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An improved cultural link between food and wine encouraged by a saturation of cooking shows on television as well as lifestyle changes has greatly benefited the wine industry and the uptake of Italian grape varieties.This has been enhanced further by the versatility of these varieties and their obvious link with Italian food.
Marketing initiatives such as ‘Prosecco Road’ have been established by vignerons including Dal Zotto, Brown Brothers and Pizzini to highlight the importance and strength this wine has for the image of the King Valley region.
Sangiovese is one of the more dominant Italian red grape varieties, with 5,030 tonnes picked in 2010 Australia-wide.
Prominent Australian wine figure, James Halliday, supports their dominance, commenting that this reflects, “. Was it classified as a vinous backwater at that stage?
Were the lack of estates deemed inferior to the grand château of Bordeaux and Burgundy?
Approachable and affordable styles such as Foster e Rocco’s Nuovo and Greenstone’s Rosso di Colbo are exposing more people to the suitability of this grape variety on Australian soil with its cherry, mineral and food-friendly aspects.
These sit comfortably alongside the more serious, age-worthy examples such as Vinea Marson in Heathcote and Coriole’s Vita in Mc Laren Vale.The Australian wine industry is undeniably young in comparison to its European counterpart.Australia had the enviable opportunity to experiment and explore the potential of its best vine-growing areas when presented with a blank canvas and lack of red tape.The importance of food-friendly wines cannot be underestimated.Italian food maintains its strong presence and relationship with Australian consumers and it is only a matter of time before their wine styles build the same level of recognition and credibility.The style and variety of wine today’s consumers are drinking is changing.It is no wonder Australia has seen an increase in imports from countries such as Italy, when our more sophisticated market is crying for food-friendlier wines.What would our wine industry have evolved into had James Busby, or another great pioneer, François de Castella, included Italian grape varieties at the turning point in Australia’s grape vine development?The 2011 Australian Alternative Varietal Wine Show (AAVWS) demonstrated the success of Italian grapes on Australian soil with positive results seen in vermentino, nero d’avola, montepulciano clones and negroamaro.The French classics of shiraz, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot make up the big four in Australian winemaking.It is an obvious trend given that French, and to a smaller extent, Spanish varieties, made up the bulk of the 433 vines that Australia’s grape pioneer, James Busby, brought over with him from a number of different European nurseries in 1832.