Australia is known the world over for its wine, with over 150 grape varietals grown commercially around the country, but it’s very rare that you’ll find Refosco.

However, Mitch Duncan, owner of Daylesford institution ‘The Farmers Arms’ did just that in 2016, when he saw some vines, not far from the pub, owned by local Farmer Eddy Comelli.  With some care and a lot of pruning, it took Mitch less than a year to produce his first vintage of intense ruby red ‘The Moonchaser’ Refosco in 2017.

Refosco, meaning ‘of the red stem’ is grown and consumed principally in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in northeast Italy and the nearby Venezia and Treviso provinces of the Veneto region and has been celebrated since the Classical era.  Notably, the infamous Casanova wrote in his memoirs that the Refosco ‘made me forget all my troubles…’ of which he was known to have a few…

The Refosco vine cutting was brought to Australia by the Comelli family, who came in search of a better life in the late 1960s.  Eddy’s father, who was nicknamed Losk, meaning ‘man who looks at the moon’, settled his family in Preston before buying land in Daylesford in 1969.  

The Refosco cutting came from a 400-year-old vine in the town of Nimis in northern Italy, where the Comellis still have a working winery that is well known for its Refosco and Ramandolo.  

The rooting of the vine was “just one of Dad’s hobbies, mucking around on the pig farm,” says Eddy.  Over the years, grapes were picked, and wines were made, but since 2005, when Eddy’s Father passed, the vines lay dormant.

Mitch Duncan, The Farmers Arms, Eddy Comelli and Tristan Comelli
Mitch Duncan, The Farmers Arms, Eddy Comelli and Tristan Comelli

‘The Moonchaser’ name refers to trips made by Eddy’s Grandfather, under cover of darkness, over the border to nearby Communist Slovenia, where tobacco, alcohol and sugar were far cheaper. Moonchaser can be found exclusively at The Farmers Arms, the famous Daylesford hostelry owned by Mitch and known for its local characters, seasonal menu and now, boutique accommodation.  

Mitch says that “having such a rare wine being produced in Daylesford sums up how unique and interesting the area is.  There really is something for everyone in the region and something new to discover around every corner.”  

His most recent project is an art gallery in a renovated, 100-year-old house that has been designed to showcase artists from the area and further afield, while offering up and coming artists and designers the opportunity to sell their work.  Guests are invited to drink, dine, be treated to a wide range of artworks and sleep in luxurious comfort; all conveniently in the one spot.

So next time you’re exploring the Daylesford area, make sure to try a glass of the rare Refosco under the bright, country moonlight.

@farmersarmsdaylesford

Main photo by Samuel Zeller