Fiano as an Alternative Variety
Following on from the introduction into the importance of Alternative Varieties in Australia, let’s take a look one of those making the biggest splash right now. Fiano is being crafted into some of the most exciting and diverse dry whites in the country.
What is Fiano? (Fee-ah-no)
Fiano hails from Campania, the hot, dry lower part of the shin of the boot of Italy that kisses the Mediterranean Sea. Naples (Napoli in the native tongue) is the cultural and economic centre; brash, chaotic, intense, passionate, beautiful. A little inland from the whirlwind of Napoli is Avellino. It is on Avellino’s mineral laden volcanic hillsides that Fiano thrives. Fiano is one of those ancient European grapes whose exact history is lost in the mist of time. Probably brought to Italy by the Ancient Greeks, definitely grown by the Romans and likely the source of the semi-legendary Apianum, the wine produced in the Avellino hills that Roman historians fawned over.
What we do know for sure is that today Fiano is capable of producing dry white wines with intensity of flavour and minerality with strong citrus, floral, honey, spice and nutty character. Whilst structure can vary from light and racy when picked earlier and grown on sandier soils, it tends to be more overtly aromatic and rich with a resin/waxy texture. The best examples balance this punchiness with having enough acid to keep the unapologetically full texture and aromatics in order.
Fiano in Australia
Fiano is a perfect variety for Australia. Having evolved for thousands of years to thrive in hot and dry south of Italy, it naturally retains high acidity during intense heat spikes, can easily survive enduring periods of drought and it’s easy to pronounce! In the Australian climate already prone to these conditions, with every reason to think this will be exasperated over the coming decades, Fiano is a godsend. Luc kily this fact hasn’t got unnoticed by around 30 enterprising Australian grape growers. The best results so far have come from South Australia, most closely resembling Campania’s climate. Here are my 3 favourite producers;
- Coriole – The McLaren Vale winery that first brought an Australian Fiano to the people in 2005 is still one of the top producers today. Tending towards the more heavily aromatic and textured with notes of honey, citrus, white flowers and mandarin and lemon.
- Unico Zelo – Brendon Carter spent his childhood split between Australia and Campania so wasn’t hard pushed to find a variety to focus on when he decided to make the leap into winemaking with a no irrigation, sustainable manifesto in South Australia. With his wife Laura they source the best from all over South Australia that fit their M.O to make a range of wines.
- River Sands from the iron rich sand on limestone soil of the Riverland is usually ripe, spicy and rich with a cleansing mineral element.
- Jade and Jasper also from the Riverland tends to be richer and riper still with more spice.
- Slate Farm is from slate laden Clare Valley typically makes for a more flinty wine with more salinity and crisper texture.
- Alluvium from Adelaide Hills tends to be lighter and crisper still with a more pronounced minerality and citrus profile.
- Jerico– From the Adelaide hills this tiny family winery craft Fiano that is rich, textural and waxy but with no sacrifice for drinkability. It carries a white peach and almond flavour with a fresh citrus and floral character with a touch of honey nuttiness. Yum.
Being from Campania’s Medditterean Sea licked hills; Fiano is a delight with most shellfish and baked fish dishes. Its acidity can complement tomato based pasta sauces but it also has the richness and structure to keep up with creamier richer dishes and risotto. The nutty honey suckle sweetness of most examples is delicious with soft and goats cheese. One of the coolest things about Fiano is that it can be an interesting match for an Australian obsession; South-East Asian food. Its robust aromatics, texture and acid means it can handle the heat and myriad of flavours.
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