November 18, 2011

Part 2: Where wine is King!

Pizzini – a family story….

The story of the Pizzini family or families are an integral part of the King Valley. In the 1950’s, the brothers Pizzini moved their families from Trentino-Alto Adige in the Italian alpine region to finally resetttle in the King Valley in Victoria. Eventually, tobacco & wine became entwined with Roberto Pizzini’s son Alfred & brother Arnold both diversifying into wine.  Arnold started the Chrismont vineyards with his son Arnie & in 1994, Alfred & Katrina Pizzini started the Pizzini label after being long time contract grape growers. There are other family connections in wine in the valley as well.

The Pizzini label is one that represents the savvy initiative of the family.  Not only do they make great wines – including some of the best Italian varietals I’ve tasted outside of Italy.  The cellar door is housed in the now defunct tobacco factory overlooking the glorious & bucolic rolling hills and is welcoming to all & family.  And there is no better venue for Katrina Pizzini’s cooking school.

The Pizzini skills with the Italian grapes of their Northern Italian homeland shine through in every bottle.  Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Verduzzo, Prosecco, Brachetto, Sangiovese & Nebbiolo are just the start of the story.  The Pizzini big reds are stylistically powerful wines but they do need time in the glass (or decanter if you like) for the fruit to come to the fore & smoothly match the warm spice of the oak. And oak is plentiful at the Pizzini winery. It is particularly interesting to find an Australian Brunello behind the Pizzini Rubacuoni Sangiovese.

While I am not forgetting that I started this road in the search of Prosecco, here I will start with rather unique (in Australia) Brachetto – the Pizzini family call it the red version of the muscat grape.  As well I believe, with aromas reminiscent of summer roses & that distinct grapey-ness that we love in Moscato style wines with some delightful ripe strawberry. This was a Moscato style wine that the man in my life had more than one glass of!

Pizzini Whitefields Pinot Grigio is one of my favourite Australian Grigios. The 2010 offered creamy pear with gorgeous silk on the palate. Wild yeasts plus some time in 4 yr old oak (20%) gave it that creamy lees texture & a layered finish. But it is all Grigio, retaining that lightness in style, refreshing liveliness with a minerally backbone.

Sangiovese comes in many forms here, ranging from the dry strawberry, cherry fruit & floral Pizzini Rosetta rosé to the Pizzini Sangiovese Shiraz with no oak through to the Pizzini Rubacuoni Sangiovese 2004 which is so powerful but is yet a baby. There are of course several other forms in between & each of them are well worth the effort of tracking down.

Although, I enjoyed the Rubacuoni full of cloves, black cherry, prunes & fruit cake, my preference was for one of those blends – the smooth Pizzini Il Barone 2006.  It is an original blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sangiovese & Nebbiolo.  I like to think that this is wine that interprets the counterpoints of the family’s culture – a mix of the best of both countries and is more than a little like Alfred Pizzini – a smooth charmer. While the wine is richly concentrated with rose, cigar box, black currants & spice it is fuller in body but still holding onto its food friendliness by not overstepping the mark. And did I mention smooth….. Great value for around $50 & will age gracefully. (Hint: they also release it in magnums!)

I am probably leaving the best to last – the Pizzini Coronamento Nebbiolo with its rich rose, earthy spice, dried savoury herbs, & cinnamon.  While Australia is beginning to really work with this grape which is notoriously hard to get right, this Nebby really hit an Italian nerve with me. It has those tannins with enough concentration to be a pleasure on the palate. Mind you, as I said at the beginning, there is plenty of oak to be found at Pizzini. The 2004 is, again, still a baby although is approachable now.

To round off the Pizzini experience, there is a Vin Santo on offer made from old Trebbiano vines & air dried (well, there must be plenty of drying equipment in an old tobacco factory).

The Pizzini experience is one that was all embracing. Just make sure that you leave enough time to fully appreciate all the talents of the family. You cannot rush it or their wines.

Next week I will finish my scorching tour down Prosecco Road with Chrismont. Did you miss Part 1 last week … click here.

Visit the Pizzini family at

Need to catch up on Part 1 & 3? –

click here for Part 1 – Sam Miranda

click here for Part 3 – Chrismont


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