Have you seen the term ‘field blend’ on a wine label? If not, keep an eye out and you will – but what does it mean? Much of Australian winemaking is focused on single varietals, such as riesling or pinot noir, along with a few classic blends like the Bordeaux-style semillon sauvignon blancs of Margaret River. Traditional European vineyards however were commonly planted with a wild mixture of grape varieties, often both white and red, growing side by side. Initially for convenience, these were all harvested at the same time, thrown into the same vat and fermented together … this is a true field blend. Mixing white and red grapes in the one wine may seem a little weird, until you think of the common practice of adding a dash of white viognier to red shiraz. This originated because shiraz and viognier growing (and fermented) together in Rhône vineyards, produced a more perfumed wine than shiraz alone. Today’s shiraz viogniers are rarely true field blends, though many are good wines nonetheless; Blind Corner Field Blend from Margaret River is a delicious exception, with viognier and shiraz from the same field fermented together. Today innovative Aussie winemakers are reintroducing co-fermented field blends to create distinctive, unique wines; here are five more you should try.
Grey Sands Byzantine Tasmania
Field blends often contain less common grape varieties rarely seen as single varietals. Bob and Rita Richter ferment 10% malvasia bianca and 10% viognier with their chardonnay to create this wine named for Greek malvasia, which was spread throughout the Mediterranean by the Byzantine Empire.
Brash Higgins R/SM McLaren Vale, SA
This is the first time I’ve tasted riesling and semillon in the same wine – and it works for me! Grown together in a small patch on the cool Kangarilla foothills, these two varietals were basket-pressed and wild fermented together to produce this bright, minerally, limey drop.
Konpira Maru MK Field Blend Rosé King Valley, Vic
From one of Victoria’s highest vineyards, originally planted as an experimental patch by Brown Brothers, comes this mouth-filling blend of 45% pinot gris and 40% chardonnay with a 15% dash of pinot noir for colour and depth, picked and fermented together then aged in old oak.
For The Dandy In The Clos Hilltops Hill of Graciano et al Hilltops, NSW
Red graciano, rondinella and corvina, and white hárslevelu, viognier, marsanne and roussanne, from Freeman Vineyards, were co-fermented on skins in inner Sydney to produce this fruity, perfumed wine in memory of natural wine champion, Sam Hughes. Proceeds go to his daughters’ education trust.
Gentle Folk Vin de Sofa Adelaide Hills, SA
This light, Beaujolais-style co-ferment of red pinot noir and cabernet franc, with a generous splash of white gewürztraminer, comes from a vineyard high in the Adelaide Hills. The name, a play on the French ‘vin de soif’ (wine for thirst), suggests its quaffable nature.