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An Insider’s Guide to Durif Wine

Durif is a grape variety that dates back to the 1800s. It’s a spicy, full-flavoured, full-bodied red wine with intense colour and robust, mouth-drying tannins. It’s a varietal that is often synonymous with our North Eastern region in Victoria, with neighbouring Rutherglen putting the varietal on the map here in Australia.

Here, we take a closer look at the Durif red-wine grape and the rich wines it produces.

durif billy button wine

Where Does Durif Come From?

The Durif grape has its origins in the Tullins, France, nursery of French botanist Dr François Durif. In the late 1800s, his nursery was home to several grape varieties, including Peloursin and Syrah. Both varieties produce wines that display immense depth and intensity. At some stage, these two grapevines cross-pollinated, with Dr Durif discovering the new variety. Today, however, Durif has all but disappeared from its French homeland.

These days, California and our very own Australia are the leading producers of this grape variety. In California, it flourishes and often goes by the names Petite Sirah or Petite Syrah.

Durif in Australia

In 1908, Durif was first planted in Australia in the Rutherglen region of Victoria. Grapegrowers and winemakers have passed along their knowledge of this grape and wine variety across the generations, and as a result, Rutherglen still produces high-quality examples of Durif.

The warmer, drier climates of inland Victoria and New South Wales, especially the Riverina wine region of NSW, make particularly good homes for the Durif grape. In fact, the Riverina is the largest producer of Durif in Australia.

What Does Durif Taste Like?

Durif is a spicy, intensely flavoured, full-bodied wine with intense colour and robust, mouth-drying tannins. Typically, it has great cellaring potential and can age well. Thanks in part to high levels of anthocyanins, the colour of Durif is opaque and inky – a deep crimson with a vibrant purple hue.

Durif’s bouquet has herbal and black pepper overtones. On the palate, you’ll find blueberries, blackberries, dark chocolate, plums, black pepper, espresso, menthol, mocha and black tea. Vintners may use some oak influence, too – often American.

Rutherglen Durif Producers

Just a hop, skip and jump from our Alpine Valleys wine region, Rutherglen is renowned for classic, big, full-bodied and age-worthy Durifs. Expect wines packed with mixed-fruit spice, stewed cherries, raisins, leather, violets, dark chocolate, and licorice from this signature regional style.

barrels of red wine

Image Credit: Explore Rutherglen 2020

What’s more, the grape variety is not only a rich part of the region’s history, but also a key component in Rutherglen’s famed vintage and tawny-style fortified wines. Most wineries have a least one Durif on offer.

Among the Rutherglen wineries producing high-quality Durif are:

  • Warrabilla Wines, where winemaker Andrew Sutherland Smith is best known for his robust, full-flavoured reds – particularly Durif
  • Scion, where self-taught winemaker Rowly Milhinch offers a modern take on Rutherglen’s traditional grape varietal; he has several Durifs in his range, including a Durif Viognier inspired by Northern Rhone cofermentation and a Durif fermented with 85% stems.

Durif at Billy Button

We source the fruit for our Billy Button ‘The Dapper’ Durif from the cool lower slopes of Mount Buffalo; it’s one of the coolest plantings of the variety in Australia. Growing the variety in such a cool, high-rainfall region produces a fragrant and vibrant expression of Durif. Still retaining its hallmark dense colour and firm tannin structure, Billy Button’s take on Durif is bright, elegant, and perfumed. In addition to ‘The Dapper’, our Spring Spur Durif is a delicious cool-climate example of this wine.

At Billy Button, a lot of time and thought goes into naming our wines. Think: ‘The Chameleon’ Pinot Gris or ‘The Torment’ Riesling. Perhaps we should take a page from Dr Durif, who kept things simple and named a grape after himself!

If you’re looking to match food with your glass of Durif, you want rich, full-flavoured foods that will stand up to this rich, full-flavoured wine. Kangaroo is a great local option, and Durif also pairs perfectly with truffle dishes. Durif … delish!