Wine Empire Started in Mum's Laundry

By David Ellis

Mention wine and Calabria in the same breath and for most of us the NSW Riverina comes straight to mind – for it was here in the 1940s that Italian migrant Francesco Calabria started making wine in his wife Elisabetta’s laundry tubs from grapes he was growing on their new-fangled fruit farm outside the-now city of Griffith. 

So good was it, that in 1945 to supplement the farm’s meagre income, Francesco started selling barrels of his home-made reds and whites to family and friends, with his teenage sons Tony and Bill joining-in in the 1960s and ultimately running the little winery full-time – Bill beginning at all of 14 years of age. 

Today Bill is head of the now vast Calabria Family Wines that has its headquarters and winery at Griffith, and with vineyards in the Riverina, Hilltops in southern NSW, the Canberra wine district, Victoria’s King Valley and South Australia’s Barossa Valley. 

With Shiraz the Barossa’s star performer, Bill’s just released a 2015 Calabria Bros Barossa Shiraz made from fruit off historic 70-year-old vines, and with a bouquet that’s all red cherry and dark chocolate, and a palate rich and full-bodied with ripe plums and spicy vanillin oak flavours, and a long fine-grained tannin finish. Wine Empire Started in Mum's Laundry

It’s an absolute natural with tomato-based Italian dishes (AGFG recommends Joe Bastianich's Rigatoni alla Norma), and just $26. 

One to note: a hot and dry vintage in the Hunter Valley in 2017 gave growers and winemakers fruit of outstanding quality, and in the case of Margan Family Wines’ their low yielding ripe and clean Semillon at full ripeness is a hallmark of that excellent vintage. 

Grown on Margan’s Fordwich Hill vineyard that was originally planted by Lindemans on the wonderful red volcanic soil of the Fordwich Sill in the late 1960s, this vineyard produces wines of a richer, softer style with intense citrus-like flavours, as fruit can be left on the vine for longer than normal to give it increased ripeness of flavour without loss of acidity. 

Thus, this Margan 2017 Semillon is a wonderful combination of flavour and acidity with what Andrew Margan calls "Lime Splice,” and has a softness and juicy mid palate weight he says is not normally found in Hunter Semillon. 

An excellent drop that’s great value at $20, Andrew suggests an ideal match on the table would be seared yellow fin tuna with garden piccalilli, capers and white balsamic dressing.