“The King Valley, part of the Victorian high country, has become a ‘Little Italy’ with its climate characteristics similar to the Piedmont area in north-west Italy,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER.
JUST before I got hit by the winter cold virus, which felt like someone had taken to me with a baseball bat, I had an outing where the King Valley came to town. East Hotel in Kingston had a weekend of showcasing Dal Zotto wines.
A mate and I went to the Friday night tasting where the array of Dal Zotto wines was on offer alongside the pizza that features in the popular East Hotel restaurant Agostinis. At this point you might expect me to make a joke about pizza but I’m tired of being cheesy.
The King Valley, part of the Victorian High Country, has become a “little Italy” with its climate characteristics similar to the Piedmont area in north-west Italy where it borders Switzerland and France. Grapes are grown there at the base of the Italian Alps and have a distinctive character similar to that of the Victorian High country. Up to the time of the Dal Zotto wines coming to town, I was familiar with the Pizzini Winery, also based in Whitfield in the King Valley, as I had followed Alfredo’s success since meeting him in the ’80s. So, if we couldn’t get to the King Valley, it came to us.
The Dal Zotto wine range was new to me and there were three Proseccos on taste. They were pleasant enough although the vintage varietal was head and shoulders above the other two non-vintage wines. I later checked their website to find that the day-to-day drinking Prosecco was $20, the non-vintage Pucino Prosecco. But the L’Immigrante Prosecco 2017 sells for $36 a bottle and reflects much more refinement and a cleaner finish than its cousins, as we had discerned on the night.
But I didn’t think that the Prosecco style of wine was a match with pizza. And so when I had a taste of the Barbera 2017 (which sells for $25 a bottle) I knew that the style better matched the food on offer.
Barbera is not just half the name of a cartooning empire but a popular Piedmont grape that was introduced into Australia in the 1960s. One website tells me that Barbera is the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy (after Sangiovese and Montepulciano). In Australia, it is grown in the King and Hunter Valleys and in the McLaren Vale but the best grapes are from the cooler climate regions. It is a variety that is only becoming popular recently. I think that’s because it is an easy drinking, moderate style of wine that has high natural acidity that cuts through fatty foods and certainly matched perfectly with pizza. It has soft tannins and therefore is the antithesis of the big, bold style of Australian wines that are, sadly, becoming less popular. The other good thing about Barbera that seems to add to its popularity is that it is made to be consumed while young and fruity.
The Dal Zotto was not the best Barbera I have ever tasted but was pleasant with the pizza in the warmth of a popular place: we were all crowded into the lobby of the hotel. Christian Del Zotto was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable host and there was plenty of laughter and hand shaking as he made himself known to the patrons. These sorts of events enliven Canberra and I take my hat off to Danilo Acioli, the food and beverage operations manager at East Hotel for making it a great night out. It gave me something good to remember as I was flat on my back recovering from my winter affliction.
“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature affects the cure.” –Voltaire