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Italian Import Wines

Italian Imports have landed! We tasted hundreds of wines earlier this year, at the massive German Trade wine fair Prowein, as Vinitaly and in Italy itself.

We tasted the wines at least twice overseas and then the shortlist of best wines back in Australia, eventually choosing just the 17 wines which are now in stock, everyone of which we can very confidently recommend to you.

CA’ DE LION are a boutique producer who have been based in the Piedmont since 1655, making booze for the last 148 years. We’ve chosen to start with two of their brilliant Barberas both from Asti. These are exceptional examples of Barbera and we are delighted to be able to share them with you.

CA’ BOTTA is based in the Valpolicella DOC region about half an hour from Verona and makes wine exclusively from dried grapes. In normal winemaking a kilo of grapes makes roughly one bottle of wine. Even their ‘entry level’ wines like the Rubicondo are produced from dried grapes – 1.2kg’s per bottle. At the other end of the spectrum each bottle of the supremely concentrated Il Priore contains 4.3 kgs of fruit. These wines are beautifully balanced and offer excellent balance and fruit intensity.

CONTE DI CAMPIANO is located in a small town on a hilltop in the northeast of Verona with origins in late 1950s. The winery sources fruit from a large number of different regions and produces a stack of different wines, too many to mention here. We decided to start by importing just one, from one of the rarest varieties – Susumaniello. We’ve now added a Primitivo di Manduria and a Nero di Troia both of which are stunning.

SCHOLA SARMENTI can be found in the Salento region of Italy and specialise in Primitivo and Negro Amaro. They work with an unusually high percentage of old vines and have been instrumental in preserving the ancient Apulian vine training system called Albarello. Also known as "little trees", it’s a form of cultivation which requires intensive manual care of each vine and ongoing pruning… it is expensive to do but allows good aeration and light exposure for the fruit, and produces wines with an unusual intensity of flavour. Schola do not use chemical fertilisers or weed killers and while not organically certified, they grow their fruit using organic methods. These are delicious, handcrafted wines made with love.

VINI GIRIBALDI are a third generation producer who have been certified organic since 2004. They are based in the Piedmont region of Italy and produce only about 15000 cases of wine a year from 30 hectares. They were among the first producers to make organic Barolo. We are stocking two superb Barberas and one beguiling Barbaresco for you to consider.

Do Italian wines have less sulphites?

No! There’s a bit of a misconception there as Italian wines sold in Italy don’t require a sulphite statement on the label. Our local labelling laws require it which is why you’ll see preservative 220 added listed on the back labels for all of the Italian wine we sell. These same wines in Italy don’t say they have had sulphites added... but they do.

How to read Italian wine labels...

With a magnifying glass and a copy of ‘Decoding the Rosetta Stone’!

It’s tricky, with so many regions to navigate and often no varietal statement on the label. Doc, Docg, IGT, IGP and VdT – what do they mean and are they a guarantee of quality?

  • VdT – table wine - not poisonous, fair to average quaffing. Generally cask quality – but can sometimes be excellent.
  • IGT and IGP – A wine from the area – has to be made from grapes from the area stated on the label. Generally, IGT and IGP wines are better than VdT – but not always.
  • DOC – short for Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Must be made from varieties approved within the region using methods approved for the region. There are more than 300 DOCs in Italy. Generally, DOC wines are very good, but not always.
  • DOCG - short for Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – this is like DOC but is even more stringently regulated. Yields are tightly limited and wines must be individually assessed and approved by a government licensed committee before being bottled. Generally, these are among the best wines made in Italy but, it is still not a guarantee.

The wine names can be challenging too... you’d think a wine called vine Nobile di Montepulciano would be a wine made from Montepulciano... nope – these are made from Sangiovese grown in Tuscany, near the township of Montepulciano. Chianti is also made from (primarily) Sangiovese. Brunello di Montalcino is also made from Sangiovese. Barolo and Barbaresco and other wines are made from Nebbiolo...

We’ve had a crack at demystifying things for you. Any Italian wine on our site we have tasted overseas and then twice back in Oz before we make the decision to import. We also highlight in the Wine Specs section the varieties included in the wine, alcohol level, region, vintage and more...

What is a traditional Italian wine?

That’s a moveable feast as there have been heaps of changes in Italian wine production and quality over the last 50 years. Fair to say though, that wine is an Italian tradition, with viticulture dating back perhaps as far as 4000 BC. It is the only country in the world where every region produces wine. It has about 1.7 million acres under vine which accounts for about 1 glass in 5 consumed across the planet. It is thought that Sicily is the first site of production, followed by Calabria, with vines heading northwards over time.

What is the most popular Italian red wine?

That's a curly one! Italy grows an incredible variety of grapes across a vast array of regions and regionality can have a marked impact on the flavour of what’s in the bottle... but we can answer by way of telling you which grapes are the most commonly planted; that will at least give you a useful pointer.

Sangiovese (Chianti), Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco), Montepulciano, Primitivo, Aglianico, Barbera (d’alba and d’asti) , and Nero d’Avola are very widely planted.

Corvina is pretty popular too, often blended with Rondinella and/or Molinara and/or Corvinone... This turns up in the relatively light wines of Bardolino and the much heavier wines of nearby Valpollicella. In Valpollicella it is quite versatile, turning up in light wines called Classico – light, fruity, acidic, no oak; richer wines called Valpollicella Classico Superiore – medium to full bodied, oaked; in Amarone Wines – concentrated, dark, rich, and powerful thanks to the extended air drying of grapes prior to fermentation; and in the Ripasso wines where high quality grapes are fermented on top of pressed Amarone skins. These wines are medium to full bodied, rich, plush and smooth.

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