Bottles of wine, like books, shouldn’t be judged by their covers. Of course not. Yet ask any card-carrying winetrepreneur about the importance of a bottle’s label and you’ll soon enough start to understand the dark arts of wine label semiotics and the role label design takes in linking the bottle on the shelf to your emotional associations and memories, and – henceforth – to your credit card.
Knowing just enough about this is perhaps why I’m drawn to wine labels that are less all-too beautiful and über cutting edge than I am to daggy ones.
The energetic and flourishing Calabria winemaking family, in the Riverina, produce just such a label. The Calabria Private Bin range features mostly Italian varietals (although there’s also a fascinating and almost extinct old Bordeaux red varietal called St. Macaire). The range’s label looks like something a home winemaker might knock up on their Commodore 64 computer with the tractor drive printer, and I love it. (But now who’s the fool for wine label semiotics?)
Amongst the wine bores this range has been a drink-it-don’t-think-it, off-the-RADAR hit for sometime now. Honest, generous, approachable and made in an uncomplicated way; the innate Italianesque flavours of these grape varieties are allowed to shine. Oh, and a Speccie discount of $10 a case and free freight. Vinum Vitae.
Calabria Vermentino 2016, $14.17 per bottle. Vermentino’s homeland is Sardinia – and Liguria. Here in Australia’s Riverina it makes a 12 per cent, uplifting white wine that sits somewhere in the riesling/sauvignon blanc/pinot grigio part of the green room. Herbs, almond, green apple and some texture (thanks to a little bit of barrel fermentation). It’s no flibberty-gibbet, but it’s no brainiac, either. Merely a fun and effortless white wine to waste time with. Octopus legs (only the left ones), cooked in a pressure cooker, then char grilled.
Calabria Montepulciano 2017, $14.17 per bottle. This is Abruzzo in a bottle, with an Australian accent. Dark, deep, initially suspicious but then, after a glass, warm and inviting – maaaaate… Savoury, not sweet, with a BBQ-come-hither empyreumatic aroma and flavour. This is a big mouthful of red wine that finishes with enough dryness to make you want a little more. Spicy sausages beckon, as the richer fruit in this wine will sort out any spice or heat.
Calabria Nero d’Avola 2017, $14.17 per bottle. Grainy, deep fruit with brambles and dark berries softly asserting themselves. Like a compote of ripe plums swamping your mouth, but the tannins at the back palate ride in like the Savoia Cavalleria did back in 1942, which was the last cavalry charge… Of course, Nero d’Avola is from Sicily, so it is a red grape variety that handles Australia’s warmer climates well. It’s certainly not complex, but it is very giving. Wonderfabulous with ice, a big glass, and summertime. Cannellini beans, chilli, mint and bocconcini salad. Or anything with anchovy.
Calabria Aglianico 2015, $14.17 per bottle. A lot of southern Italy’s grape varieties came from Greece, back when the world was the Mediterranean. Indeed, this red grape’s name is thought to be a derivation of Elleniko. Greek. It ripens really late in the season, so it suits hotter climates. There’s classic Italianate savouriness here, with an effortless initial palate weight meeting some finishing and brusque tannins. There’s nothing you couldn’t barbeque, no matter how well or how badly, that would not suit this red wine. And Caesar liked it, as aglianico made the legendary Falernum. He drank the famed Opimian Vintage of 121 BC to celebrate his Hispania conquests, in 60 BC. Apparently the wine, at 61 years of age, was drinking superbly…
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