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Your Questions

Q

I realise Port made in this country is now called tawny or vintage, Tokay has become topaque and of course no sparkling can be called Champagne unless it’s from that region, but what about wines such as nero d’Avola and prosecco made in Australia? Can they legally be called by those names?

Adrian Mortimer, Bunbury, WA

I asked Wine Australia for clarification as this is a sensitive subject and one that has been receiving a great deal of interest.  

In order to protect consumer interests, wine labels have to be clear.  Regions of origin are protected (whether in the EU or Australia) so for example an Australian wine, made from at least 85% of the variety nero d’Avola can be labelled ‘nero d’Avola’ but there should be no mention of Avola – a town in Sicily – in isolation.

The use of the name prosecco is trickier. Once the name of a wine, a region and a grape variety, the Italian authorities decided in 2009 to use prosecco solely for the region and its wine, and rename the grape variety, glera.

But Monash University’s Faculty of Law found that “Prosecco has been the name of a grape variety since at least the 18th century, and probably much earlier. The EU expressly stated in a 1994 agreement with Australia that prosecco is a grape variety and no valid explanation has been given as to how it ceased to be a grape variety”.

The huge demand for prosecco means the Italian authorities are keen to ensure their product is protected whilst winemakers in Australia feel they are entitled to use the term on their labels. Definitely an ongoing issue.

Q

I bought a bottle of vermouth direct from cellar door. There now seems to be something growing in the wine. Is it still all right to drink or should I throw the wine away?

Simon Oatley, Manly, NSW

I love vermouth (an opened bottle doesn’t last very long in our house) so I haven’t experienced this problem. Ben Leggett of Elemental Distillers advised, “Vermouth has an expiry date like any fortified wine. If it has developed a flor (film on the surface) or has anything resembling solid matter in it I’d definitely not recommend drinking it.”

Perhaps treat vermouth as you would a fine Sherry and keep opened bottles in the fridge.

Q

We’re hearing more and more about wines that have been whole-bunch pressed. Can you explain what this is and what impact it has on the wines?

Sally Johnson, Launceston, Tasmania

Whole-bunch pressed is when entire clusters of grapes are harvested by hand and put straight into the press without being crushed first. This gentle action results in delicate juice, low in phenolics (the bitter compounds that can be found in the skins) and although time consuming and costly, is ideal for making very high quality white wines.  

If you used this technique on black grapes then you would get clear juice as there wouldn’t be any contact between the juice and the pigmented grape skins. Champagne and other premium sparkling wine producers use whole-bunch pressing when processing red grapes such as pinot noir and pinot meunier. This method allows for the juice to be run off the skins with negligible colour extraction but retaining all the delicate subtle characters which are an intrinsic part of these intricate wine styles.  

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