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By Gail Thomas, Good Fruit & Vegetables.

WITH a current production of 15,000 tonnes and a plan of expanding to 30,000 over the next four years, family-owned Salena Estate sells 80 per cent of its wine on the export market into Asia and Europe.

Bob Franchitto, the estate’s owner, said the family was from an Italian background but born in Australia.

“My father was a prisoner of war who immigrated back to Australia in 1949,” her said.

“My wife Sylvia and I started the winery in 1998 but have been involved in vineyards for well over 35 years.

“The winery is named after our daughter Salena and we also have a brand Tyrone Estate named after our son.”

The winery is located in Loxton, South Australia which has a warm dry climate.

The reason the family established the winery was that they believed strongly in the area and knew it could produce better wines than those that were currently being produced.

The family owns 210 hectares of vineyards made up of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese and various other varieties grown on a range of soils from clay and limestone to deep sandy ridges.

They also buy fruit from other local producers as well as from the Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale.

The vineyards are fully irrigated by computerised drip irrigation, have vertical two-wire trellis and the fruit is machine harvested with yields of around 15t per hectare which is quite light cropping for the area.

The business has a fully operating winery and bottling plant with two full time winemakers and markets a broad range of wines under various banners including two sparkling wines.

They also have in excess of 100ha of organic Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards.

The company’s aim is to make good quality affordable wines for the average wine drinker and the fruits of their labour have resulted in swags of awards both in Australia and internationally.

An innovative part of the business is the Ink Series range of wines which focuses on small quantities of alternative varieties including Fiano, Vermentino, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, Bianco d’Alessano, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Montepulciano, Graciano, Tempranillo and Lagrein.

The 2010 Bianco d’Alessano is a new Italian white grape variety grown almost exclusively in the Italian region of Puglia.

It burst onto the Australian scene at the 2010 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show winning trophies for best white, best Italian variety and best wine of the show.

It is a relatively high yielding, thick skinned grape that is late ripening and perfectly suited to the Riverland climate as it has a good canopy and is not prone to sunburn. It retains a fair bit of natural acidity and is also naturally resistant to powdery mildew.

With a pale straw colour and nose dominated by a fresh summer fruity aroma, a hint of citrus and an underlying minerality, the wine’s palate has great weight and good length balanced by zesty acidity and lingering continuity.

Another interesting wine in the Salena portfolio is the sparkling Petit Meslier brut cuvee made with fruit sourced from the Adelaide Hills.

This rare variety is of French origin and is used as a minor component of some champagne blends, being valued for its ability to retain acidity even in hot vintages.

“The 2012 growing season was exceptionally cool which followed with a cool summer and perfect ripening conditions for this variety,” Franchitto said.

“Due to the conditions, fruit coming from this region shows intense lifted fruit characters coupled with lively acidity.

“It’s a first for Salena Estate and is a fruit driven style with the fruit firstly picked at optimal ripeness for sparkling production and only the free run juice cold settled.

“This was then fermented in several batches at low temperature using yeast strains that were specially selected for this wine style.

“On completion of fermentation the wine was racked and aged for a short time on light yeast lees to add further complexity.

“Tasting and assembly of the final blend was completed before cold stabilisation, filtration and secondary fermentation.

“This classic sparkling style has a pale straw hue with a slight hint of blush. The nose is lush with intense florals and green apple aromas whilst still retaining an air of elegance and on the palate it’s fruity, fresh and well balanced with subtle yeast complexities.”

While most of Salena’s business is geared to the overseas market and online they also have a retail outlet in Melbourne.

This article was originally published in the October 2014 edition of Good Fruit & Vegetables.