Italy has a whopping 825,000 hectares under vine, and produces a touch under 18 percent of the world’s wine, around 4,500 megalitres, each year (Australia produces 4.5 percent, about 1,200 megalitres). Comparisons are odious they say, but considering Italy is just a little larger than the State of Victoria this speaks of a huge industry, and hints at wine’s cultural and economic importance in that country.
A meal without wine must be la prima colazione, so, generously, Italy’s population of 60 million or so doesn’t drink all of the wine it produces, and a fair amount of it is imported into Australia.
Of all wine imported into Australia, Italy accounts for about 10 percent, or around 6.7 million litres; a hatful in the scheme of things. New Zealand sends us more than 45 million litres just to put this into perspective. We must drink an awful lot of Sauvignon Blanc, so for a bit of variety I tried the following Italian wines currently available in Australia:
Bortoluzzi Pinot Grigio 2010
Immediate, almost heady impression of Spring flowers; jonquils, a touch of honey; underlying mineral notes and crisp, balancing acid. Just a delight to drink. Please show this to local producers of ‘Pinot Grigio’. From Italy’s north eastern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. $A27 www.bortoluzziwines.com
Castellari Bergaglio Gavi di Tasarolo ‘Fornaci’ 2010
Stone fruits, hints of spice and honey. Bit of weight on the palate, but delicate and long, a dry but generous wine. Made from Cortese, grown in the Gavi DOCG in southern Piedmont. $A33 www.castellaribergaglio.it
Santadi Vermentino ‘Villa Solais’ 2010
Mineral notes, some cashew, with hints of apricot. Flavoursome and fresh; easy to like. A DOC, this Vermentino is grown and made on the island of Sardinia, where the variety has been grown widely for centuries. $A19 www.cantinadisantadi.it
Chiara Boschis E Pira Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2009
Something very special going on here, with fresh lifted acids carrying red currant fruit over subtle hints of earth and leather. Super long. A DOCG from Piedmont, made from Barbera, a variety known for its high natural acidity, this is very, very good. $A49 www.pira-chiaraboschis.com
Candialle Chianti Classico ‘La Misse di Candialle’ 2010
Bright, fresh and crisp. Red cherry fruits and firm savoury tannins to close. Good drinking now, but better with another few months in bottle. A DOCG from Tuscany (of course) and mostly Sangiovese. $A34 www.candialle.com
Castello Collemassari Montecucco ‘Rigoleto’ 2009
Classic red and black cherries, firm tannins, earthy notes. Medium to full bodied, quite rich and smooth, with balancing savoury, spicy tannins. A relatively new DOC in the middle of Tuscany which requires a minimum of 60% Sangiovese; this wine comprises 70% of that variety with the balance Ciliegiolo and Montepulciano. $A30 www.collemassari.it
Poggio Argentiera Morellino di Scansano ‘Bellamarsilia’ 2011
Only Italy could produce a wine so easy to drink, and so hard to pronounce. Fresh dark cherries and plums, with savoury, slightly firm finish, plump and just so ready to drink now. Mostly Sangiovese (locally known as “Morellino”), with some Ciliegiolo and Alicante; from the Maremma area of coastal Tuscany. $A30 www.poggioargentiera.com
Morgante Nero d’Avola 2009
Earthy, fleshy; lovely texture, with dark fruits and a hint of aniseed. From Sicily. The perfect accompaniment for roast bird. Drink now. Made solely from Nero d’Avola, a black grape named for the village of Avola on the island of Sicily, renowned for its dark colour, and full, rich flavours. $A27 www.morgantevini.it
Santadi Carignano del Sulcis ‘Grotta Rossa’ 2009
Sweet fruits, hints of dried herbs; a DOC from the island of Sardinia, and a delight to drink. Carignan, a minor player in the Southern Rhone has produced here a thoroughly enjoyable wine for everyday drinking pleasure. $A22 www.cantinadisantadi.it
These wines are imported by Trembath and Taylor (www.trembathandtaylor.com.au) and are well distributed around Australia. They demonstrate the sheer variety and quality of wines offered by Italy, and this review barely scratches the surface of what’s available.