These days Italian varietals are turning up everywhere--even Down Under. Instead of Château Predictable Shiraz, Australian winemakers looking for a point of distinction are marketing Dolcettos and Pinot Grigios, and adventurous Australians are buying domestic Sangioveses and Barberas. After all, everyone drinks Chardonnay, but how many can pull out a Nebbiolo?
Not all Australians are open to Aus-Itals (Australian wines made from Italian grape varieties), but there are enough of them to buy up the small quantities of the varietals that such innovators as Garry Crittenden of Dromana Estate and Kevin McCarthy and Kathleen Quealy of T'Gallant are selling. These winemakers know they're not going to face a demand for thousands of cases; even the best Aus-Itals will probably always have only a fringe audience. And few of them have yet been exported to the States.
DROMANA ESTATE, though, has proved that "a certain percentage of wine drinkers always want new flavors, new sensations," as Crittenden says. "They're the ones who create trends." Of the dozen or so Australian winemakers trying their hands at Italian grapes, none has pursued them with more passion than Crittenden, and after nine vintages he's starting to reap the rewards.