Australian boutique winery the Lost Valley is launching the country's first Cortese wine.

The specialist white has been grown in brutal conditions in the Central Victorian High Country and was one of the talking points of Wine Australia 2000.

Only 35 acres of premium Cortese grape are planted worldwide and now Australia has its first acre - with more to come next year.

"We created 1000 vines from three that we cloned from an estate in the Gavidigavi region in Italy," said Robert Ippaso, co-owner of the Lost Valley.

"Cortese is a grape that has been largely forgotten. It is very ancient and very difficult to grow well. It is difficult to get from an average wine to an excellent wine - you need really harsh conditions and we have that with freezing winters and very hot summers. It makes the vines really work."

Only 450 cases of six bottles have been made but the Lost Valley has already seen interest from half a dozen English wine merchants including Oddbins.

The winery has also had connoisseurs hand over credit cards at the company's stand at Wine Australia because supply is so small.

"We got into this in 1995 because we had a passion for wine and we specifically wanted to make excellent but different wines using the unique micro-climate we have," said Ippaso.

"These are the first bottles of Cortese to be produced in Australia and it seems to be going down well." Lost Valley also had a Verdelho on offer.