THIRTY years ago Melbourne businessman Peter Read and his family planted the Symphonia vineyard at Myrrhee in north-east Victoria's cool-climate upper King Valley to a gallimaufry of rare grape varieties.
There were saperavi, the red grape much-planted in Georgia, Russia, Moldova and Ukraine, petit manseng, native to the Pyrenees region of France, pinot grigio from northern Italy, tannat, tempranillo and albarino of Spanish origins as well as the more conventional merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
Peter had travelled widely in western and eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and developed a keen interest in unfamiliar grape varieties and his aim was to sell his grapes to Brown Brothers of Milawa.
That morphed into the launch of the Symphonia brand, the 1998 addition of a winery and growing sales from appreciative vinous lovers of the unconventional.
In 2005, however, Peter decided to put Symphonia up for sale, finding eager buyers in Newcastle lawyer and businessman Peter Evans, his wife Suzanne and their family.
The Evanses have nurtured the 53-hectare Symphonia property, with its cattle grazing land and 15-ha vineyard, winery and homestead and since 2013 they have been fortunate to have Lilian Carter, one of Australia's most adroit new-generation winemakers, make their wines and the fastidious Daniel Ebert managing the petit manseng, prosecco, arneis, tannat, saperavi, tempranillo, shiraz and cabernet vines.
Lilian, 39, the daughter of Rutherglen vignerons, is an Adelaide University wine science graduate who honed her skills at Oakridge and Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley and Pernod Ricard Australia in the Barossa.
In 2008 Pernod Ricard sent her off to the exciting challenge of making wine in China at Pernod's joint-venture Helan Mountain winery in Ningxia Province, an endeavour that has led to a continuing role for her Vinemark consultancy firm with the Tiansai winery in Xinjiang.
Lilian came to Newcastle last Friday to join Suzanne and Peter Evans in presenting a lineup of current-release Symphonia wines at a five-course dinner at the Binnie Beef Warehouse.
The wines, the $24 Symphonia Non-Vintage Prosecco, $24 2016 Petit Manseng, $28 2019 Tempranillo, $35 2017 Saperavi, $44 2015 Quintus and 2018 The Royal Late Harvest Petit Manseng ($40 a 500ml bottle), are available on symphoniafinewines.com.au.
The five-course dinner, created by Cranky Chef Catering, comprised four courses featuring Binnie Beef Wagyu from Steve and Liz Binnie's Mirannie Station, north of Singleton.
PETIT MANSENG DELIGHT
THIS delightful Symphonia 2016 Petit Manseng shines green-tinted light gold in the glass and has ginger blossom scents and crisp white peach flavour on the front palate. The middle shows dragon fruit, cumquat and gunmetal characters and slatey acid refreshes at the finish.
DRINK WITH: pan-fried scallops with fresh pea risotto and basil pesto.
AGEING: six years.
RATING: 5 stars
GEORGIAN GRAPE EXCELS
GLOWING deep purple and with 14.5% alcohol and fruitcake aromas, the Symphonia 2017 Saperavi brings rich, ripe blackcurrant flavour to the front palate. The middle palate introduces Satsuma plum, blueberry, rhubarb, spice and savoury oak and dusty tannins feature at the finish.
DRINK WITH: Wagyu beef sirloin with horseradish and grilled mushrooms.
AGEING: 12 years.
RATING: 5 stars
BERRY BOMB RED BLEND
A BLEND of saperavi, tannat, shiraz, tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon, the Symphonia 2015 Quintus is a real berry bomb with 14.5% alcohol, bright garnet hues and cassis scents. The front palate displays vibrant blackberry flavour, the middle palate has ripe cherry, mulberry, mint and vanillin oak and the finish smooth earthy tannins.
DRINK WITH: rack of lamb.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
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