Wine critic Huon Hooke recently named the Chalmers Fiano 2017 as his Wine of the Week in The Real Review. He describes the wine as having a bouquet that “opens with smoky matchstick overtones and nutty, toasted-cashew aromas, while lemony fruit and honeyed overtones emerge in time.”
Hooke’s description of the wine’s nut-like aromas is not surprising given that Italy’s best vineyards are located in hazelnut plantations in Fiano’s home turf of Avellino in the Campania region east of Naples.
Fiano has quite a storied history in Italy. It was likely the main variety in a wine the Ancient Romans called Apianum, based on the Latin word for bees, Apiana. In the vineyards around Avellino, the sugary pulp of the Fiano grape attract swarms of bees – a big plus for the environment given growing alarm around the world about declining bee numbers.
Interestingly, Australian winemaker interest in Fiano coincided with a revival in Italy of the cultivation of the grape. The variety only gained official recognition in Italy as “Fiano di Avellino DOC” in 2003. McLaren Vale’s Coriole released Australia’s first Fiano in 2005 and the variety is now the largest growing whites category in McLaren Vale.
Fortunately, Fiano responds well to different climatic conditions and doesn’t lose its acidity under hot climatic conditions. The coolish climate of Chalmer’s Heathcote vineyard gives the wine an excellent depth of flavour and the naturally high level of acidity serves as a counterbalance to the bees-waxy texture of the variety, ensuring that the wine retains its freshness and crispness while still having excellent palate length.
Coriole continues to make an award-winning Fiano. Its 2017 vintage won Best White Wine at the McLaren Vale Wine Show 2017. Other top producers include Bendigo’s Sutton Grange and Clare Valley’s Grosset. Grosset’s Apiano Fiano is a nod to the wine’s Ancient Roman origins. Hooke scored the 2018 vintage 93 points. Here’s his review: “A very fine wine with superb freshness and flavour, soft texture and lovely drinkability. Hints of herbs and spices, even a faint hint of the honey that is suggested by the name.”