By James Atkinson
Clare Valley, South Australia winemaker Jim Barry Wines last week planted the first cuttings of Greek white wine grape variety Assyrtiko in Australian soil.
Managing director Peter Barry said a chance tasting of Assyrtiko while he was holidaying on the Greek island of Santorini in 2007 started what had been a long journey of quarantine approval.
"Assyrtiko immediately stood out as a variety suited to the modern Australian palate," he said.
"The fresh, crisp acidic qualities of the wine are perfect accompaniments to contemporary Australian food – it is a natural partner for our climate and cuisine." [continues below]
Sam, Peter and Tom Barry
Barry said Assyrtiko is grown predominantly on Santorini in arid, windy and hot conditions.
"Clare is a cool district with good rainfall but we must face up to climate change and water scarcity and adapt our management appropriately," he said.
"Varieties which can grow on minimal irrigation and still produce contemporary wine styles are what we all look for.
"We're beginning with half a hectare of Assyrtiko using two dormant cuttings from a single vine – a true mother vine and Santorini clone."
Barry said the laborious process of importation and quarantine has discouraged many growers in Australia from trying something new.
"I don't think it would have been possible without the assistance and encouragement from Robert Hill Smith and his team at Yalumba," he said.
"The Yalumba nursery in the Barossa is fully accredited for quarantine and they advised and assisted us with the whole process."
Barry said wine from the Assyrtiko vines is still five years away, but he is optimistic it will be "well worth the wait".