Italian Varietals – 2024 YGOW Awards Feature

Wines Of Now
23 May 2024. Words by YGOW.

Italian immigration has profoundly influenced Australia, especially in our culinary and beverage culture. The introduction of Italian food and wine traditions transformed Australian society, bringing in the concept of la dolce vita. However, Italian grape varieties were slow to make their mark. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that these varieties began to arrive in numbers, and only in the past two decade or two that they have been especially embraced. Today, Italian grape varieties are well-integrated into the Australian wine scene. Grapes such as sangiovese, nebbiolo, dolcetto, nero d’avola and vermentino – and the list goes on – are increasingly thriving on our shores, mostly in warmer climates, meeting modern drinking preferences where a sense of ‘freshness’ in wine is key.

Winemakers in the 2024 YGOW Awards Top 50 underscore this emergence, through wines from Alpha Box and Dice, Wangolina, Kenny Wine, Chalari, Intrepidus, Aristotelis Ke Anthoula, M&J Becker, Fervor, Alessandro Stefani, and Patch Wines. These producers are at the forefront of experimenting and refining wines from these ‘alternative’ varieties, showcasing the perfect marriage of Italian grapes and Australian terroir.

2023 Patch Wines Nebbiolo Bianco, Yarra Valley $30 RRP

Nebbiolo Bianco is a synonym for Arneis. This shows pear skin and flesh, gentle rosehip, ripe apple and a savoury kick beneath. The aromas are restrained and delicate. The palate is packed with fruit – green apple, pear, taut meyer lemon and subtle melon sit within a nice slippery texture. A good hit of phenolics pairs with pithy acidity to carry the fruit to a gentle close.

2022 Aristotelis Ke Anthoula ‘Sonnyboy’ Zibibbo & Vermentino, Riverland $39 RRP

Sweet and vivid aromas of orange oil, tinned peach, orange pith and subtle pineapple. This is packed with interest and interest with a bright and puckish sensibility. The palate is full bodied and fruit juice-like – orange and mango juice, orange rind and canned stone fruit are freshened and framed by high acidity to a juicy and tangy close. A wine of puckish and irreverent appeal.

2023 Wangolina ‘A-Series’ Dolcetto, Limestone Coast $28 RRP

Inviting aromas of dark cherry, baked red plum, dried cranberry, cinnamon, and dried thyme. Very cohesive, complex and gratifying aromatic profile. Lovely defined and restrained fruit on the palate – spiced cherry, cranberry skin, red plum and thyme sit balanced and precise in the mouth before assertive chalky tannins pull it into focus through to a long finish. Balanced fruit and savoury herbs and spice. A lovely varietally accurate iteration, with precision and complexity on show.

2022 M&J Becker Wines Nebbiolo, Hilltops $65 RRP

Burnt orange, gentle smoke, decaying leaves and dried cherry on the nose. There’s no shortage of interest and intrigue aromatically. A medium bodied palate holds sweet fruit and florals. Wilted rose, ripe cherry, blood orange and cherry liqueur are wrapped up in stacked ripe tannins and pithy acid. A nebbiolo of unique interest and smoky appeal.

2023 Alpha Box and Dice ‘Siren’ Nero d’Avola, McLaren Vale $36 RRP

Open knit aromas of plum, boysenberry, subtle pepper, a glimmer of meat and some dried herbs beneath. The palate is full bodied and fruit forward – plum, dried herbs, a glimmer of cranberry. There’s nice structure here, with chalky tannins providing the frame with gentle acidity in support.

2023 Intrepidus Nero d’Avola, Gundagai RRP $30

Dark cherry, plum, and baking spice and pepper spice at the fore aromatically. A subtle roast tomato umami notes in support adding complexity. Lovely intense ripe fruit on the palate – plum, dark cherry, baking spices again. It’s medium bodied and juicy with a firm vein of tannins framing it all. Nice carry through the palate to savoury and red-fruited finish.

2023 Chalari Vermentino, Swan District $30 RRP

Lifted aromas of ripe red apple, apple chew lollies, kumquat and Meyer lemon kick things off, with a glimmer of cinnamon in support. There’s ample fruit weight to the palate which is zesty and bright. Green apple, lemon, kumquat notes at the fore, and a good lick of pithy acidity holding sway and proving a puckery clean finish.

2023 Kenny Wine ‘Auburn’ Sangiovese, Clare Valley $35 RRP

Cranberry, dark cherry, and red plum at the fore, followed by dried thyme and subtle tomato leaf. Lovely complexity and cohesiveness here, making for a gratifyingly balanced and interesting aromatic profile. A big burst of intensity on the palate – morelly cherry, plum, dried herbs and gentle cinnamon spice. The tannins are integrated and svelte, though still assertive enough to frame what is an intense fruit profile. A lovely example, showing high quality fruit, good savoury complexity, and ample structure.

2022 Alessandro Stefani ‘Boccolo’ Sangiovese, Yarra Valley $80 RRP

A delicious sangiovese with primary dark fruits and glazed cherry popping out of the glass. There’s an earthy, dried herb component too. On the lighter side of medium bodied, it’s bright and fresh – the palate begins with a real glossy and silky texture but finishes with gentle drying tannins. It has you hankering for the next sip and thinking of some charcuterie too.

2023 Fervor ‘Nonno Lou’ Nero d’Avola & Sagrantino, Mildura $26 RRP

A gently aromatic profile, with red plum, dark cherry, cranberry skin, and brown spiced. This is delicate and restrained on the nose. The palate is medium bodied and holds a nice even and balanced feel. Cherry and plum led, with delicate spice in support and long chalky tannins bringing carry and frame. This is bright and fresh, with nothing weighed down or cumbersome in feel.

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