Winemaking traditions that began around the family table now make world-class wines on the King Valley.
Linda Newton, one of the second generation at La Cantina Wines, can pinpoint the exact moment when her father, Gino Corsini, who had grown up making wine with his father and grandfather in Tuscany, decided to make his King Valley wines for more than just family and friends.‘He had planted vines in the 1980s, selling grapes to Brown Brothers, but in 1992, when my older sister got married, she had a few friends who couldn’t drink wine with preservatives added to it and so she asked if she could serve Dad’s wine at her wedding. From that, we had quite a few people saying they wanted to buy it and so Mum and Dad decided to do it as a hobby business. It was only supposed to be small,’ she laughs.
La Cantina Wines has ‘grown bigger and bigger; all of our land is now planted to vines, and we use most of our grapes in our own-label wines,’ she adds.
Italian varietals caught Fred Pizzini’s imagination. Like the Corsinis, he began by supplying grapes to Brown Brothers – nebbiolo – more than 30 years ago. ‘That was the starting point, although prior to that I had enjoyed some really good chiantis, barolos and barbarescos, so I had a good knowledge of Italian wine styles,’ he says. ‘My friend Mark Walpole, who was a viticulturist, used to turn up after work, my wife Katrina would cook and we’d taste wines from Tuscany and Piedmonte – learning on the job really; how to make wines that would work with food.’ From those convivial beginnings, he started looking for material for sangiovese, which the name of Pizzini is now synonymous with,because,‘It’s a gorgeous wine: very versatile and food-friendly.’
Arnie Pizzini, Fred’s cousin and a second-generation vigneron at Chrismont, also began in the business in the 1980s by planting vines and supplying grapes to Brown Brothers, but now proudly makes a range of world-class wines under the Chrismont label. ‘In the last ten years there’s been a transition of growers to winemakers, family businesses creating their own path and becoming self- sustaining,’ he says. ‘Ten years ago there were no cellar doors in the area, now there are eleven.’
The site for Chrismont’s own sparkling new cellar door and restaurant is a very personal one, and something that Arnie and his wife dreamed of for a long time. ‘Jo and I would constantly walk to the site and sit on a rug and discuss putting a cellar door here to share the magnificent views with our customers,’ he says. Since its opening, the winery has seen a big increase in visitors. ‘They come from the local area – Wangaratta, Albury-Wodonga,Shepparton and Mansfield,but also from further afield – Melbourne and even Sydney.’
Linda agrees: ‘The whole valley has turned around: years ago it was all tobacco, now it’s booming as a tourist area, with cellar doors, restaurants, accommodation.’
Tour the region and you’ll find not only wines that speak of their traditional heritage, but a warm Italian welcome, too.