Durif of Rutherglen
Durif is a rare red grape variety brought to Rutherglen from the south of France in 1908 by the eminent viticulturist Francois de Castella. The Rutherglen region had been brought to its knees by phylloxera, a vine aphid that decimated the region's vineyards around the turn of the century. De Castella was charged with finding suitable varieties for growers to re-plant with, and by a stroke of luck his collection contained a few precious cuttings of a little known variety named Durif.
Introducing the variety to Rutherglen at the time was a master stroke - the soils, the climate and the skills of the winemakers were a winning combination that ensured the variety flourished in its new home. Indeed such is the affinity between the variety and its adopted homeland that it is now commonly referred to as Rutherglen Durif.
Durif is primarily used to make spicy, full flavoured age-worthy dry red wines, and also finds its way into many blends, working particularly well with Shiraz. You will also find it utlised in sparkling red wines, and as a key component of the regions famed Vintage and Tawny style fortified wines.
So why do Durif and Rutherglen go hand in hand? First and foremost it is a question of climate. Durif is a late ripening variety, needing longer than many varieties to achieve full ripeness. Rutherglen is blessed with a long, mild and stable Autumn conditions (often referred to as an Indian Summer), allowing Durif the extra 'hang time' on the vine to develop the dark red and black fruit characters for which the variety is legend. The generally dry vintage conditions are also favourable for this thin skinned and occasionally temperamental variety - as the region's winemakers are often heard to say, 'Durif doesn't like getting its feet wet'.
The region also has history on its side when it come to Durif. It is not a variety that gives up its secrets easily, and requires constant care and attention in the vineyard and winery. With more than 100 years of accumulated knowledge being passed down through the generations, today's winemakers have a great understanding of the variety.
Today the majority of wineries in Rutherglen grow and make Durif, with many offering a number of examples available for tasting. If you are not familiar with the flavours of Durif we invite you to the tour the region's Cellar Doors and sample and purchase a few...no cellar is complete without at least a couple of examples of Rutherglen Durif.