I first tasted the Virago wines back in 2015, describing it as a ‘label to watch’.
After retasting the range now in 2018, I’m noting that down as a great call – these are some of the best Nebbiolo-based wines in the country.
It’s great just to find good local Neb at all, really. Such a capricious variety, that rarely looks good outside of Italy.
The reason why these wines work is the detail. The Virago Vineyard features five different clones, planted on a NW facing slope in Beechworth, the vines tended by hand at every part of the process by Karen Coats and Prue Keith. Rick Kinzbrunner (Giaconda) makes the wines, with extensive skin contact in tank, basket-pressing and maturation in large, 1,600 litre oak – all A1 Nebbiolo handling.
Virago Nebbiolo 2011
A tricky vintage delivering an autumnal wine. Red cherry nose, with an authentic Nebbiolo stamp, complete with bark, dried red fruit, a hint of dried beef volatility and plenty of cherries. It’s put on weight since I last tried it, the style still faintly leafy, bonoxy and secondary, but charming and not unbalanced. There proper Nebbiolo tannins too, even if there is just a slight astringent edge. Classy and expressive of variety, if just a little angular and minty. Best drinking: 2018-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $52. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Virago Nebbiolo 2012
Much darker than the 2011, and it’s immediately a much more primary style – there’s distinct fresh red fruit here and without any of the awkward Mint in sight. Since I last tried this it’s fuller, richer, more seamless. Indeed it’s warm hearted and plump through the middle, flush red berries and fine tannins. I like how it’s demonstrably Nebbiolo if in a plumper form than many equivalent Langhe reds. You want the tannins to be just a little longer; and the slightly dry-edged juiciness to be countered, but this is right up at the pointy end of Aussie Nebbiolo. Superb balance through the finish ultimately makes this a satisfying drink. Promise writ large. Best drinking: 2018-2029. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $47. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Virago La Mistura Nebbiolo 2013
La Mistura translates as ‘the mixture’ and originally this second label wine was to be a blend. From a tricky year, and a lighter shade of fruit power – but not a bad one. Pinot-like Nebbiolo with glacé cherry and mint, it’s not quite in the same realm of tannin and extract compared to the more serious Virago Nebs but to mine it’s actually a rather together drink – and on a par with the ’11 for drinkability. Love the proper fruit tannin, even if it’s just a little light on. If this is a second label it just makes you excited about the future. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure would.