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Sunday 10 February 2019

When was the last time you tasted a Malvasia?

Queensland's Granite Belt wine region is known for promoting its "Strange Bird" grape varieties.

Regional pioneer Ballandean Estate has just launched its 12th alternative variety - the 27th in the region - with a limited production of malvasia istriana.

Widely grown throughout northern Italy, Croatia. Greece and Spain's Balearic islands, just 90 cases of malvasia istriana were produced from the 2018 vintage.

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi, fourth-generation Ballandean Estate family vigneron, said: “We had a block of chardonnay vines that we were looking to rejuvenate.

“Dad (Ballandean Estate owner Angelo Puglisi) is always keen to experiment with Italian varieties. His interest in Italian varieties is not just about the increased diversity of smells and flavours, but most importantly about structure: and, specifically, acid.

"Grapes grown for natural acid balance deliver a fresh expression of our granitic terroir, and require minimal intervention in the hands of the winemaker.

“We often visit the north of Italy, particularly Veneto and Venice where Mum’s (Mary Puglisi’s) family comes from. Soave is one of our most-quaffed holiday wines - and malvasia is blended with so many of the crisp dry Italian whites we love. 

"After the runaway success of our Strange Bird fiano, when we discovered malvasia was an early ripening, late flowering aromatic — we were inspired.”

Ballandean Estate winemaker Dylan Rhymer has applied a different unique approach to the malvasia istriana, a variety also produced by Billy Button and Bunyip Hollow in north-east Victoria, Chalmers and Vinea Marson in Heathcote and Grey Sands in Tasmania. 

“I wanted to distinguish this wine with a completely different flavour profile to our fiano," he says. "The wine has spent just three months in oak barrels, as opposed to 12-14 months for traditionally oaked white such as chardonnay.

"This has completely changed its structure and aromatics, lifted the nose and intensified its mouth feel, without bringing oak onto the palate. The process delivered a crisp, dry, fruity, perfumed wine, a great match with lighter summer foods or creamy Brie.”

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