FAMILY TIES: “I guess it’s kind of hard to escape your Italian heritage when your name is De Iuliis,” the winemaker says. Picture: Daniel HonanMichael De Iuliis is looking forwardto the day when people cometo his cellar door and ask to taste the De Iuliis Montepulciano.

De Iuliis is a Hunter Valley winemaker.

Born and raised in Newcastle, he never gave much thought to his Italian heritage, apart from the timeswhen his grandfather would buy all the tomatoes at Newcastle Markets in Sandgate and make passata in his Merewether garage.

“It’s not that I didn’t identify as Italian, it’s just I’ve only ever thought of myself as being an Australian,” De Iuliis says.

“I didn’t go to Italy until I was 22. As you get older though, and especially when you have kids, you do place a bit more emphasis on the importance of family and that Italian heritage we have.”

(Before this story goes any further, it’s pronounced “dee-ool-ee-us”. Some say it’s one of the hardest names to pronounce in Australian wine, but worth asking for, by name, nonetheless…)

“I guess it’s kind of hard to escape your Italian heritage when your name is De Iuliis,” he laughs.

“Especially when it’s front and centre on every bottle of wine we make, and plastered all over our cellar door.”

In the past few years, De Iuliis has been slowly embracing his Italian heritage by applying it to a few wines he makes under the family name; Sangiovese (san-gio-vay-say), a red wine grape variety hailing from Tuscany in Central Italy, which adds a savoury, sour cherry character to his rosé; Fiano (‘fee-ahn-o’), a robust white grape variety from Campania in Southern Italy that’s only recently been planted to Hunter vineyards – 2017 is the first time De Iuliis has experimented with this variety; Nebbiolo (neb-e-ol-oh), synonymous with the enigmatic wines of Barolo from Piedemont; and, Montepulciano (monte-pul-chi-ano), a red grape variety native to Abruzzo, where, Mike’s father, Joss De Iuliis grew up, and is the reason why it was planted at the De Iuliis home block at Lovedale.

“Dad is from Abruzzo,”De Iuliis says.

“His famliy had a small vineyard when he was young, and so it made sense to plant some Montepulciano at Lovedale.

This year is the first time Hunter wine lovers will be able to ask to taste De Iulliis’ Montepulciano. Indeed, it’s the first time the crop has grown so well in the seven years since it was plantedin 2010.

“The first time we made ‘Monte’, I gave a demijohn to Pat (Haddock) at Reserve and he sold it by the glass,”De Iuliis says.

“We only made a small amount in 2015, but it was entered in the experimental class of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, and received high silver. This year we’ve made around 40 cases, which we plan on releasing around the end of the year,”

As one of the Hunter’s ‘next gen’wine growers slowly transforms into one of its older guards, expect to see Michael De Iuliis’ strong Italian roots grow ever deeper into the Hunter Valley dirt.