Italy in Australia: setting down roots

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Did the Aussies get it wrong? Perhaps Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay aren’t the right grapes for Down Under. Surely this is an irreverent, preposterous suggestion. These grapes have enjoyed raging success.

Yet it is impossible to ignore the increasing number of labels touting grapes such as Montepulciano, Arneis or Sagrantino. While they aren’t threatening the hegemony of French varieties, Italian grapes are unequivocally on the rise in Australia.

Rather than approaching this new frontier with an overly confident swagger, producers are adopting Italy’s native grapes with guileless enchantment. Acclaimed Riesling producer Stephanie Toole at Mount Horrocks in South Australia’s Clare Valley went to the dark side after tasting Nero d’Avola in a wine bar in Rome. ‘I’d never tried it, nor even heard of it before,’ she admits. She is now crafting one of Australia’s finest examples.

Beyond the grape varieties themselves, the style of wine they produce has appealed to winemakers’ sensibilities. ‘I want savoury, medium-bodied, textural wines that have some tannin and grip,’ says Sam Scott. His La Prova label drinks like a love letter to Italy. Stephen Pannell, who makes wine in the maritime region of McLaren Vale in South Australia, sees them as a better fit with the local lifestyle and food. ‘I’m aware of living next to the ocean, yet we are renowned for making big red wines. Those two things don’t sit well with each other,’ he argues. Indeed, the region’s delicate King George whiting and Kangaroo Island squid beg for restrained, refreshing whites. Enter Fiano and Vermentino.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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