John Briffa at his winery in Clifton.
John Briffa at his winery in Clifton. SONJA KOREMANS

Clifton wine a taste of what's to come

CLIFTON may not be a town wine aficionados consider a prime spot for top varietals, but a local farmer has been unable to keep up with demand for his hearty reds.

John Briffa started one of the only wineries between southern Toowoomba and Stanthorpe in 2001 and his shiraz, mulberry and fig wines quickly became a hit with local foodies who buy up his quirky range as quickly as he produces it.

"Clifton isn't the perfect grape-growing region but I have discovered what does grow well and honed in on that for winemaking," Mr Briffa said.

He named Valletta Wines after the capital of Malta where his father was born and said he drew from his heritage to make about 200 bottles of wine annually.

"The Maltese are known for being self-sufficient and surviving on the bare minimum of what produce they have and in some ways that is what I am doing here. You can make beautiful wine out of anything," Mr Briffa said.

The former television producer, who made a tree change with his wife Beverley in the 1990s, said red grapes, figs and mulberries thrived in Clifton's soil and climate, making them the foundation of his wines.

"The robust shiraz and cabernets grow extremely well in this area and it's wonderful for some fruits that make beautiful port-style wines." <EP>Mr Briffa said he had difficulty explaining to wine lovers why he was unable to make their favourite whites or sell in bulk.

"I wouldn't attempt to grow cool climate white grapes in Clifton as they just wouldn't thrive and I don't have the capacity to be producing a lot of wines, so we keep it simple."

The Briffas have a 43ha property with two hectares under vineyards and the rest used for cattle.

"The winery is not a full-time business in the sense that it our only source of income but it does feel like a full-time occupation maintaining it, as I put a lot of love into it," Mr Briffa said.

"Besides my love of food and wine, the vineyard has been an opportunity to diversify the farm's income."

Mr Briffa said he planned to keep the winery a contained venture.

"Being boutique and being very small and without a cellar door, we trade on word of mouth because we just don't have the stock to keep up with demand so the (Glengallan Homestead) markets have been the perfect outlet for us."

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