If you were at a trivia night and had to name as many grape varieties you could, how many do you think you could list? Do you know how many grape varieties there are in total? It would be an amazing (if not improbable) feat to remember all 1,368 varieties listed in the comprehensive bible of ‘Wine Grapes’ by Robinson, Harding & Vouillamoz (2012). Even to narrow it down further to the 130 varieties grown in Australia that James Halliday writes about in ‘Varietal Wines’ (2015) would be quite impressive.
Certainly, there are a handful of varieties that are quite well known and loved. From the 2018 vintage in Australia, the top 5 varieties by volume included Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, with the Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot making up a huge 84% of total red wine crushed in Australia. Whether you are happy to drink your favourite few or embrace the rare and unusual, wine consumers are spoilt for choice in Australia.
The diversity in our vineyards is something we are very proud of. Stanton & Killeen grow 14 different varieties, with only three considered to be common and widely available (Chardonnay, Shiraz and Muscat) according to the Australian Alternative Wines Show entry conditions.
We love having a great range of varieties as it not only provides choice to our customers, it also means we can adapt to our changing climate. We offer over 34 different products including four sparkling wines, four whites, one rosé, eight reds, a yearly vintage fortified (plus many back vintages), eleven barrel-aged fortifieds and six bulk fortified wines for our barrel customers. So which varieties do we grow, giving this extensive offering to our customers?
Since the beginning, Stanton & Killeen have always made Rutherglen’s most famous fortified wines, Muscat, Topaque (aka Muscadelle, Tokay) and Tawnys (port). We continue this tradition to this day.
Muscat: red grape, 13.11ha.
A very special and important variety in Rutherglen which produces the region’s world-famous fortified wines. Nowhere else in the world makes barrel-aged fortifieds like Rutherglen vignerons do, and one of the reasons is the mutation of the parent variety Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains to become Muscat à Petits Grains Rouges (or more widely known as Brown Muscat). It is a highly aromatic variety; in the early stages of ripeness there are delicate notes of rose petal and musk stick, transforming into Christmas pudding and spice as the grapes ripen. We harvest some of our Muscat vineyards at the start of vintage for Moscato and Sparkling Muscat Blanc and the others at the very end of vintage to make the rich and luscious barrel-aged fortifieds. To learn more about the Rutherglen Fortified Classification System, click here. Muscat is our biggest variety in the vineyard with 13.11ha.
Muscadelle: white grape, 2.49ha.
A very old variety that has been grown in Rutherglen since the 1850s. It was once widely known as Tokay but is now labelled as Topaque (or Muscadelle) due to an EU-Australian agreement. Despite similar names, Muscadelle is not related to Muscat. However, the varieties are treated in similar ways when making fortified wines. In order to get the magnificent flavours of rich butterscotch, honey and malt, the grapes are left to mature on the vine until the end of vintage. Once made and barrel-matured, the wines are either released young (4-12 years) for the Rutherglen or Classic ranges or may be further slowly matured for several decades for the complex Grand and Rare classifications.
Shiraz: red grape, 6.47ha.
One of the most prolific varieties in Australia (it has the second largest plantings after France), Shiraz is very forgiving in the vineyard and versatile in the winery. Our oldest vineyard, Jack’s Block Shiraz planted in 1921, makes a well-structured, full-bodied wine with beautiful elegance. The S&K style of Shiraz is not over-the-top, rather, we try to focus on balance and pure fruit expression.
- Sparkling Shiraz
- NV Dry Red
- Moodemere Shiraz
- Shiraz Durif
- Jack’s Block Shiraz
- Vintage Fortified
- Ruby, Tawny and bulk fortifieds
Durif: red grape, 3.81ha.
A red wine grape from France, discovered in the 1860s, developed by Dr Francois Durif. The variety is a cross between Shiraz and Peloursin and is known as Petite Sirah (in the USA). The grapes have quite thin skins, but make very dark tannic wines, which benefit from ageing in new oak. Stanton & Killeen have 3.8ha of Durif, which is used in our Reserve Durif, the Shiraz Durif and is also used to make Ruby and Vintage Fortified.
Chardonnay: white grape, 0.83ha
Like Shiraz, Chardonnay is one of Australia’s most versatile and popular varieties. We only have four rows and this small amount is used in our Chardonnay (we pick early to maintain the fresh, bright stone fruit flavours) and in our White Fortified.
