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-6-All wines are 750ml unless otherwise specied. Prices do not include Consumption Tax.Pizzini family  From left: Joel (chief winemaker and viticulturalist), Fred (founder, retired from management 5 years ago), Carlo (CEO), Katrina (Head of “A tavola!” Cooking School), Natalie (brand manager), Nicole (her husband is in charge of accounting)In talking with Joel Pizzini ‘luck’ often came up in the conversation, reflecting a warm outlook on life. However, our conversation revealed an adventurous and innovative spirit, from the move into Italian varietals, a drive for quality in the vineyard, and an eye to the future, together with resilience in the face of numerous annual challenges of growing grapes and winemaking ‒ let alone the impact of COVID-19 and the 2019-2020 bush fires. Pizzini’s awards and rewards are truly well earned. ◆How did your family come to Australia and King Valley?Joel ―― One of my great uncles, who was the adventurer in the family, saw a tv show and was keen to get out of post-war Italy. He was in his early 20s and while walking along the wharf found a flier that said: ‘come to Australia, there’s plenty of work and opportunity’. So he emigrated to Australia, bringing a couple of brothers with him. Lots of letters were sent to Italy to encourage the rest of the family to come, and my grandparents Robert and Rosa, who was pregnant at the time, my father Fred, uncle Ron and Robert’s mother made the voyage to Australia. Robert was a fitter and turner by trade, and was sponsored by the Australian government to help pay for his trip. They arrived at the wharf in Melbourne, transferred to the Bonegilla migration camp (near Wodonga in north east Victoria), where my heavily pregnant grandmother said “we’re not going any further.” So rather than going to the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme*, Robert and his brothers ended up settling in Myrtleford where they got involved in farming and restaurants, before focusing primarily on farming and growing tobacco. They basically arrived in Australia with the clothes on their back. Starting off with nothing they worked as share farmers, and saved up enough money to buy their own farms to grow tobacco which the Government was heavily subsidizing at the time to encourage land use. That’s how they arrived in the King Valley. It was very fertile land with plenty of water which tobacco really needed - primarily grown on river flats on sandy, alluvial fertile soils. We’re just lucky that grapes also thrive in the same area.◆ When did you transition from tobacco to grapes?――Our family first planted grapes in 1978, when we could see the writing on the wall for tobacco. Brown Bros were really starting to grow and were wiped out by a hail storm. So Ross Brown and his brothers came into the area to ask tobacco growers to start producing grapes for them, and pioneered grape growing in the region. Talking about the expansion Ross later said “we approached tobacco growers in particular, and Italian tobacco growers specifically, because they all have green thumbs and we know that they can grow anything.” The Browns had a great program for educating their growers and supporting them during the transition. We planted 30 acres of Riesling to sell to Brown Bros ‒ and slowly added the other internationals in over time, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Shiraz. Riesling is a great wine from the King Valley ‒ of all the internationals it is the most consistent varietal, and we can make fantastic styles. ◆ When and why did you transition to Italian varietals?――We planted our first Nebbiolo vines in 1987 ‒ the spark was from our Italian heritage and food. At the time my father Fred had become very good friends with the viticulturalists at Brown Bros and they would often make a little bit of wine outside work hours at our place and also share bottles that had arrived from Italy. Also, the market is so competitive for Chardonnay and other internationals, it is virtually impossible for a new region to shine. Putting our passion into our Italian varieties enabled us to stand. Once we started in 1987 we never stopped. We planted Nebbiolo, then Sangiovese, Arneis, Verduzzo, and Pinot Grigio, and began to build a portfolio of wines.There was a lag while building our reputation with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, we were still making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz. At that time there really wasn’t a lot of education about Italian wines, so we put a lot of effort into travelling and tastings to get our message across. We were well supported by sommeliers who were very keen to see different varietals and styles that were easy to match with food, which gave us encouragement that we were doing something right.Between 1999 and 2004 we had strong interest, mainly for Sangiovese, which encouraged us to grow the business, planting more vineyards. We planted new clones as they became available, to keep up with new technology and styles so we could be the leaders in this field and maintain a high quality and style of wine people like to enjoy.The next major growth came from Pinot Grigio, and we developed a great style. At that time Sauvignon Blanc was really smashing it in Australia and globally, and I looked to create a similar style. I spent time understanding what people liked about Sauvignon, how we went about picking our batches over a couple of weeks, so green, green crunchy, a little ripe, riper, to create a jigsaw puzzle of blending components, and then bringing them together to create this style. Our Sangiovese and Pinot Gris drove growth over a 10-15-year period while other wineries around us were going backwards.We were late coming into Prosecco (Glera), about 2011. We planted 20 acres and it has been quite successful. In the early days we hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, to get nice length without astringency which can add a touch of bitterness. Treating it gently also keeps the sugar level down ‒ it’s in the 7.5 ‒ 9 g/L range.◆With a new varietal how do you benchmark yourself?――For Sangiovese which we pioneered, we worked with Browns who helped source vine material through their extensive network of contacts. We also started a great relationship with Alberto Antonini**, an Italian winemaking consultant. He bought a quality focus to what we were doing, building the knowledge base and management practices required, and helped start our journey in refocusing. When I joined the business full time in 2002 Australian wines were generally floral, fruity and sweet, and relatively simple but commercially successful. I wanted my wines to be earthy, savoury, with leather and spice complexity, and coupled my philosophy with Alberto’s knowledge. At its simplest, it was about growing, picking and making, and speaking to lots of people who know more about it than me.Among the changes we made with Alberto was cane pruning our vines to help manage our yields ‒ they are more consistent and easier to manage. Also, our approach to thinning grapes and leaves to get filtered light through the canopy, all aimed at getting the grapes to mature, the flavours, the seeds, lignification of the Alfredo (Fred) Pizzini was a child when he arrived in Australia with his parents in 1956, and worked with them, his wife Katrina and his brother Rinaldo when they planted their first vines on former tobacco fields in King Valley in 1978, as contract growers for Brown Brothers. Alfredo and Katrina planted their first Italian varietal in 1987, and made their first wine under the Pizzini label in 1994. Over time the Pizzini estate has grown to 200 acres of vineyards producing 30,000 cases a year, and their four children joined the business. Today Carlo Pizzini is CEO, his sister Natalie is marketing manager, and sister Nicole’s husband works in accounts. Alfredo took a step back from managing the vineyards 5 years ago, while his wife Katrina runs the successful A tavola! Cooking School at the winery. I talked with Joel Pizzini, chief winemaker and viticulturalist. Our Feature Story : Part 16Pizzini (King Valley, Victoria)Pioneer in the cultivation and spread of Italian varietals in Australia―― Joel Pizzini (chief winemaker and viticulturalist)

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