The wines of Fatalone from Puglia on the way to Oz via @mondoimports

In June this year, I had the opportunity to head over to Puglia and judge in a competition that looked at the best examples of native varieties grown in the South of Italy. Whilst the overall quality of wines were very high, there was one producer that bowled me over with the quality of wines across the board.

The wines of Fatalone in Gioia del Colle in Puglia were for me the best examples of Primitivo that I tried throughout the competition. Every opportunity I had to go back and try the wines confirmed that these wines show the high notes top quality Primativo can hit: balanced, fragrant, intense with lovely palate weight and without the fruit sweetness which can hinder so many examples of Primativo from this region.

The wines of Fatalone at Radici del Sud 2012

We believe the success of a wine has to start from the roots of the vine by choosing all the best for the fruit of our labour, at any sacrifice, to create a very limited production of the highest quality.

Every step is carried out with the care and the wisdom which only the human touch can express. We want our wine to proudly mirror the territory, the soil and the men who are its authors.

In the deepest respect for Nature, we have made our production cycle 100% sustainable by practising organic farming, without using irrigation and processing just our own grapes located all around our cellar. Taking advantage of a renewable energy source, we power all our production process with solar energy. Thereby, we can proudly guarantee we produce a Zero CO2 emission wine made just with our locally grown organic grapes.

Our business philosophy is no different. We meticulously manage every aspect of production from the vine, to the bottle, to the final stages of marketing by carefully selecting customers who understand, respect and share our thinking. Fatalone

Fantastic Greco from Fatalone.

The origins of this noble Aminean grape date back to ancient time. It reached our peninsula with the help of the Amineans from Greece, immediately after the Trojan War (XIII B.C.). Their first settlement was in Apulia, where they began growing the Greco grape. It is a medium vigour vine with a good yield and has medium-sized and pentagon-shaped leaves. It has a medium-small bunch cone-frustum-shaped and one of its two heads is more developed. It’s full of little spheroid yellowish berries. Its must is very floral and sweet-smelling.

Not only does Fatalone make killer Primitivo but they also produce minuscule quantities of Greco. This wine blew me away at Radici for it’s perfume and seductiveness. It is a wine perfectly suites to the Australian climate.

The wines of Fatalone will be available in Australia in the first few months of 2013.

The three amigos in Melbourne……

Three Amigos (1996)

The Three Amigos made famous by Martin Short, Steven Martin and Chevy Chase in the 1986 film….

Last week, The Three Amigos made famous by red jeans at Carlton Wine Room (2012). Our other founding member of Bibemus, Jane Faulker was the leader of the tribe in black pants…. 🙂

The three Bibemus Amigos

Might I add that I own three pairs of red jeans…..

Last container of 2010 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo now in Oz….

For me, going to Vinitaly and Italy is very important every year as it is about opportunity. It opens the door to opportunity. The opportunity to meet new people, new wineries and new opportunities.

Four years ago I had the opportunity to meet Valentino Sciotti. Out of all the people I have met in the wine industry in Australia and Italy, Valentino is someone who sticks out for always being one step ahead. One step ahead when he decided to work in Basilicata. One step ahead with the quality of wine and pricing of such wines like Gran Sasso.

After only a small amount of discussion,  we decided to start small collaboration in Australia with a brand called Grand Sasso focusing on indigenous varities from their group. My first order was conservative. 350 dozen for the the 2008 Montepulciano: and I thought that was a good start.

From 350 dozen, my next order was for 700 dozen. Then it was a full container. Then it was two containers. Then it was planned ongoing production until the vintage finished…

One of the Gran Sasso vineyards in Abruzzo.

Then we didn’t know how the reaction would be when we changed vintage to 2009. Needless to say, nothing changed.

Demand for the 2010 has been unbelievable. So much so that we could have filled out warehouses a hundred times over and still not have enough stocks. And talking about stocks, we have now just received our last container of the 2010 vintage.

Our first container of the 2011 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will leave Italy once the country opens up again after the summer closure. The last remaining stocks of the 2010 should finish in the Australian market around the end of October.

Current Reviews on the 2010 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo:

Since it was first shipped to Australia a few years ago this has been of the great bargains, but this latest vintage is extra good; gorgeous, black, glossy fruit but savoury and vinous. Yum. Max Allen in Gourmet Traveller June 2012.

