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Day three of Andrew Catchpole's Regional Heroes blog from Australia

Published:  16 August, 2010

An evening at Movida Acqui, the latest hot roll-out by Melbourne's phenomenally fashionable Iberian diner Movida, hosted by Yasmin Power, Victoria's head honcho for wines and beverages, with a cast of senior wine people, including Alister Purbrick of Tahbilk, Julian Castagna of Castagna, Fiona Thompson of Crawford River, Natalia Pizzini of Pizzini, Julie Mounsell from Toolangi, Ben Edwards, president of Sommeliers Australia and Dan Sims, super-charged sommelier and author of The Wine Guide.


Over tapas of aioli-lubricated squid bocherones and smokey sweet smudges of smoked eel the conversation covered the essentials of Melbourne gastronomic life - namely where to get the best coffee, duck and Pinot Noir.


As the evening ran on into a visit to RA, the latest of Melbourne's back-alley bars, 'alternative' Victorian varieties including 2008 Nero d'Avola (Chalmers) and 2008 Tempranillo (Pondalowe) and the Bespoke Brothers' Monastrell-Shiraz fuelled the party.


Julie from Pizzini, King Valley producer of an aromatic and nicely textured Arneis we'd tried at a Victoria-wide masterclass earlier in the day, reminded us of the wealth of varieties Victoria produces, including increasingly exciting renditions of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Vermentino and much else beside.


The earlier master classes were a fascinating exercise aimed both at exploring the diversity and attempting to identify rationality within various regions and sub-regions of Victoria. The first flight was the most exciting, with DalZotto Prosecco, Yarrabank Late Disgorged fizz, Crawford River Riesling, Chalmers Vermentino, Pizzini Arneis, Tahbilk Marsanne and Farr Viognier giving a pretty broad insight into what the state is capable of in terms of varietal breadth.


Flights of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz-Syrah followed, with each taster encouraged to list wines by preference, state their preferences and the discuss what it was they liked and disliked about each and any given wine.


The Pinot flight prompted, later, the most intriguing discussion, springing from a comment of Matt's while beers were being downed at RA. "They seem to be trying to out-Burgundy Burgundy in terms of the individual differences in the Pinot Noirs."


Said half in jest, but leading to rumination - not least from the UK Indie merchants - on whether its possible for Australia to over-complicate its message of regionality for the consumer by talking up sub-regionality and even the often marked differences between wines on adjacent patches of dirt or soils. Horses for courses, depending on the knowledge and interest of the consumer, was the logical conclusion. But the fact that there is no clear cut 'one style fits all' definition of Pinot in, say Yarra or Mornington, suggests a certain maturity in terms of producers following both their own curve and their soils. So, a regionality, as with anywhere, where the exceptions prove the rule.