Italian grape varieties grown in Australia

Chardonnay and Shiraz used to be very popular in Australia and they still are for many consumers. However today, people are looking for something different, looking for alternative varieties to enjoy and to develop our palates with different textures and styles.

Due to climate change, warmer weather, wanting a change, looking for food friendly wines, we are now seeing more winemakers experimenting with Italian, French and Portuguese varieties. Planted here in Australia are a number of Italian grape varieties including; Fiano, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Arneis, Pinot Grigio, Fiano, Aglianico and the Rhône blends and grapes; Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Portuguese grape varieties (Touriga Nacional). In this blog we focus more on Italian grape varieties.

Italian grape varieties

At Swanny Cellars, we love these Italian grape varieties made in Australia. We enjoy speaking to winemakers and understanding why they are experimenting and planting these alternative varietals. When we interviewed Scott from La Prova earlier in the year (click here to read the interview) we asked him where his love of Sangiovese came from and he went on to add; “I just love the more textural and savoury wines made from Italian varieties. It also goes well with food and I believe consumers want medium weight and good quality wines to accompany their family dinners.” We imagine this is the thought of many experienced winemakers.

As in Italy, specific grapes grow better in some areas than others. Some Italian grape varieties are versatile and do well in a different climates. Prosecco does well in in the King Valley. Nero d’Avola suits the climate in Australia as it can stand the heat while retaining its acidity to produce well balanced wines. Montepulciano is grown in the Barossa, Riverland, Adelaide Hills, Limestone Coast (the Liquor Barons’ Panel recommended the Atze’s Corner 2015; The Mob Montepulciano Barossa in the latest issue of On the Vine). Montepulciano is a red wine grape and is confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made from mainly Sangiovese grapes and is named after the village where it originates.In McLaren Vale, where there’s a Mediterranean climate, Nero d’Avola, Fiano, Vermentino, Aglianico, Grenache blends and Touriga Nacional are grown. S.C. Pannell in McLaren Vale makes stunning wines from some of these varieties.

In McLaren Vale there are specific microclimates where it can get cooler or warmer, with altitude, angle of the slope, slope direction. Proximity to the ocean, effects of the Mount Lofty ranges and the altitude have a part to play. Really understanding the terroir and which grape varieties will work best within the microclimate is key . We wrote about microclimates on our blog here.

Riverland and Murray-Darling regions are also warm and dry where you’ll find Fiano, Aglianico and Nero d’Avola. Aglianico is a dark skinned Italian grape variety traditionally found in Campania, Basilicata in Italy. You’ll also see it in Australia, Argentina and the States. It has a lot of tannins and acidity and ripens late.

Some grape varieties are harder to grow such as Nebbiolo which can be compared to Pinot Noir. However, knowing the right microclimate is important as well as the skill of the winemaker.

Italian grape varieties are grown all over Australia including McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Heathcote, Riverland and the King Valley. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!


Food background with red wine, figs, grapes


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