It makes sense to eat Australian game. Besides, emi is delicous. Its fillets are richly flavoured and dark red even when chargrilled. The equally dark and full flavoured Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has enough tangy acidity to cut through the meat’s richness. This absolute bargain from Gran Sasso is smart fresh and vibrant, with blackberry, brambleberry fruit but very much a savoury wine with spice, sage, a hint of menthol and an appealing woodsy character. Jane Faulkner, The Saturday Age.

…Many of the local versions (of Montelpuciano) produced have been exciting, deep and savoury from First Drop in the Adelaide Hills; powerful and robust from Tscharke in the Barossa; rich and juicy from new biodynamic Riverland producer Whistling Kite – and all well over $20.

By comparison, the 2010 Gran Sasso Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo is a wine of similar quality for less than half the price: gorgeous, slink black purple fruit but grippy, serious vinosity, too, making it delicious with food. Max Allen, The Weekend Australian

This is a hot-selling wine around some of Melbourne’s better independent wine shops, and for good reason – you get a lot of wine for your money. There’s some complexity to the flavours of plum, blackberry, liquorice, spice, dried herbs and nuts, but it’s the fine, drying tannins and structure that make it stand out from the crowd. Acidity is fresh and food-friendly, it has a good mouthfeel and the rich finish has good length and some nice savoury notes.Ben Thomas, The Weekly Review 17th May 2012

Yes, that’s right, it’s now sealed with a screwcap. Importer: Mondo Imports

I put this under the nose of my wife, who, it has to be said, is one of the fussiest wine drinkers around, and she liked it immediately. That’s an achievement in itself, and then I told her the price. Amazement. Anyway, I gave it a quick run before dinner formally and with dinner informally (I took off my tasting bow tie) and it impressed me twice.

Blood plum, nuts, licorice and some chocolate on a middle weight palate that delivers plenty of flavour along with attractive chewiness and freshness. The length is particularly impressive and closes with a desirable Italianate bitterness, like chicory or similar. Is it the best release of Gran Sasso to date? I suspect so. I defy you to find a more interesting, savoury wine with modest alcohol and food friendliness at the price. If you do, please let me know. It’s ever so slightly better than a 90 point wine, so I’m rounding up. Drink : 2012 – 2016 $10.99 91 points Gary Walsh, The Wine Front

The ‘best of barbaresco’ dinner at Scopri Thursday 20th of September now sold out…

On September the 20th of September, I will be hosting at Scopri best of barbaresco’ featuring 7 back vintage wines from Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. It should be an amazing night with the dinner already sold out.

Even though this dinner is sold out, over the course of the next few months, I will be hosting these themed dinners at Scopri which aim to educate and fascinate those who attend on just how great Italian wines can be. The dinners are limited to a maximum of ten people and it should be a blast!

Strikingly profound and built to live for decades, Gaja’s wines display opulence and elegance unmatched elsewhere in Italy. These wines, while harnessing modern technology, have a long-established track record, ensuring they will perform well both in the glass and on the auction block. For any collector considering Italian wines, Gaja should be the first name on the list.

Bruno Giacosa, a man of few words but eloquent talent, practices an extremely simple philosophy based on the respect of traditions both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Giacosa brings out a richness of flavor and an intensity of character to produce wines of meditation. In addition to Bartolo Mascarello, and Giacomo Conterno, the Giacosa estate is the most respected producer of traditional style Barolo.


Scopri Food and Wine

191 Nicholson St

Carlton VIC 3053

Phone: 93478252


Thursday September 20th at 7.30pm

Cost: $300 per head (this dinner sold out)

The wines featured on the night:

Angelo Gaja Barbaresco 1995

1995 tends to be a good rather than great vintage in Piedmont, but Gaja’s sensational 1995s are among the stars of the vintage. This wine possesses extremely saturated dark ruby/purple colors, almost atypical for Nebbiolo. The 1995 Barbaresco offers a superb nose of licorice, cherry fruit, strawberries, flowers, and toasty scents. Ripe, dense, and lush, with an alluring, sexy personality, it is one of the more forward, generic Barbarescos Gaja has produced. Anticipated maturity: now-2011. Importer: Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, NY; tel. (516) 467-5907 90 points Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #124 Aug 1999

