Meet the winemaker

Italian Red Wine Masters of Australia

By Halliday Wine Companion for Tar & Roses, Zerella Wines, Hither & Yon, Colab and Bloom, and Lino Ramble.

14 Jun, 2019

Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine, with its grape varieties and wine styles among some of the finest in the world. Luckily, many thrive here in Australia – particularly red varieties – and are readily available for all to enjoy. 

The red wines of Italy, along with the simple yet tasty Italian cuisine, are some of the country's most prized possessions. Luckily, Italian red grape varieties thrive in Australia, and are often available at affordable prices. Here, we talk with five Australian winemakers who craft exceptional Italian reds, on their approach to the styles. They also suggest some food pairings to go with them.

Andy Coppard at Lino Ramble, McLaren Vale, SA

Q:  What first drew you to Italian red wines? 

A:  Good Italian friends, and their amazing food, all of which was served with wine. The first Italian-style wines I recall tasting were Tuscan. They're the perfect match with a pasta Bolognese, and they're completely different to anything I'd had before.

Q:  Tell us about your approach to Italian red wines.

A:  It's the same approach to all the wines I make. I keep the winemaking finger to a bare minimum, and let the fruit be the star of the show. We are incredibly fortunate that McLaren Vale's climate is so compatible to growing southern Mediterranean varieties at a very high standard. 

Q:  How have your Italian reds evolved over the years?

A:  Wine styles have evolved as we are seeing more maturity in vine age, which results in more consistency with varietal fruit character. The majority of Italian varieties found in the McLaren Vale today have been planted in the last five to fifteen years. Increased vine maturity has resulted in wines with more structure, complexity, and much better balance.

Find out more.



Mike Farmilo at Colab and Bloom, McLaren Vale, SA

Q:  Why are Italian reds worth considering?

A:  They are elegant wines, with lovely balance, and a layered structure. Italian wines show beautiful aromatic perfume and are high in both natural acidity and tannins, making them an ideal match with Mediterranean-style food.

Q:  Is there a region in Italy that especially inspires your styles?

A: Our montepulciano is inspired by the smooth and juicy wines of Abruzzo. Abruzzo is a much-loved region in Italy because it’s montepulciano is such an easy drinking, and approachable style of wine.

Q. What foods pair best with your Italian reds?

A:
  Any dish made with herbs, tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic – they will all be a perfect match. I also think that osso bucco, or slow-cooked beef ragu with cavalo nero and polenta, would pair fantastically.

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Richard Leask at Hither & Yon, Willunga, SA

Q:  What first drew you to Italian red wines?

A:  I hadn't tried many Italian red wines before we started researching them, in the early 2000s. My interest was purely viticulture; searching for varieties that could spread out compressed vintages, and tolerate extreme weather, better than traditional French varieties. 

Q:  What foods pair best with your Italian reds?

A:  Something with naturally oily or fatty texture to balance out the earthy, herbaceous characters. Try artichoke, mushroom and Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto, finished in the oven, and served with a side of peas with feta, chives, and mint.

Q:  How has the 2019 vintage treated your Italian red grapes?

A:  They have performed exceptionally well in a different season. We experienced a severe drought and extended heatwave conditions in January and February. We were able to pick the Italian variety fruit when they were ready and flavoursome – they kept their condition and freshness. 

Find out more.



Jim Zerella at Zerella Wines, McLaren Vale, SA

Q: What first drew you to Italian red wines?

A:  Italian wine is in my blood. 'La Gita' translate to 'The Journey', and my Italian varieties represent the journey of my family from their home in Southern Italy to Australia. It was an easy decision to honour my heritage, and produce wines of exceptional quality.

Q:  How have your Italian reds evolved over the years?

A:  I have found that the Italian varieties need more specialised pruning techniques, canopy management, and irrigation to suit the variety and the soil it is grown in. This hard work in the vineyard has now produced a consistent quality and style of wine.

Q:  Is there a region in Italy that especially inspires your styles?

A:  There is not one specific Italian region that has inspired my winemaking style. I have researched the soil types and microclimates of my vineyards in the McLaren Vale, and then matched the Italian red varieties that will grow best in that vineyard.

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Narelle King at Tar & Roses, Nagambie, VIC

Q:  Why are Italian red wines worth considering?

A:  The naturally high levels of tannin and acid in both of our Italian varieties (nebbiolo and sangiovese) lend themselves perfectly to enjoy with food. They cleanse the palate after each mouthful, making your tastebuds ready for the next sip. 

Q:  Tell us about your approach to Italian red wines.

A:  Our style, as with all of our wines, is to make the best varietal expression of the grape we are dealing with at the time – to bring what you can see in the vineyard into the bottle. We have tried to match the high levels of tannin and acid with pure fruit, using a number of winemaking techniques.

Q:  How has the 2019 vintage treated your Italian red grapes?

A:  The 2019 vintage in Central Victoria was hot and dry for an extended period of time. Now that the wines are starting to settle down, we will have a better idea on how we weathered the heat storm. Initial indications, however, are promising.

Find out more.


 Find everything you need to know about Italian reds wines in our essential guide.

This article was produced by Halliday Wine Companion in partnership with Tar & Roses, Zerella Wines, Hither & Yon, Colab and Bloom, and Lino Ramble.