I first tasted the Virago wines back in 2015, describing it as a ‘label to watch’.

After retasting the range now in 2018, I’m noting that down as a great call – these are some of the best Nebbiolo-based wines in the country.

It’s great just to find good local Neb at all, really. Such a capricious variety, that rarely looks good outside of Italy.

The reason why these wines work is the detail. The Virago Vineyard features five different clones, planted on a NW facing slope in Beechworth, the vines tended by hand at every part of the process by Karen Coats and Prue Keith. Rick Kinzbrunner (Giaconda) makes the wines, with extensive skin contact in tank, basket-pressing and maturation in large, 1,600 litre oak – all A1 Nebbiolo handling.

Virago Nebbiolo 2011

A tricky vintage delivering an autumnal wine. Red cherry nose, with an authentic Nebbiolo stamp, complete with bark, dried red fruit, a hint of dried beef volatility and plenty of cherries. It’s put on weight since I last tried it, the style still faintly leafy, bonoxy and secondary, but charming and not unbalanced. There proper Nebbiolo tannins too, even if there is just a slight astringent edge. Classy and expressive of variety, if just a little angular and minty. Best drinking: 2018-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $52. Would I buy it? A glass or two.

Virago Nebbiolo 2012

Much darker than the 2011, and it’s immediately a much more primary style – there’s distinct fresh red fruit here and without any of the awkward Mint in sight. Since I last tried this it’s fuller, richer, more seamless. Indeed it’s warm hearted and plump through the middle, flush red berries and fine tannins. I like how it’s demonstrably Nebbiolo if in a plumper form than many equivalent Langhe reds. You want the tannins to be just a little longer; and the slightly dry-edged juiciness to be countered, but this is right up at the pointy end of Aussie Nebbiolo. Superb balance through the finish ultimately makes this a satisfying drink. Promise writ large. Best drinking: 2018-2029. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $47. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.

Virago La Mistura Nebbiolo 2013

La Mistura translates as ‘the mixture’ and originally this second label wine was to be a blend. From a tricky year, and a lighter shade of fruit power – but not a bad one. Pinot-like Nebbiolo with glacé cherry and mint, it’s not quite in the same realm of tannin and extract compared to the more serious Virago Nebs but to mine it’s actually a rather together drink – and on a par with the ’11 for drinkability. Love the proper fruit tannin, even if it’s just a little light on. If this is a second label it just makes you excited about the future. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure would.




Australian Wine Companion has given our 2013 La Mistura Nebbiolo a 95 rating!



Reviews by Patrick Eckel  –

Posted on 13th February 2017

2011 Virago Nebbiolo

“Impressive packaging, and even more impressive contents. 2011 will go down in folklore as such an incredibly tough vintage, however whether it be variety, site, expert viticulture, winemaking or a little luck this is a great release that is showing all it’s complexities after 5 years in bottle. The wines come from a tiny vineyard that has a little over 2000 vines planted, with the wines then produced by none other than Rick Kinzbrunner. In terms of colour the wine has light to medium red colour with great clarity, the nose abounds with rose petals, crunchy undergrowth and is afforded delicate french oak overtones to finish. An elegant, textural and moreish wine that enjoys the interplay between juicy acidity, touches of baking spice from oak and drying, dark cherry and plum fruit that have a veneer of fine, drying tannins and a considerable, crunchy, dark berry fruited finish.”WINE RATING: 95

2012 Virago Nebbiolo

“A slightly more opulent and fuller wine when compared to the debut 2011 release, but it is in no way missing structure or complexity that the Nebbiolo grape is known for. The nose has undergrowth with dark cherry and decaying rose petal that will continue to evolve over time. The palate is all about structure at this point in it’s development with a web of drying tannins that’s interjected by tangy dark cherry that dries the mouth and prepares you for the next sip, the finish has a touch of kirsch liquor with blackberry and background oak adding dimension and contrast to the wines more savoury notes.” WINE RATING: 93


Reviews by Campbell Mattinson  –

Posted on 18th & 26th January 2017

VIRAGO NEBBIOLO 2011“This Beechworth nebbiolo was released a couple of years ago – it’s not the current release – but it’s interesting to see how it’s travelling. It was of course a challengingly cool/wet year. Pretty aromatics but the palate is reckoned with flavour and, moreso, tannin. The varietal stamp here is distinct. Leather, undergrowth, fresh cherries, twigs and earth. Complex and forceful at once. It sits in broody judgement as it rests in the glass – or so it seems. Impressive. Needless to say: it’s travelling well” Rated : 92 Points

