The oft-quoted line by Kerry Packer that “you only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime” might have come to mind in 1998 when, in a Bond-like move, Mildara Blass acquired Maglieri Wines from founder Serafino (Steve) Maglieri for a handsome price. The lure was the 400,000 dozen bottles of lambrusco (an off-dry fizzy red table wine) that Maglieri sold each year, exploiting a market segment no one else had recognised. The Italian name lambrusco/lambrusca was used for several different distinct Italian varieties, and its early use in Australia was banned under the EU Wine Agreement. Since only a small amount of lambrusco was planted in Australia at that time, it was intended to denote a style, one that is no longer in demand.
Steve had arrived from Italy in 1964 with $20 in his pocket, and founded Maglieri Wines in 1972. In 1998, his instincts told him it was the right time to sell. Meanwhile, Andrew Garrett, a winemaker-cum-entrepreneur who’d created McLarens on the Lake, found himself overcapitalised, and the financiers moved in to force the sale of the site in 1999. The buyer: Steve Maglieri. He and daughter Maria (now CEO of the Maglieri Group) expanded the restaurant, with four-star accommodation alongside a small-batch winery.
Serafino’s 120ha of McLaren Vale vineyards are the basis for the consistently good wines made by chief winemaker Charles Whish, who arrived at Serafino in 2008. He had extensive international experience and, while working at Rosemount, had won the Jimmy Watson Trophy in 2002 for a McLaren Vale cabernet blend. Serafino today has more than 30 varietal table wines spanning shiraz, grenache, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, tempranillo, lagrein, primitivo, nebbiolo, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, fiano and moscato. Sparkling and fortifieds make up the offering, the majority across the portfolio with enticing prices under $30.
2019 Serafino McLaren Vale Shiraz
From the estate’s Malpas, Binney and Little Road blocks, matured for 12 months in French and American hogsheads. Blackberry, dark chocolate and licorice aromas and flavours fill a balanced, medium-bodied palate with enough tannins to satisfy, not deter. 14% alc, screwcap 92 points, drink to 2029, $28
2020 Serafino Reserve McLaren Vale Grenache
Largely from 60- to 100-year-old vines in Blewitt Springs and McLaren Flat. Destemmed, not crushed, open fermented for 10 days then five weeks in French (80%) and American oak. Essence of McLaren Vale grenache, scented red fruits and hints of musk, supple texture; long, lifted finish. 14.5% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2030, $40
2019 Serafino McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon
Bordeaux’s maritime climate for cabernet sauvignon is reciprocated by McLaren Vale, albeit in a warmer mode; a generous style that doesn’t lose the variety’s signature of blackcurrant. This is an inviting medium/full-bodied wine, dexterously handled. A bargain. 14.5% alc, screwcap 94 points, drink to 2034, $28