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First Assyrtiko planted in Australia

The Greek grape variety Assyrtiko has been planted for the first time on Australian soil.

Santorini: home of Assyrtiko

Peter Barry, of Clare Valley winery Jim Barry Wines, has planted vines on half a hectare of land at the winery’s Lodge Hill property.

He first came across Assyrtiko on visits to the grape’s native island of Santorini, where it ‘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.’

Known for its vigour and resistance to drought and disease, Barry believes that Assyrtiko is a good choice for the future of South Australian winemaking.

‘Clare is a cool district with good rainfall but we must face up to climate change and water scarcity and adapt our management appropriately.

Varieties which can grow on minimal irrigation and still produce contemporary wine styles is what we all look for.’

Barry sourced the cuttings from Argyros Winery in Santorini – where the vines range from 50 to 300 years old – a process which required patience.

‘The laborious process of importation and quarantine has discouraged many growers in Australia from trying something new,’ said Barry.

The winery received help from the Yalumba nursery in the Barossa which is fully accredited for quarantine.

Barry’s father Jim, who set up his family-run winery in 1959, pioneered grapes like Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz in Australia.

Wines from the new Assyrtiko vines will be bottled in five years. Barry said considerable patience was needed to see the project through.

‘By the time we release this wine, I will have committed 20% of my life to this project – at least 10 years. But that’s preferable to passing from this world and wondering, “What if?”.’

Written by Christina Pickard

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