VIRAGO LA MISTURA NEBBIOLO 2013“In the words of this Beechworth winery: “La Mistura is Virago’s second label, reserved for those vintages that provide a challenge in the vineyard, as 2013 definitely offered up. We chose the name La Mistura (the mixture), as a result of our original plan to blend this vintage with Shiraz (as in 2010) or Cabernet Sauvignon to give it more fruit intensity and structure, However, after 2.5 years of ageing, La Mistura proved that she could stand on her own!” There’s a tough, sinewy aspect to this wine, not out-of-place in the context of either nebbiolo or the craggy old lands of the Beechworth region. This boot of nebbiolo was made for walking. It tastes of leather and campfire, dark cherry and crushed, decaying roses. You could say that it’s light, because the mid-palate is not heavy, but you could also say that it’s not to be messed with, because the finish feels sturdy and dependable. There’s also a glimpse of orange-rind to the aftertaste; nice work if you can get it. As a four-year-old this nebbiolo shows signs of development, and is excellent drinking now. It may even be on its best-drinking plateau. But you also wouldn’t imagine that it’s going anywhere in a great hurry from here. It’s priced to sell/drink. Rated : 91 Points



VIC100 Festival of Wine:

We are thrilled to announce that our 2012 Virago Nebbiolo has been selected as one of Victoria’s top 100 wines for 2016.


Australian Wine Companion has given our 2011 Virago Nebbiolo a 94 rating!




Published in AUSTRALIAN MEDICINE –  16 May 2016

By Dr Michael Ryan

Why Nebbiolo? I asked this question of Karen Coats and Dr Prue Keith, owners of Virago Estate in Beechworth, Victoria. They both replied that the serendipitous exposure to this red grape variety left an alluring wine experience, something akin to the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey.

Why Nebbiolo? It’s such a finicky, lesser-known red grape that is tricky to grow, with early bud burst and late ripening often requiring soils dominated by calcareous marls. It requires meticulous hands-on effort. Perhaps Karen, an ex-tax accountant, Dr Prue, a practicing orthopedic surgeon and winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner (owner of Giaconda), a retired Engineer, had between them enough OCD to tackle these vagaries.

 Why Nebbiolo? It seems fitting that an ancient grape variety is finding its place in the ancient soils of Beechworth. This pocket of paradise must surely be tied in a kindred spirit to Burgundy and Piedmont. Beechworth exudes its own array of amazing local produce and wine producers, including some of the country’s best vignerons, such as Savaterre, Castagna and Giaconda. Just like Piedmont, the fog forms in the valleys of Beechworth after picking season. Karen and Dr Prue are the type of wine growers who keep passionate authors writing about wine. There is the enthusiasm and pride of newly expectant parents. There is the sense of focus and determination. There is the sense of artistry in producing Nebbiolo. I firmly believe that Nebbiolo is the next journey of discovery in wine in Australia.

 2011 Virago Nebbiolo Beechworth – Light garnet, with tinges of brown in colour. The initial bouquet includes rose petals, sun dried fruits and herbs. A complex vanillin aroma hides in the background. An hour after opening, the bouquet developed into dusty glazed cherries, rose petals and some earthy funk characteristics. An amazing transformation. The palate dances and flitters on the taste buds. It surfs easily over the palate, with supporting tannins and acidity. Will cellar for a decade.

 2012 Virago Nebbiolo Beechworth – Brighter garnet in color, exuding youth. Brighter red fruits, with essence of smoky notes. As the wine opened up, candied fruits with herbal notes, more delicate than a Grenache, were released. This is quite a youthful, camouflaged beast of a wine. The wine stands up boldly in the anterior palate then pauses slightly, enough to give space for the structured tannins to shine. Cellar 15 years or more.


26 Jan 2016
Beechworth and other exciting Australians (excerpts below) LINKS PROVIDE FULL ACCESS TO ARTICLES FOR JANCIS ROBINSON PURPLE PAGE MEMBERS

I feel extremely lucky to have been sent recently two particularly exciting collections of fine Australian wines from small-scale producers…….It was Karen Coats who was responsible for a collection that was really mind-blowing, wines from some of the newer, smaller producers in and around the atmospheric little old mining town of Beechworth in the state of Victoria, home of so many of Australia’s quirkiest producers……

Karen Coats is one of the partners of the tiny Virago vineyard and is treasurer of the 30-strong Beechworth Vignerons Association. Hardly any of them owns more than 10 ha of vines and some of them much less; this is small scale stuff indeed. I had the most memorable visit to Beechworth in 2002, ….. The most famous producer there is Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda, profiled in A most unusual Aussie after his visit to London last year. But he and the likes of Barry Morey and Julian Castagna have clearly been joined by a bevy of smaller, newer outfits….

I was particularly impressed by the Beechworth Chardonnays. They provided yet more evidence of current Australian Chardonnay proficiency as outlined in The new Pulignys of Australia. As for the reds, they were made from a wider range of grape varieties, with cool-climate Shiraz featuring, not surprisingly. What was more surprising was how impressive the Nebbiolos are.