PUSHING ON: Ballandean Estate owner Angelo Puglisi harvesting grapes in the vineyard.
PUSHING ON: Ballandean Estate owner Angelo Puglisi harvesting grapes in the vineyard.

Smart choices lead to success story for Downs family farm

THE future is fiano as the little-known Campanian grape flourishes through another dry summer on the Granite Belt.

The introduction of the white Italian variety was “one of the most perfect choices” Ballandean Estate Wines has made, according to client relations manager Leeanne Gangemi.

While other grapes wilt beneath the harsh Australian sun, the fiano’s thick, fleshy skin ensures its survival, making it one of the most drought and heat tolerant varieties.

This is because the grape is indigenous to southern Italy, a region that closely mirrors the Granite Belt climate.

“It has been recognised as the best place in Australia to grow fiano,” Mrs Gangemi said.

“It absolutely loves the hot weather – When dad comes back from an afternoon in the vineyard he always tells me, ‘The fiano was waving at me today!’

“When the vines are happy and healthy that generally produces amazing wine.”

The region has become recognised among the Australian wine community for its exemplary production of the grape.

“Wineries in McLaren Vale recognised us when we visited and it was just fantastic to get that pat on the back from the same people who introduced the variety to Australia,” Mrs Gangemi said.

The greatest challenge, however, lies in public perception.

Australian wine drinkers are creatures of habit, loath to stray from the classic French varieties.

“Whenever you introduce a new variety people are sceptical,” Mrs Gangemi said.

“But that’s the fun of growing alternatives: You get to watch perceptions slowly change as they realise this is actually a really nice wine!”

Fiano, with its “intense tropical bouquet” and perfect pairing with a good seafood risotto, has proven a more palatable wine alternative.

“It has been a real success story, now people come to our cellar door looking for our fianos,” Mrs Gangemi said.

Ballandean Estate recently released their 7th vintage of fiano and despite dry conditions and low yields, the vineyard claims it is one of its finest.

“You can see it in the cellar door – People are just loving it!”