An interview with Monique and Stefano Lubiana about the fascinating wine country Australia
The Australian viticulture has a relatively short history compared to the one in the Old World. This country does not have autochthonous grape varieties. All of them have been brought from Europe and South Africa. Some of the grape types which are called new Australian varieties like, for instance, Tarrango (since 1965) or Cienna (since 2000) have been bred from those imported vines. „Australian style“ is a term often applied to describe wine. However, what does this expression exactly mean? We talk about it and many other things down under with our interview guests Monique and Stefano Lubiana from the vineyard of the same name in Tasmania, a regular participant in the international organic wine award.
The production began in the 18th century primarily to satisfy local market needs using relatively undemanding and frugal grape varieties. In 1820 the early settler and Australian pioneer Gregory Blaxland achieved a first favourable outcome in the winegrowing of the country. Blaxland shipped Australian wines to England where they received a silver medal awarded by the Royal Society of Arts in 1822, and he was the first Australian decorated with a renown international medal for his Australian Grown wine.
In 1833, James Busby returned from his voyages to France and Spain bringing a robust selection of vine varieties to Australia. Also, the numerous migrants from Europe played a substantial role in the development of the superb wine-growing areas applying their knowledge and experience brought from the Old World and helping to improve the production and quality of Australian wine. German settlers, from what was that time Prussia amongst others, made essential contributions to the developing of the wine-growing area Barossa Valley in the state of South Australia. Barossa Valley with its 10.000 ha vineyard acreage still belongs to the most well-known wine regions of the country. Likewise, the migrants from France were at the roots of wine cultivation in Tasmania.
After the World War II, before the taste preferences for dry table wine slowly enjoyed a comeback, the Australian winemakers were very much specialised on producing sweet liqueur wine, which became known as „Australian Port“.
Around 1920, the wine production took a downward direction. Consumers preferred imported wines of higher quality instead of simple local produce. This trend compelled the winemakers Down Under to grow sophisticated, high-quality vine varieties partly at a significant cost due to artificial watering. Nowadays the wine of Australia is a classic with excellent quality and steady position right at the top of the relish list of wine lovers and gourmets worldwide.
The wine-growing area is spread over the whole country and covers 60 regions with approximately 160.000 ha. However, most of the acreages are concentrated in the southern regions with the colder climate, in the states Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia (Barossa Valley and Coonawarra), Western Australia (Swan Valley), Tasmania and Queensland. Among the most important grape varieties by far are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillion, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc and Shiraz. With a cultivating surface of more than 40.000 ha, particularly Shiraz, imported in 1832, is in a top position nowadays. According to the chronicles, Pinot Noir should be the first grape type brought to Australia bearing first fruits in 1791 in the garden of the governor of Sydney. Till now this grape remains a part of winegrowing portfolio of the country. Especially Tasmania, home of our interview guests and winegrowers Monique and Stefano Lubiana, offers a suitable climate for achieving excellent results in cultivating this grape type.
Mr and Mrs Lubiana, you are the fifth generation of wine makers with Italian family roots. What made you decide to move to Tasmania and to establish your vineyard in 1990? Where do you get inspiration for your work?
We moved to Tasmania because of its cool mild climate suitable for making quality sparkling wines and table wines. We love eating fine foods and drinking fine wines and enjoying these with family and friends. It is these simple pleasures that drive us to make beautiful wines for everyone to enjoy
European grape varieties like, for instance, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling comprise most of the range you cultivate. Likewise, you are very much involved in making sparkling wines with filigree character and mineral notes. What was decisive in the choice of these grape varieties and which role did climatic conditions and geological characteristics of Tasmania play in this process?
The Tasmanian climate is cool and mild and so is suited to these early varieties. The long cool growing season builds greater aromatic profile whilst maintaining good natural acid.
The soils of our vineyard are generally in low fertility thus encouraging slow steady growth of the grapevine leading to better grape exposure and there enhanced aromatic profile and polyphenol development.
„Australian style“ is a term often applied to describe wine. However, what does this expression exactly mean? If at all, does this common trait exist? How would you describe your wine style and which features are typifying it?
Not sure about Australian style, we don’t use this term in Australia. Maybe it might mean soft generous wines with lots of varietal fruit character which we hear being used occasionally. Does not apply to us as we are almost like another country. We have more similarity with New Zealand.
In the Osteria, you invite your guests to savour a journey through the culinary world sustainably using seasonal and local products. What would you recommend us if we were your guests today evening? Which wine would you propose to accompany this meal?
The menu changes regularly with what is in season. At the moment fresh Garfish is on the menu simply baked with some olive oil and butter dressing. A fresh crisp Riesling would accompany this dish perfectly.
How important are the biodynamic and organic products to the consumers in your country? How do you see the future of organic wines in Australia?
Biodynamic and Organic products are growing rapidly from a small base. People are concerned about food safety and are looking to safer guaranteed organic suppliers.
In this light the future for Organic and Biodynamic wines is positive.
What role does the export play for Australian winegrowing? How important is it for your vineyard? Which features of your wines could be distinguishing characteristics in a product range of, let’s say, European wine retailer?
We sell relatively easily all of our wines in the local market. We have no need to export our wines to achieve sales targets. We decided to export our wines to make available our wines to the many foreign visitors who come and visit our winey and then would like to keep drinking our wines when they get home. Our wines are popular to the foreign consumer as they are very good value for the quality, they have a consistent quality and are well balanced with fruit and savouriness yet elegant.
Thank you very much for taking time to join us! We wish you lots of success, and we are looking forward to the future vintages!