Refresh, reinvent and reinvigorate are terms often thrown around by marketeers and business consultants and we well know that the alcohol sector is not immune from their self-proclaimed wisdom.

It may be a statement of the obvious, but it’s probably fair to say that these days, consumers are looking to try something new and different and that retailers in the hospitality sector are under pressure to deliver a point of difference. So, in this context, the proliferation of little-known varietals on restaurant wine lists should be unsurprising.

If there’s a winner in this shift in emphasis away from the mainstream, it’s arguably the smaller wine producers who offer boutique and artisan wares. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the desire of generations X and Y to be different and to break away from the norm?

In a recent shipment from CellarMasters, I was enticed by a bottle of Vermentino from Stefano De Pieri that seems certain to attract the plaudits of the hipster crowd. After all, it’s not a style that is yet a household name, but at a $20 retail price, it’s well positioned as an alternative to whites like pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and perhaps, even riesling.

The Stefano vineyards are found in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, about 45 minutes to the south of the State capital. Being located so close to the ocean and the resulting sea breezes, there are striking similarities to the sunny climates of many of the Mediterranean wine producing regions.

Given the Vermentino grape is perhaps best known for its success on the island of Sardinia, it was a bit of a no-brainer that it would flourish in the Fleurieu; but kudos to the Stefano team for being brave enough to take the punt.

In its native home, vermentino is quite versatile and is used to craft a range of styles that include dessert wines and sparkling whites, but typically it’s a refined and delicate type; a princess if you like. There’s none of the richness and mouth filling chewiness of a heavy chardonnay or viognier, but rather, it’s all about the prancing and persistence of the veritable fruit salad that embraces your palate. She’s an understated and demure actor who would rather support a meal than take the limelight herself.

I’ve generally enjoyed the Italian styles of Vermentino I’ve tried while in Europe and the Stefano didn’t spoil my affinity with the grape. If anything, I’d say that the Stefano is more fruit focused than those I’ve enjoyed abroad, but equally as refreshing.

There are some delightful orange blossom hints on the nose and a fruit salad kaleidoscope that descends once on the palate. The stone fruit, Granny Smith apple and citrus characters rise to prominence as the wine cruises to a crisp though ever so slightly acidic conclusion. Despite the abundant flavours, it’s no fruit bomb and with good balance and a bit of zippiness, it will partner perfectly with fragile foods like fish or crustaceans. Though with such clean lines and gentility, it’s certainly not out of place as a tipple for a warm summer afternoon.

Whether you’re looking to break the mould and try something new, or are just open to new experiences, vermentino could be your next “white of choice”, and at only around $20, the Stefano is undoubtedly worth a look.


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