I was at dinner on Tuesday night at a great new restaurant called 88 on the corner of Waratah Street and New South Head Road, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. We were in the mood for a white wine, and the sommelier/owner recommended a bottle of the Bream Creek Schönburger 2008.

Schönburger is a very rare variety grown in Germany and the UK and pioneered in Australia by the Marion Bay, South Eastern Tasmanian winery Bream Creek. Basically the variety is a cross between pinot noir, chasselas rose and muscat Hamburg. This aromatic  wine was vibrant and fruity with a slightly sweet/tart taste reminiscent of a Alsatian Gewurztraminer. An excellent complement to my roasted salmon and citrus salad!

More and more Australian winemakers are either trialling or already having great success with a range of varieties beyond the usual selection of chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz and pinot noir.

Brokenwood has embraced nebbiolo, a red grape variety of the Piedmonte region in North West Italy and responsible for the famed wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. According to the winery, the qualities of the fickle nebbiolo were espoused by a series of young Italian winemakers who have had stints working at the winery over the years. Brokenwood’s nebbiolo is from their Indigo vineyard in Beechworth on the foothills of the Victorian Alpine region.

Rutherglen in North East Victoria has established an excellent reputation as a maker of durif. The durif grape variety was developed in the South of France in the late 1890’s and is a cross between Shiraz and Peloursin. The variety, which was planted in Rutherglen in the early 1900’s, produces full bodied dry reds with good bottle ageing potential.  The acclaimed Stanton & Killeen Wines makes a straight durif and a shiraz durif blend. Scion Vineyard and Winery makes both a dry and sweet durif.

Recently some friends who were moving overseas gave us a bottle of Cassegrain Chambourcin Reserve 1994. John Cassegrain is credited with pioneering this French hybrid variety in Australia. Produced from 100 per cent bio-dynamically grown and hand-picked fruit from the Le Clos Francoise vineyard in Hastings River region of New South Wales, the 1994 was surprisingly fresh for a wine of its age.

If you’re interested in seeking out more information about unusual grape varieties in Australia, take a look at Darby Higgs’ website VinoDiversity.  It’s a wealth of information about alternative varietals in Australia.