Angelo Gaja Barbaresco 1996

The 1996 Barbaresco exhibits a dense ruby color as well as a forward nose of cherry liqueur, earth, truffle, mineral, and spicy scents. Rich, full-bodied, and seductive, with its moderate tannin largely concealed by the wine’s wealth of fruit and extract, this gorgeously pure offering gets my nod as the finest Barbaresco produced by Gaja since 1990. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2016. As I reported in issue #124 (8-27-99), 1996 is a spectacular vintage for Angelo Gaja. 90 points Robert Parker Wine Advocate #130 Aug 2000

Angelo Gaja Barbaresco 1997

Gaja’s 1997 Barbaresco is undoubtedly the finest he has yet made. An exquisite effort, it boasts a dense ruby/purple color in addition to an extraordinary nose of black cherry liqueur, smoke, licorice, mineral, and floral aromas. The wine is full-bodied, opulent, and loaded with fruit. Despite its precocious nature, there is abundant tannin, and thus 3-4 years of cellaring is required. It should age effortlessly for 25 years.

A genius for sure, Angelo Gaja can not be faulted for what he puts in the bottle. This work of art is worth every cent it will fetch. Robert Parker 94 points, Wine Advocate #135 Jun 2001

Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Barbaresco Riserva 1988

The 1988 is the most advanced of these Santo Stefanos.  It is fully mature, with notes of leather, tobacco, beef bouillon, prunes and spices on a medium-bodied frame with soft tannins and excellent length.   There appears to be little upside in cellaring bottles any further and I would choose to drink my remaining bottles within the next few years.  Antonio Galloni In the Cellar Apr 2007

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco 1989

Bruno Giacosa’s wines are well represented in my personal cellar, which was the source for the vast majority of these bottles. I have had the good fortune to taste all of Giacosa’s 1989s and 1990s from multiple sources over the last year, and therefore can report that these notes are representative of what readers can expect from well-stored bottles. I consider 1989 and 1990 – along with 1978, 1982, 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2007 – to be among Giacosa’s finest vintages. Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate #187 Feb 2010

Bruno Giacosa Gallina di Neive Barbaresco 1990

The 1990 Barbareso Gallina is simply awesome. The wine boasts a seamless core of rich red fruits in a soft, generous style. This opulent Barbaresco possesses impeccable balance and tons of class. Floral notes intermingled with bright red fruits provide lift on the finish, adding lovely balance to the dense fruit. This is the most approachable of Giacosa’s 1990s but has plenty of stuffing to last another twenty years. The 1978 is still going strong. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025. 94 points Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate #187 Feb 2010

Bruno Giacosa Falleto Barbaresco 1997 (imposter… 🙂

Giacosa’s 1997 Barolo Falletto de Serralunga is an exquisite Barolo offering superb notes of tar, earth, truffles, licorice, minerals, and cherry/raspberry fruit. There is plenty of acidity as well as high tannin, but concentrated, chewy flavors. The wine is tight, dense, impressive, and surprisingly structured for a 1997. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2025. 93 points Robert Parker Wine Advocate #135 Jun 2001

The first wave of 2010 Chianti Classico are here…. and boy are they good.

The first of the 2010 vintage Chianti Classico’s are arriving in Australia and they are looking good. I tried the Catellare wine at Vinitaly in March and it looked really good. Last night at home it looked amazing. Exactly how I would want Chianti Classico to look like at a young age.

In good years I always put a few bottles of the Castellare away to drink with a bit of age. At the moment I am drinking 2001 and they are looking good. This I think will develop beautifully over the next ten years and it is the exact reason why I love Chianti Classico so much.

Calabria: slowly lifting itself off the canvas…

It has seemed that for the last fifty years, Calabria has been content to live in the shadow of the richer regions to it’s north. Many argue that this has been the result of years of neglect from it’s own people. Why would other regions try and lift Calabria off the canvas when indeed it did not one to help itself?

After the second world war, there was a mass exodus from the region to other parts of the world: all looking for a better future. In Australia, much of the immigration from Italy in the 1950’s and 1960’s were from the poor farmers and unskilled workers from Calabria. They left the south for a better life: where hard work and optimism would enable them to get ahead and thrive in a country like Australia. My grandfather, was one of these people.

