WineTaste of offbeat varietiesJohn Lewis

MASTERFUL: Applying his skills to montepulciano, DiGiorgio chief winemaker Peter Douglas.OVER the past 30 years Peter Douglas has emerged as one of the grand masters of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon, but his formidable skills are now also being applied to the rare-in- montepulciano variety.
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This month I’ve sampled a DiGiorgio 2015 Montepulciano made by Peter and assistant winemaker Bryan Tomkin among the trio of intriguing new-release alternate-variety reds.

It is part of theDiGiorgiofamily company’s commitment to alternate varieties and is the second montepulciano vintage from the seven-year-old vines of a grower in South ’s northern Limestone Coast.

It’s a commitment that also shines at the Crossing family’sAngullong operation at Orange, which has released its $26 2015 Fossil Hill Sagrantino, the maiden wine from its plantings of this grape of Italian Umbrian origin.

At McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg company the interest in alternate varieties can only be described as rampant, with chief winemaker Chester Osborn last week launching the inaugural $29 d’Arenberg 2016 Anthropocene Epoch Mencia, made from a variety of Spanish and Portuguese origins.The fruit came from a five-hectareBlewitt Springsplot,planted to merlot in 1996 and grafted to mencia in 2014.

The wine joins Chester’s list of offbeat varieties that include sagrantino, cinsault, roussanne, marsanne, arneis, aglianico, tinto cao and petit verdot and eccentric wine names like Galvo Garage, Laughing Magpie, Vociferate Dipsomaniac and Cenosilicaphobic Cat.

Angullong has a commitment to Mediterranean grape varieties dating back to 1999 and, in addition to the new sagrantino, its alternate-varietial portfolio includes vermentino, tempranillo and barbera – 2015 Fossil Hill version of which has been released at $23 with the sagrantino.

DiGiorgio’smontepulciano comes from a grape that gets its name from the Montepulciano region of Italy’s Siena Province and which, along with sangiovese, is a “workhorse” variety of central Italy.From his time in Sicily as chief winemaker for major Italian producer Casa Vinicola Calatrasi, Peter Douglas is well acquainted with Italian varieties.

His wine fame grew from his 14-year term as manager-chief winemaker of Wynns Coonawarra Estate. He quit in 1998 to become chief winemaker- manager of the Canandaigua Salinas Valley winery in California, then went to Sicily.After two years overseas, Peter and his family returned to their beloved Coonawarra, where he now presides over the DiGiorgio winery.

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