Lesser Known Varieties: A Chat with Koen Janssens

There are some grape varieties that most people have heard of, even if they don't really drink wine: Chardonnay and Shiraz for example. Maybe Riesling and Merlot. Now look these grapes are fantastic, and this is nothing against them, except to say that there's no denying they're some of the most famous grape varieties in the world. Some wine made from them is just insanely good, and other wine made from them can be really horrible. Like a great actor in a terrible film. 

Then there are those grapes that are perhaps... struggling to get their name out there. They might be fantastic (and many grape varieties can make superb wine, with the right attention), but they just haven't hit the big time. There are over 10,000 different grape varieties known today, and so we thought we'd delve a little into just a few of these and explore this world of lesser known grapes. 

I got in touch with Koen Janssens who is one half of Yetti and the Kokonut (with Dave Geyer), and the man behind his own label, Bink Wines. Between these two projects, Koen works with a really wide range of varieties, so I wanted to ask him a little about some of these. 


So I know you're not a stranger to some lesser known varieties. What are some that you love working with? 

Lagrein:  Quite a dense variety, and very rich in flavour, it has earthy dusty character. We get our fruit from Bassham vineyards in the riverland (which are certified organic). It's a very expressive variety. The Hipster Juice is mostly Lagrein, but we blended a little Savagnin to add some freshness . 

Red Semillon: We get this from Kuitpo for our Project Wine. It's spiced and has an amaro character, kind of like Pinot Gris. We did extended skin contact on this one. 

Savagnin: We get our Savagnin from the Gemtree Vineyards in Mclaren Vale. We make sparkling and 2 whites. It's brilliant to work with, it always retains its freshness and lemon characteristics. We're lucky to have Savagnin in SA, because they actually sent the wrong clone, it was a massive fuckup, because they meant to bring in Albarino. It was brought over from Spain, from the Galicia region, and I think they took the wrong cuttings. I don't know if everyone was happy about it. Probably some people were mad, but it's turned out well for us because we love Savagnin. 

Alicante Bouschet: we make a dry red out of that, it's just a brilliant table wine... it actually has colour inside the grape, in the flesh of the grape. There's only about 10 varieties in the world that have coloured flesh inside and this is one of them. 

Sercial: SA used to be a big producer of fortified wine, and there's still some plantings of this variety left over from that.. but not many. We make a dry white out of it, which has a mango and pineapple character to it,  it's quite smooth and subtle. We've made this in 2022 and other years just not 2021.

Doradillo: again a remnant from the fortified industry. It fruits heavily but retains acidity. We leave ours on skins for 150ish days. Every year it just changes and its such a cool variety to work with, but if you only do a straight press it's quite blunt which is why we do extended skin contact.

Red Muscat So there's probably about 20 different Muscats in Australia, and we work with one from the Barossa Valley that's from vines that are about 100 years old. 


What have you been drinking recently? 

As a winemaker I always drink wine, I've been enjoying everything to be honest. I've enjoyed Bruno Duchene's wines out of Rousillon, Borachio's new releases,  beer from Wildflower Brewing and Spinifex wines recently. 

What music have you been listening to recently?
I love hip hop and few I've been listening to are a guy called Rasco, and also People Without Shoes.

Thanks Koen! 

Speaking of Yetti and The Kokonut, let's take a closer look at one of their new releases and another lesser known variety wine: 

The Yetti and the Kokonut Hipster Juice is mostly made from Lagrein from the Bassham Wines certified organic vineyards in South Australia's Riverland region (along with a little Savagnin and Pinot Blanc to add a bit of freshness). It's Juicy with bright berry flavours and the Lagrein brings a lovely earthyness to the palate of this easy drinking vino. 

The Koerner 'Mammolo' Sciacarello is described by Koerner as ''Light and bright red – aromatic, spicy and super acidic". Sciacarello is definitely a lesser known variety! It's mostly grown in Corsica, so it's exciting to have some coming out of the Clare Valley. 

We've put together a little pack of bottles of lesser known varieties for this week: 


The Almost Famous Pack includes the Yetti and the Kokonut Hipster Juice, the Koerner 'Mammolo' Sciacarello and the Traversa Lange Arneis. Arneis is white grape variety originating in the Piedmont region in north-western Italy. The Traversa family have been producing wines in the region since 1834, and this is a beautiful example of Italian Arneis with notes of pear, peach and apple. Delicious stuff, and a great value pack! (save $11 on the individual prices).

Well that's it for this edition, Juiceheads! Next time we'll be interviewing another wine star on another fascinating topic! x 

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