Wine | Calabria Family Wines champion Italian grape varieties | John Lewis

 INNOVATIVE: Emma Norbiato and Bill Calabria are championing alternate-variety wines.
INNOVATIVE: Emma Norbiato and Bill Calabria are championing alternate-variety wines.

Montepluciano, nero d’avola and aglianico are celebrated red grape varieties in Italy, but still unfamiliar to most Australian wine drinkers – something Emma Norbiato and Bill Calabria have set out to remedy.

Emma, the award-winning winemaker for Griffith-based Calabria Family Wines, and Bill, the company’s managing director, have spearheaded the release of $15-a-bottle 2016-vintage montepluciano and nero d’avola and 2015 aglianico wines that are eminently accessible to the average punter.

The wines can be bought on, at the 1283 Brayne Rd, Griffith, cellar door and in bottle shops. 

Montepluciano is one of central Italy’s “workhorse” wine grapes and nero d’avola is the most widely planted variety on the Italian island of Sicily. Aglianico is the most widespread red variety in southern Italy and the Calabria family has been a pioneer of the grape in Australia, producing the inaugural vintage wine in 2008.

The Calabria venture began in 1945 when Italian immigrants Francesco and Elizabeth Calabria set up a small winery at Griffith. It operated under the Westend Estate title up to 2014 and, under the Calabria Family Wines name, has become a major multi-regional producer.

Bill Calabria, the youngest of Francesco’s and Elizabeth’s nine children, runs the company along with third-generation family members. In the 2013 Queen’s Birthday awards Bill was made a member (AM) of the Order of Australia for his wine industry services and for his work in establishing the Westend Foundation to aid Riverina families with members stricken by cancer.

Emma Norbiato was last year crowned Winemaker of the Year in the Australian Women in Wine Awards, created in 2015 by The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society to spotlight positive female role models and bring about increased gender diversity in the Australian wine industry.  Emma has been a great advocate of alternate grape varieties and her 2009 recruitment by Calabria is a great example of gender equality.

Born and bred in the Riverina on a sheep and rice farm, she launched a wine career in 2001 with a Charles Sturt University wine science degree. Then came a job at Lindemans, a vintage in Tuscany making Brunello at Castelgiocondo, four years in the red winemaking team at Penfolds and, at the age of 26, a senior winemaking role with Casella, notably producing Yellow Tail. 

 In 2009 Emma and her husband had their first child, Archie, and she joined Calabria under a part-time arrangement that has allowed her to have two more children, Florence and Edward. 

As well as being a winemaker, a wife and mother, Emma enjoys cooking, mountain bike riding and waterskiing.