Mudgee might be the Neanderthal Man for Italian grape varieties in Australia, but has not yet had its William Golding to write a nuanced history, Inheritors-style. As was the case in Jane Faulkner's recent article in the Wine Companion magazine on Australian sangiovese, there is often a token paragraph acknowledging Carlo Corino and Mudgee being a starting point for Italian varieties in Australia (he arrived at Montrose in 1976, and by 1982 had three hectares of sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera). But that token paragraph usually ends with some kind of statement that Mudgee has been an evolutionary blind alley - with no line drawn through to the experiences at Coriole, Pizzini, Castagna and others.
This blind alley idea is easy to repeat and hard for Mudgee to shake off. While Montrose continues, now under Bob Oatley's ownership, and makes Italian variety reds including sangiovese and barbera, it is perhaps di Lusso that flies the most Italian flags over Mudgee's brown soils. Di Lusso first picked fruit from their plantings of barbera and nebbiolo in 2002, with sangiovese and picolit first picked the following year. The range now also includes greco di tufo, vermentino, arneis, lagrein and aleatico. Unlike Pizzini, di Lusso have taken the decision to focus entirely on Italian grape varieties and blends.
This 2004 nebbiolo from di Lusso shows both promise and the hazards of young vines. There is nebbiolo flavour and tannin here, plumped up in colour and primary fruit by blending in some barbera. But those nebbiolo flavours look extracted and somewhat awkward, with dried orange peel sitting over something tasting like cherry cola. Varietal if you go looking, but not necessarily a wine I would pick blind as nebbiolo.
Perhaps time to go back to Mudgee for another look?
Cork. Cellar door purchase. Current release price (2011 vintage) $28. 13.6% alcohol. Website here.