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Darren Blood of De Bortoli Australian Wineries

Posted: Thursday, 09 March 2017 12:25

 

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Passing By: Darren Blood of De Bortoli Australian Wineries

Mar 09: Although one of the biggest family owned Australian wine companies, De Bortoli has been in India off and on for 10 years but has had a steady presence for the last couple of years since it joined hands with Prestige Wines and Spirits which recently launched their premium wine labels in Mumbai and introduced them to a select group of invitees during the visit to India of Darren Blood, the Export Manager Asia Pacific and Emerging Markets, writes Subhash Arora who attended the Tasting at the Spectra PDR at Leela Gurgaon

Click For Large ViewDe Bortoli was introduced in India by the Finewinesnmore (FWM) in 2006 and had since shuttled between them and Aspri. The first visit was chronicled by delWine in November 2008 when their winemaker David Slingsby-Smith and the Export Manager Nikki Palun were in India. The then Distributor Aspri had co-hosted a dinner at Shangri-la with their wines from the cool-climate Yarra Valley. That was when Andrew Steele was the General Manager and Parmeet Singh Nayar, the current General Manager the Resident Manager.

There was yet another visit to India in 2012 by Nikki but the partnership cooled off. Eventually Prestige became their partner about 2 years ago when 4 labels of the Accomplice-the entry level wines were imported. Buoyed with the success, prestige decided to introduce new premium labels from Yarra Valley, Victoria as well as Riverina  where a small  winery was first set up by the Italian immigrants Vittorio de Bortoli and his fiancée Giuseppina s in 1928 (the company plans to celebrate 150 years next year). Darren Blood, the Export Manager Asia Pacific and Emerging Markets was present to introduce wines

It has grown to a 7 million case company, making it the sixth biggest wine company in Australia. It is the second biggest family owned producer, says Darren. He is not to be confused with the third generation Darren de Bortoli who is the grandson of the founder and now managing director of the company.

The winery has several achievements to its credit, says Darren (Blood). When 12 family wineries came together in 2009 to form Australia’s First Families of Wine, on the pattern of the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) formed by the European premier family-owned wine companies and Robert Mondavi in Napa Valley, de Bortoli was one of the members. The company is very conscious about sustainability, says Darren. ‘In 2011, we won an International Sustainability Award at the Drinks Business Green Awards, the first of many accolades for our sustainable initiatives,’ he adds.

Tasting at the Spectra @Leela Gurgaon

The Tasting started with de Bortoli Prosecco. ‘It might be controversial to call a sparkling wine as Prosecco in many countries including USA unless it is from Italy but we have been making wines from Prosecco grapes grown in Australia for many years. In fact, we bought our land in King Valley where a cluster of Italian immigrants has been making Prosecco for decades and grew our own vines in 2007,’ says Darren.

Click For Large ViewThe packaging is chic and playful, the Non Vintage bubbly is quite light on the palate and despite its 16gms/ liter residual sugar, considered a dry wine in Australia, (it is Extra Dry or off-dry/slightly sweet, according to the European standards), it does not feel too sweet. The creamy textured wine is fruity with hints of citrus and apples. The novelty of this wine is that this is the first Prosecco from Australia in India, though there are dozens of producers, mostly Italian immigrants who have settled in King Valley in Victoria, producing what they call Prosecco. At the proposed price of Rs. 2500-2650, it will have to compete with over a dozen Italian Prosecco bubbles already in the market. Sumit Sehgal, Director of Prestige Wines is optimistic about the acceptance of this Prosecco.

DB Family Selection Pinot Grigio at their Bilbul Winery is also reflective of their Italian heritage. It’s a light, dry (around 5 gms/li sugar) and fruity wine with white stone-fruit flavours. Meant to be drunk young, it is a quaffable wine with low alcohol at 11.5%, that makes a good company for light snacks and conversation.

DB Family Selection Shiraz 2014 is a handsome wine with full concentration and plenty of red fruit and notes of spices and compliments Pinot Grigio as a quaffable wine and would be a decent match with chorizo pizzas, mutton kebabs, mushroom Giloutis, and even some chicken dishes. Alc 14+ % is well integrated and does not interfere on the palate

RIORRET the Abbey 2013- though still young the 2013 single vineyard  Pinot Noir was perhaps the most delicious and sought after wine of the evening. Naturally, it was the first one to finish. The stocks have already been sold out in Australia and one knows why with the very first sip. Nice floral perfumes of roses and red fruit, the clean and brilliant wine is elegant, with silky tannins. It is smooth as mother’s milk and would be great with any red meat dishes with not excessive flavours or sauces. Although it is a serious food wine, it also drinks well by itself as an excellent meditation wine where one could have hours of conversation and find it difficult to stop at only one bottle. Unfortunately, it is priced accordingly and unlikely to be available soon.

DeBORTOLI Woodfired Heathcote Shiraz 2015 sounds exotic ; even the look of the label is impressive, masculine and slightly mystical. But Woodfired simply means it has been made keeping the barbequed food as the perfect match for it and Heathcote is a town in Central Victoria, about 110 kms north of Melbourne. The wine is very dark red, almost inky coloured, slightly spicy with plenty of plum and red fruit with herbal notes. It’s quite full on the palate and the taste is persistent with a fairly long end as well. An interesting wine I enjoyed at an après tasting at another restaurant too. Ideal for mutton tikkas, lamb chops and with aubergine (egg plant) based dishes ranging from aubergine parmigiana to baingan ka bhartha. Darren feels it will age well for 3-5 years more.

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2013

Click For Large ViewCreated by Darren de Bortoli in 1982, it is not only the signature wine of De Bortoli but the international calling card of the company.  Noble One has won numerous awards in international competitions including a gold medal at the inaugural Indian Wine Challenge in 2007.

Made from Botrytised Semillon which is harvested around mid-April when the grape is in a state of botrytis, it is bight golden coloured with aromas of honey, fig and citrus marmalade with a racy acidity that balances the sugar level of over 300 gms/liter –perhaps matching the German TbA and ice-wine, but it felt not a gram more than 120 on the palate. You don’t need to have crème brûlée with which it is a perfect match but have it in lieu of the delicious French dessert. It was surprising to learn from Darren Blood that the grapes are taken from several plots and each lot is fermented individually and then blended together. It is matured for a year in French Barriques of new and 1-2 passes, with a small percentage aged un-oaked. The complex nuances are in part due to this processing, making it a very desirable and delicious sweet wine.

Noble One might be very noble and like elixir but due to the justifiable premium price and the decline in the international taste for sweet wines (they have yet to take off in the Indian market), it is mainly a niche market. But de Bortoli wines tasted this evening deserve a space on the retail shelves as well as hotel lists which are already pretty full.

But the Italian motto of the family “Semper ad Majora" means "to strive for better" and it would come in handy for Prestige Wines and Spirits to strive to increase their share of the imported Australian wines which is presently ruled by Jacobs Creek, Hardys and Lindeman’s etc.  

For more information on these wines, please visit http://www.debortoli.com.au/

Subhash Arora

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