Bastardo comes to the Valley of the Black Swan
What is Bastardo and Trousseau and why is it in the Swan Valley?
Bastardo and Trousseau are two grape varieties that are grown in the Swan Valley wine region in Western Australia.
Bastardo, also known as Trousseau Noir, is a red grape variety that is originally from the Jura region of France. It is a relatively rare grape variety that is known for its spicy and floral aromas and its light to medium body. In the Swan Valley, Bastardo is used to produce red wines that are characterized by their bright acidity, red fruit flavours, and spicy notes.
Both Bastardo and Trousseau are relatively uncommon grape varieties in Australia and are grown in only a few vineyards in the country. The Swan Valley is one of the few regions in Australia where these grape varieties are grown, and they are prized by winemakers for their unique flavours and aromas.
I was investigating the origins of a wine grape varietal called Bastardo found in the Swan Valley. I discovered a cache of a grape referred to locally as Black Riesling. Having identified the variety as Bastardo, I decided to make some Rose’ with it. It sold out quite quickly. I gave the mystery little thought thereafter, being preoccupied with establishing my organic vineyard and winery.
The variety Bastardo is not only Spanish for bastard, it is also an Italian Town in the Perugia province. Bastardo is a baseball player (Antonio Bastardo) for the Philadelphia Phillies, an Ibiza artist, and a music single by Charlotte Hatherley.
Then, in 2012 a young French winemaker named Kevin Mazier came to stay with us. He came to complete an Australian winemaking internship.
Kevin wanted to include Bio or Organic winemaking in this experience. Kevin’s family are viticulturists and winemakers in the Jura, in the northeast of France. Kevin brought with him two bottles of wine. One of these bottles was a Cote du Jura, Domaine des Ronces, 2010 Trousseau, a lovely red wine similar to a light dry Shiraz!
The region of Jura, by the way, borders France and Switzerland. Jura gave its name to the Jurassic period of prehistory. Upon tasting, I was transported to the making of the red wine Bastardo vintage I had made. When tasted I had a very strong feeling I knew this varietal.
Fortunately, there were two bottles of the red 2005 “Petit Verdot” wine still left in my cellar. Upon tasting, young Kevin agreed that despite the age difference, it was doubtless that the French Trousseau and the Swan Valley Bastardo were indeed the same variety.
Further, this was confirmed upon research when I discovered that indeed, Trousseau Noir (Trousseau or Bastardo) is an old variety grown in small amounts in many parts of Western Europe. This includes the winemaking region of Jura.
In Australia a small amount of Bastardo is grown under the name Gros Cabernet; so the plot thickens. This variety is also famously used to make Portuguese port red wine. So, how did the French Bastardo come to be in Bill Vinicombe’s little vineyard in the antipodean valley of the Black Swans?
Where from here
Mr John Kosovich OBE a friend and neighbour and another Valley vigneron who was born and grew up in the Swan Valley commented. He said that in the early to mid 20th century there was a French Canadian man who owned a vineyard in the Swan Valley. Joseph Millars was his name and he apparently resided at Margaret Street, Midland Junction.
His vineyard was about 40 rows and possibly just 5 acres, containing nonetheless over 20 unknown grape varieties. I myself have 5 acres under vine and grow 8 varieties in my organic vineyard, so it is not especially unusual. Mr Joseph Millar’s story is not known. It may never be known from where this gentleman procured the cuttings for the Trousseau or Bastardo.
If this vine could speak, what stories it could tell!