Why I Chose Italian Varietals
Starting off as young winemaker in Australia, the vine you naturally gravitate towards is the noble Shiraz varietal as most wineries have this as part of their bog-standard arsenal. As my vintage CV started to rack up I naturally was exposed to the classics such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and so on… In time, all these varietals became very familiar and too quickly so. I remember thinking to myself, this can’t be the end of the road for Australian grape growing and winemaking, could it? With the Australian winemaking legislation being considerably more liberal in comparison to its European counterparts, there must more experimental varietals out there.
With a thirst to taste more widely between vintages, I used to take up weekend work at Melbourne’s City Wine Shop and the Prince Wine Store, both of which had amazing wine collections which became my gateway out of the new world and into the old. It was at both these fine businesses I became inspired, educated and excited about my craft and also began a love affair with vino di Italia.
Photo credit: princewinestore.com.au
My first sips of Italian wine were led by varietals like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio, and Prosecco. As I got more adventurous, I started to try Vermentino, Pecorino (yes, this is also a cheese name), Soave, and Amarone. The reason I am so fond of Italian wines is because of its consistent combination of a savoury-earthy flavour that’s generously lifted by a mouth-watering twang of acidity and minerality. This was just so different from what I was used to as we were always taught about the ripeness of the fruit flavour before considering the subtle extraction of the real complexities of the varietal.
In 2007, I set off in search of vineyards planted with Italian varietals in places like the King Valley and South Australia where Italian migrants had settled post World War II and brought with them their farming practices and native produce, which of course included grapes. My first discovery was in the King Valley and it was Sangiovese, which in 2008 I made into the first vintage under my label. Since then, and with the growing popularity of many of the other Italian varietals, I now produce a Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, and Rosato from Barbera and Nebbiolo.
The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” is quite apt here as I have harped on about Italian wines so much over the last decade that I have had to literally “put my grapes in my mouth” and make the wines.
Enjoying the fruits of my labour at Mas de Daumas Gassac, France!