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Tasting: Vino Intrepido New Releases

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Last year I featured Vino Intrepido winemaker James Scarcebrook on the blog and at the time I promised a tasting note of the Nebbiolo. Well, I drunk that bottle and forgot about the note, but since then he’s gone from strength to strength so now felt like a good time to check in on some new release wines that will be hitting shelves soon.

Full disclaimer: my wine distribution business, Turallo Wine Distribution, is the exclusive NSW & ACT distributor for Vino Intrepido wines, so like the last tasting note, take what I’m about to say with whatever size of grain of rice you feel appropriate.

James is an interesting winemaker. Without redoing the last post, he has an affinity for Italian varietals and a desire to showcase just what they are capable of when site selection, growing conditions and precise winemaking come together. He’s not afraid to test the odd new theory or two along the way and ride the waves that come with it.

And it’s this lack of fear or trepidation that has seen him nominated as a finalist in the 2021 Young Gun of Wine awards.

But don’t get me wrong – at the core of it is a desire to show just how well suited these Italian varieties are to the Australian wine landscape, and how by giving them the respect and attention they cry out for (both in the vineyard and the winery), we can do better than just create ‘Aussie’ versions and ‘bastardised’ French reds, a la Shiraz et al.

Two wines presented here from the 2020 vintage – a vintage that wiped out much of the east coast of Australia crop through drought and fire, so it’s a real thrill to actually taste stuff with that year on the label without any risk of taint whatsoever.

2020 ‘Straight Jakot’ Friulano

A rather unknown variety in Australia, the fruit here comes from the Vaughan vineyard in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. It’s also a relatively little known variety in Italy, incidentally, grown almost exclusively in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The fruit is picked reasonably ripe, but it’s the winemaking here that carries the most interest for me.

I’m normally a believer in a hands-off approach in the winery allowing the vineyard to tell almost all of the story but there is always room for enhancing a wine through, as mentioned above, precise winemaking that adds to the wine and doesn’t become the overpowering feature. I think this is true here.

A 48-hour cold soak allows the free run juice to remain in contact with the skins which adds enormous texture to the resulting wine. It’s not tannic by any measure, but there’s real character here as a result.

After pressing, the juice is transferred to a mixture of seasoned oak (60%) and stainless steel (40%) for wild ferment. The wine is then matured in oak with lees ageing for seven months before bottling.

A very interesting wine, and hugely different from the 2019 version. Call it pale lemon in colour – let’s be honest, most young whites are going to be pale lemon in colour – with a funky nose of white flowers, lychee, yellow passionfruit and then an almondy/marzipan/musky note that I can’t quite put my finger on – I know that makes almost no sense, but it does in the glass.

Bone dry, great acidity and medium bodied adding richness and freshness to the palate which comes alive with lemon/lime flavours into that yellow passionfruit character picked up on the nose and a little hint of some sweet spice, likely from the oak, cardamom? Cinnamon? Meh, it’s all good. And oh, so textural. The finish could linger on a little more, if I’m being picky.

2020 ‘Scared & Profane’ Sagrantino

I’ve had very little experience in Sagrantino – it’s not a major variety in Italy by any measure, so finding ‘typical’ examples can be quite the adventure. It also doesn’t come up on WSET exams, so there’s that.

Every time I write ‘deep purple’ down as a colour, my internal jukebox starts the riff that I know is in your head right now. Fire in the sky, indeed. This is very much in inky territory. What have I got in store for me?

The nose confuses the heck out of me – it’s got the expected deep fruit character (dark plum, black cherry), but there’s also this hint of red fruit (pomegranate) and then some lifted florals (violets, lavender)… I mean, what the heck is going on here? Seasoned oak makes it’s presence known via some clove spice and white pepper.

The palate is where it’s at though. Tannins for days, but they’re fine grained, ripe and integrated. Same with the high acidity and high alcohol – the overall sensation here is it’s just balanced. Full bodied with good intensity of dark fruit characters, some dark chocolate for fun and that clove spice. The finish ties everything back together nicely.

Two very unique takes on two little known varieties. Whenever I see new vintages of James’ wines, I’m always excited by what I see and here is no exception.

Food match: Two wines need two matches. The medium body of the Friulano lends itself to richer, white meat dishes but I’m inclined to go a little bit simpler. I see this as an early evening entertaining wine, alongside a cheese board rich with triple cream brie, goats cheeses, and creamy washed rind soft cheese. Add some chicken terrine and duck liver pate and maybe forget about the main meal?? Cheese is a meal, right? The Sagrantino cries out for rich, fatty, winter comfort food – think beef goulash with lashings of creamy butter mash potato and you’re on the right track. 

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