11 Sep Slankamenka Bela – the revolution!
‘This Grillo sure doesn’t look like the Sicilian ones’. That was the catch-cry during the 2015 vintage when our Riverland grower, Ricca Terra Farms, discovered it had planted a white grape variety that it thought had historical links to Southern Italy, but instead had origins to ancient Balkan times. The grape variety planted was Slankamenka Bela, a Serbian white grape variety unheard of outside its native region.
As passionate devotees of Sicilian grape varieties, Ricca Terra Farms had sought in 2012 to complement their existing Nero d’Avola plantings with the famous white variety found commonly throughout Sicily – Grillo. The source material was purchased through accredited nurseries, originally imported from UC Davis in California.
In 2015 the first significant crop from the so-called Grillo achieved full ripeness. It was crushed and wild fermented in stainless steel, then left on fine lees for three months before preparation for bottling, unfined, unfiltered. It was during the settling/maturation period that we looked at the resulting wine and determined it did not much resemble Grillo as we knew it, much like the grapes/vines did not resemble the Sicilian version. A decision by Ricca Terra Farms to DNA test was not taken lightly, but doubts existed and clarification was required.
Needless to say, the DNA result floored us all. We did not have Grillo as planned, instead Slankamenka Bela – an ancient Balkan variety found scattered through out modern-day Serbia. Once we picked ourselves off the floor we needed to decide how to tackle this issue – after all, the Grillo labels had already been designed (although not printed), and the wine was barely a month away from bottling. The wine was excellent – no issue there – so the easy decision for Amato Vino was to push ahead with bottling the wine and labelling it as Bela (a bit easier to pronounce than ‘Slankamenka Bela’).
Ricca Terra Farms has built a reputation of taking risks, throwing caution to the wind and building a competitive advantage on being unique! While others growers who had planted Slankamenka Bela have decided to remove the variety and re-plant with better-known grape varieties, Ricca Terra Farms has decided to back the variety and give it a new home at Barmera, while we at Amato Vino are very excited by the prospect of making the only Slankamenka Bela in Australia.
Production of this wine is limited to a solitary one-acre vineyard, bearing enough fruit for approximately 100 dozen bottles.
Unfortunately, the 2015 vintage may well be sold out by the time you read this!
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