And when it comes to Italian grape varieties you can never have just the hundred. With shifting geographic, soil and climactic profiles from North to South and East to West, in a country only about 4% of the size of Australia, Italy has plenty of diversity, and around 350 grape varieties permitted for bottling and labelling.
Nebbiolo, nero d’avola, and nero mascalese. Vermentino and verdicchio. Sangiovese, barbera and dolcetto. Corvina, molinara and rondinella. Garganega, carricante and…well, you get the idea.
Lucky that Australian winemakers share my passion. Everyone is having a good old gander at Italian varietals to see what they can come up with. It’s great, but this admirable pursuit comes with a catch: it doesn’t always take.
I remember recently getting a hold of a couple of different bottles of local sangiovese. Boy, was I excited - the proverbial kid in a bottle shop. But ultimately my giddy excitement turned to disappointment.
The wines were fine, and I’d happily drink them. But for me they tasted like little more than dry reds.
I often liken it to menu descriptions. If I order a dish called ‘Scallop risotto with leek and saffron’, then the expectation is that I will taste leek, saffron and scallop. Likewise, if I order a glass of sangiovese, I should be able be able to identify those flavours and structural elements (blueberry, tar, firm tannin) that characterize the grape