matches a cheese board with a generous dab of quince paste.

RRP $36 | Drink to 2032 |

2021 Basket Pressed Mataro

2021 Kay Brothers Basket Pressed Mataro

Deep purple colour. The bouquet exhibits aromas of violet and purple fruits, Turkish delight and a hint of biscotti. On the palate dense dark cherries and mocha, followed by crunchy acidity and fine-textured tannins. Bright, plush and delicious!

Senior winemaker Duncan Kennedy says: This is our single vineyard mataro, and the most important winemaking decisions are made in the vineyard. Our pruning and canopy management produce a balanced vine that ultimately shows in the finished wine. Hand-harvesting and gentle handling techniques – such as hand plunging, basket pressing and large oak maturation – are key. We have very intense fruit so it needs to be caressed and not over extracted.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
DK. The fruit was hand harvested on April 8, before being immediately crushed, destemmed and hand plunged utilising open top fermentation. Following 12 days on skins, traditional basket pressing in our 1928 basket press was employed. The wine was matured in seasoned French oak puncheons for eight months before being bottled in September 2022.

Best enjoyed: We recommend decanting the 2021 prior to serving, and pour into large glassware. The wine's temperature should be between 15–20 degrees. A great paring option is a rich pasta dish that is light on spice.

RRP $33 | Drink to 2029 |

NV Sparkling Meslier Brut Rose

NV Levrier Wines by Jo Irvine Sparkling Meslier Brut Rosé

Superbly fine beading with unique fresh green apple and citrus flavours. The palate is balanced beautifully with yeasty undertones and a racy acidity. 

Winemaker Jo Irvine says: A unique wine to Levrier – Meslier is one of the rarest Champagne varietals grown with only a few hectares known to exist worldwide. Our Meslier grapes are grown in the cooler climate of the Adelaide Hills and as far as we are aware, it is currently the only Meslier Sparkling Brut Rosé produced – making it an extremely rare sparkling wine.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
JI. The secret to this wine is a three year maturation process on yeast lees and balancing the natural acidity of the variety prior to final bottling. 

Best enjoyed: The perfect sparkling accompaniment is mussels and oysters with finger lime caviar and a hint of chilli. Serve chilled in a small RIEDEL sparkling glass for optimum enjoyment.

RRP $50 | Drink to 2035 |

2021 Marli Russell by Mount Mary RP2

2021 Marli Russell by Mount Mary RP2

The RP2 blend includes all four red varieties from the Marli Russell plantings at Mount Mary – grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre and cinsault. This wine is matured in larger format oak barrels to preserve freshness, fruit vibrancy and energy. A wine of elegance, with beautiful mid-palate fruit sweetness combined with savoury attributes and fine grain tannin.

Winemaker Sam Middleton says: This wine is made from estate grown fruit that was planted at Mount Mary in 2008 – we now have some of the oldest grenache vines in the Yarra Valley. We love the way grenache grows on our site and it is this variety we hope dictates the wine's style. We see these varieties as a great alternative to pinot noir in a warming, drying climate. In the best years they produce ethereal, rich, full-flavoured wines with structure, spice, interest and intrigue.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
SM. As with all varieties grown and vinified at Mount Mary, we try and handle individual varieties in the winery in a way that best highlights their natural, outstanding attributes. Grenache is destemmed and fermented as whole berries to encourage fruit sweetness and aromatic lift and aged in large format oak to retain freshness. Shiraz is fermented using whole bunch to impart spice and some carbonic maceration characteristics. The mourvèdre gives the wine colour, tannin and a darker fruit profile, while the cinsault is fermented at very cool temperatures to encourage lifted aromatics – the major reason for this particular variety's inclusion in the blend.

Best enjoyed: As with all Mount Mary wines they're made to be enjoyed around a dinner table with great food and good company. The RP2 can be enjoyed on release, not demanding time in the cellar, but will always benefit from a short time in the decanter before serving.

RRP $55 | Drink to 2030 | |

2022 ‘Field Blend Series’ La Maria

2022 Nuova Scuola Field Blend Series La Maria

The La Maria has notes of stone fruit, orange blossom and clove spice. It is rich and aromatic with a full, rounded palate. The upfront fruit is well balanced by a clean and dry finish. 

Winemakers Sarah Boyce and Stefano Radici say: Our La Maria is a stunning blend of two iconic Portuguese varieties. Fernão pires (also known as Maria Gomes in Portugal) makes up 80 per cent of the blend is an aromatic varietal with exotic fruit and spice notes. The characteristics from the fernão pires have combined perfectly with the citrus and tropical notes of the second variety – verdelho – which is around 20 per cent of the blend.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
SB & SR. The fernão pires was hand picked, and to extract the most flavour possible from the grapes, the skins were left macerating for a few hours before gentle pressing in a vertical basket press. The fermentation was carried out at very low temperatures on light solids. We then blended with the verdelho portion just before bottling.

Best enjoyed: I would suggest barramundi – not oily but bolder flavours – but it's also excellent with game birds and strong cheeses such as blue or washed rinds.

RRP $23 | Drink to 2024 |

Varney Mencia

2022 Varney Wines Mencia

The best iteration of mencía in the country. Think cool-climate syrah in a more savoury, mellifluous guise, smattered with dried thyme, fennel and peppery tannins, a twine of attractive astringency. A sphere of blue-fruited succulence expands across a fullish girth with energy, drive, length and immense joy. Great drinking! – Ned Goodwin MW, Halliday Wine Companion, 95 points.

Winemaker Alan Varney says: This medium-bodied red has a delightful perfume. It's savoury, with plenty of wild red berry characters and spice. Our mencía is made to be very approachable in its youth with restrained tannin and balanced red fruit characters. Enjoy on release, but it will also continue to develop over the next three to five years. 100 per cent mencía. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process for this wine?
AV. The 2022 was picked early and fermented cool. There was some whole bunch carbonic maceration, before spending 24 days on skins, we then pressed to seasoned French barriques for a short six week maturation, followed by blending and bottling.

Best enjoyed: This unique varietal pairs well with juicy cuts of lamb or the gamey flavours of roo. With its savoury palate, this is a very food friendly wine; but of course mencía can always be enjoyed on its own – even slightly chilled on a warm day.

RRP $36 | Drink to 2028 |