Forget cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and even pinot noir just for a moment. As fine as they are, there’s a whole world of grape varieties out there to explore, and many of the most widely available in Australia hail from Italy. Hardly surprising given our enduring love affair with Italian food and culture. Every region of Italy produces wine from local grapes and many of those varietals, especially from the hotter southern regions, are perfect for Australia. So next time you want a glass of red, reach for one of these delicious Australian Italian red wines.
Nebbiolo Henschke (Eden Valley, SA)
Known for its aroma of tar and roses, the grape behind two of Italy’s most famous wines (Barolo and Barbaresco) is native to Piedmont, pressed up against the Alps in Italy’s north. It’s right at home in the cooler Eden Valley, where Henschke’s ‘The Rose Grower’ is a great example.
Barbera di Lusso (Mudgee, NSW)
Also from Piedmont, where it’s the everyday wine of choice due to its light, food-friendly nature, Barbera is a hardy variety that’s spread throughout Italy. It grows well in Mudgee too, where the di Lusso family were one of the first to plant a wide range of Italian grapes.
Sangiovese Castagna (Beechworth, Vic)
Italy’s most widely planted red grape, versatile sangiovese originates in Tuscany where it produces both Chianti and the much more intense Brunello di Montalcino. One of the first Italians grown in Australia, a great example is Castagna’s La Chiave from north-eastern Victoria, Australia’s home of Italian wine.
Montepulciano La Prova (Langhorne Creek, SA)
The second most common red grape in Italy is especially popular in the south-east and best known for Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo (not to be confused with Tuscan Montepulciano made from sangiovese). In South Australia, Italophile Sam Scott makes an excellent version under his great-value La Prova label.
Nero d’Avola Coriole (McLaren Vale, SA)
Sicily’s most important grape, the ‘black from Avola’, is often compared to shiraz in flavour and regarded as the perfect grape for Australia’s hotter, drier regions such as McLaren Vale. The Lloyd family pioneered Italian varietals there in the mid-80s, more recently adding Nero d’Avola to their range.