The people that left Calabria behind had no real intention of ever returning to their homeland: Australia really was the promised land. The only thing that they kept were the  love of Southern Italian cooking and fifty years on, these traditions are still much very alive with many families with a Calabrian heritage in Australia.

My parents, my aunties and uncles, my brothers and sisters all still cook predominately dishes that were being served in the kitchens of Calabria fifty years ago.

However whilst we all know about just how special the food of Calabria, wine on the other hand, was forgotten and even up to just a few years ago, the wines of Calabria were seen in the eyes of most of the world as bulk wine at best.

Well those who think Calabria as just a bulk wine producer today need to retry just how good the wines are and it seems that the sleeping giant has woken and many producers of Calabria are now getting recognition for many years of hard work. The key to this recent success can be narrowed down to two red grape varieties: Galliopo and Magliocco.

Some of the amazing reds of Calabria that I tried at Radici del Sud 2012

At Radici del Sud 2012, a competition that celebrates the native varieties of Southern Italy, it was these two grape varieties that showed for me the most promise. The best examples were complex, had fantastic line and length and had the capacity to age for many years. These characters are for me an indication that the red wines of Calabria ought to be seen as ‘serious and worthy’ native Italian grape varieties.

In Australia this year, via Mondo Imports we starting working with a new and small producer of Magliocco from Calabria. The winery of Le Moire was our first link back to our past, to a region we left more than 50 years ago.

To say that the wines have been well received in Australia would be massive understatement. Even though the majority of wine lovers in Australia have not tried a wine from Calabria or heard of Magliocco as a grape variety has not stopped Le Moire being a big success in both wine shops and restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney. So much so that our second order has just left and we have doubled our initial order just to keep up with demand.

Wineries like Le Moire in Calabria that focus on working with native varieties and promote optimism and hard work as a key to their business shows to me that the Calabria that we knew is changing. And who knows, it time the wines of Calabria around the world might even be as famous as it’s food….

Random thoughts on the current market for Italian wine in Australia…

I am one of the lucky ones. I import wine, beer and mineral water that people actually want to buy. For the last couple of years the hardest part has been keeping up with demand. More demand means more stock and more stock means more money. Makes sense really.

It is not just my company that has been busy. Nearly every importer of Italian wine into Australia has enjoyed a successful last few years. How do I know this?

Because we all talk. We all eat and drink together on a regular basis.

Many of the Italian wine importers in Australia have a close bond:  we are not enemies but rather joint promoters of all the things that are so good about Italy. I have not been in the game long enough as an importer of Italian wine to work out if this is how it has always been or if it is a result of a younger generation stepping in and deciding to all work closely together.

Maybe our closeness would not be the case if the market for Italian wines in Australia was not as strong. We are still in an area of the economy (and market) that is growing. However a strong and resilient market in Australia will not necessarily mean that there will be many more new Italian producers in the short to medium term.

Whilst the market for Italian wines in Australia is strong, nearly every Italian importer is hesitant on taking on any new producers. Maybe it is a nervousness about what lies ahead? Via Mondo Imports, we represent close to twenty wineries from Italy and this is where I would like to keep it. Twenty wineries is more than enough in a country like Australia where we really only have a few strong markets (unlike the America or Europe).

However, unless new companies are established and more people look to import Italian wine I feel for those wineries in Italy without distribution in Australia (or any other market). Each week I would get over a dozen Italian wineries contact me offering me their wines. Does anyone ever read the email and then take on distribution of their wines in their market? I doubt so.

So why then send these emails?

Because they need to sell wine. You are not going to sell wine but not being proactive and you cannot blame these wineries for being proactive.

Next year we will take on just one new winery and this was a decision that I thought about over the last month or so. It is not because I thought the wines might NOT stack up. The opposite: the wines are amazing and blew me away when I tried them in Italy. It is just that in this environment, even though things have been good. I am wary and cautious.

Why am I cautious?

Cautious because who knows if the Australian market will still remain strong. It is this cautiousness that will be a big problem for those wineries in Italy. If many markets decide to ‘shut shop’ then how will these wineries without already established distribution find a home?

It is a million dollar question and it seems one of the only way forward for many is to send emails blindly in the hope that someone will take the bait.