Greek grape takes root in Aussie soil

5th September, 2012 by Patrick Schmitt

 The native Greek grape Assyrtiko has been planted for the first time in Australia by Clare Valley’s Jim Barry Wines.

(L-R) Sam Barry (commercial manager), Peter Barry (managing director), Tom Barry (winemaker) planting Australia’s first Assyrtiko vines

The variety was selected following a chance tasting of a wine made from Assyrtiko by the winery’s managing director Peter Barry, while on holiday on the Greek island of Santorini in 2007.

“Assyrtiko immediately stood out as a variety suited to the modern Australian palate,” said Peter, who has spent five years seeking quarantine approval for the grape.

“We’re beginning with half a hectare of Assyrtiko using two dormant cuttings from a single vine – a true mother vine and Santorini clone,” he added.

The planting material was sourced from Argyros Winery as eight dormant cuttings from a single vine.

Explaining the suitability of the Greek grape in Australia’s Clare Valley, he said,

“Assyrtiko is grown predominantly on Santorini in arid, windy and hot conditions… Clare is a cool district with good rainfall but we must face up to climate change and water scarcity and adapt our management appropriately.”

Continuing he commented, “Varieties which can grow on minimal irrigation and still produce contemporary wine styles is what we all look for.”

The cuttings were planted this week at the family’s Lodge Hill property in the Clare Valley on an east-facing slope at 480 metres.

Once the vines were in the ground, the Barrys celebrated with a Greek-style feast of grilled lamb.

Peter described the five-year project as a “labour of love” and an exercise in patience.

“The laborious process of importation and quarantine has discouraged many growers in Australia from trying something new,” Peter said.

“As an industry we all support that – we don’t want pests such as phylloxera or other diseases – but I don’t think it would have been possible without the assistance and encouragement from Robert Hill Smith and his team at Yalumba.”

Continuing he explained, “The Yalumba nursery in the Barossa is fully accredited for quarantine and they advised and assisted us with the whole process.”

Wine from the Jim Barry Wines Assyrtiko vines is still five years away, and Peter concluded, “By the time we release this wine, I will have committed 20% of my life to this project – at least 10 years – but it is preferable to passing from this world and wondering ‘what if’!”

More than 60% of the world’s 1200 hectares of Assyrtiko are grown in Santorini, with the remaining 400 hectares are grown in places such as Drama, Greece.

It is a disease-resistant variety which is extremely drought tolerant with a moderate to high vigour, while it is traditionally grown on Santorini using the Koulara method ­where each vine is trained within – and woven into – a basket.

3 Responses to “Greek grape takes root in Aussie soil”

  1. GEORGIA says:

    GOOD LUCK AUSTRALIA YOU HAVE OUR TREASURE!!!!!!

  2. adonis says:

    where ordinary people are discouraged and give up, the people that keep going make a difference and are remebered for it, well done, never give up on what you beleive. Salute to your first glass of Assyrtiko made in Australia when the time comes. Good luck and love from Greece.

  3. E and N Iatrou says:

    We cannot wait for such a journey to come to fruition.
    The first harvest,the first bottle, the first toast.
    Well done!

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