Viognier: white grape, 0.2ha
We only grow a tiny amount of Viognier. It plays a supporting role in our White Fortified, adding flavour and aromatics. It offers rich stone fruit characters of peach and nectarine with stunning honeysuckle aromas.
Grand Noir: red grape, 0.07ha
A relatively rare grape around the world; one of the great things about this variety is its vivid colour. We use this variety in our Vintage Fortified as it blends so well with the Portuguese varieties. It is also known by the Portuguese synonym ‘Sumo Tinto’. When you see the rich, red colour staining your hands as soon as you pick a bunch, you can see why the overall meaning of the synonyms of this variety are related to the words ‘big’ ‘red’!
Our range of Portuguese varieties is extensive because sixth-generation winemaker Chris Killeen loved Portuguese Port and wanted to create his own unique Australian style. Touriga Nacional was already in our vineyards, and in the 1990s he added Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão. Over the years, this grew to include Souzão and more recently in 2015, Arinto and Alvarinho of which have just been released for the first time.
Alvarinho: white grape, 0.45ha
A very old variety that originated near the northern border of Portugal and neighbouring Spain, where it is called Albariño. We planted this variety in 2015 along with Arinto, and it has proven to be a reliable and adaptable variety. Our 2018 Alvarinho was the first release of this variety and is light bodied with lychee, lemon and passionfruit notes.
Arinto: white grape, 0.45ha
Only a handful of wineries in Australia grow this white grape. We added this variety to our estate in 2015 for it’s wonderful ability to maintain refreshing acid in a warm climate. It produces high-quality wines with delicious lemon and lime flavours and can be used for drink-now styles of wine as well as more complex, barrel-matured styles. Our 2018 release is the first wine that we have produced off this vineyard and we couldn’t be more pleased with the result. It has reinforced our decision to grow varieties that are suited to unique our soils and climate of our site.
Souzão: red grape, 0.1ha
This is a very old traditional Port variety, which is used to add colour and structure, but is usually only found in the oldest vineyards of the Douro. It makes extremely dark-coloured wines with very high tannin levels – they are almost undrinkable on their own, but are fantastic blending wines. We co-ferment it with the other varieties used to make The Prince, as the Souzão adds structure to the finished wine. We don’t need much, which is good as we only have 0.1ha!
Tinta Barroca: red grape, 0.6ha
This is another Port variety originating from the Douro valley in Portugal. In the Douro it is less favoured as it makes softer style wines, but we find it is very useful in the Rosé and as a small part of the Prince, as it adds both savoury and fruity notes to these wines. Here at S&K we have 0.6ha of Tinta Barroca, and we also use it to make Ruby port, blending it with some of the more tannic varieties.
Tinto Cão: red grape, 0.6ha
One of the most significant varieties in the Douro (Portugal), this variety means “Red Dog” in Portuguese. It is very suited to Rutherglen, as it likes the weather to be hot and dry. It has plenty of colour, and adds structure to the blended wines. We pick this at the same time as the Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and the Souzão, and all the varieties are fermented together – we find this leads to more complex flavours and more balanced tannins. We have 0.6ha of Tinto Cão, the oldest vines being 25 years old.
Tinta Roriz: red grape, 3.2ha
This is the second-most planted variety in Spain, but is also grown in Portugal. The most common name is Tempranillo, however in Portugal it is also known as Tinta Roriz (Douro) and Aragonez (Alentejo). It is a very early-ripening grape, producing wines including light fruity styles, more full-bodied wines, and also port (Vintage, Ruby and Tawny). Stanton & Killeen have a total of 3.2ha, and the oldest vines were planted over 25 years ago.
Touriga Nacional: red grape, 0.6ha
This is another important variety for Port wines, but also produces very aromatic and concentrated red table wines, and we use it in our Vintage Fortified and The Prince. Our oldest plantings are almost 50 years old and there is 0.6ha planted at Stanton & Killeen.
QUEST TO DISCOVER MORE
Whilst the vast majority of wine in Australia comes from a small selection of varieties (including muscat gordo, pinot gris/grigio, chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, shiraz, chenin blanc, riesling, colombard, grenache and verdelho), wine lovers around Australia have more choice than ever before.
One of the best ways to discover your favourite wines is to visit cellar doors around the country. Many wines from small to medium wineries don’t make it to the retail chains or bottle shops. At S&K, we save some of our most popular wines just for our members and cellar door visitors. We also offer an in-depth and customised experience where you can taste 50 year-old- fortifieds right where they have been slowly maturing in the barrels. We look forward to seeing you in Rutherglen!