Italy, Clare Valley

Italy has some of the oldest wine production methods in the world and almost every part of the country is planted under vine. From the Alps in the north to the very southernmost parts of Sicily where Africa is almost in sight, wine is successfully cultivated. In addition to the latitude covered, Italy's many mountains and hills provide a plethora of altitudes for grape growing in various soils and micro-climates. The extensive coastlines along the peninsula that is Italy provide maritime climates for the coastal wine-growing areas. Over 350 grape varieties are 'authorised' in Italy, though up to 550 varieties are thought to be grown.

The classification system of Italian wines has four classes, with the intention of defining a wine's origin a quality. Two of these classes are table wines, whilst DOC and DOCG fall under the EU quality wine produced in a specific region category. Vino da Tavola (VDT) means that the wine comes from Italy. Most of these wines are generally basic table wines that are consumed domestically. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) denotes a more specific region within Italy, and the resultant will be of higher quality than simple table wines, but won't conform to the rules required for higher certification. Both Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) are regionally more specific than IGT, and have stricter rules regarding the grape varieties grown, yields per hectare, minimum alcohol levels and so on. The major difference between DOC and DOCG is that the latter has to undergo a blind-tasting session to ensure the highest quality is achieved. Italy has 32 DOCG appelations, 311 DOC appelations and 120 IGT zones.

Key regions include Piedmont, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Veneto, Sicily and Sardinia. Common white varieties grown are Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Fiano and Moscato. The red varieties grown the most are Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Nero d'Avola and Corvina.
Located 120km north of Adelaide, Clare Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia. The region is set on softly undulating hills covering a length of some 35km and ranges from 5 to 10km in width. In fact, Clare Valley is also one of mainland Australia's coolest wine growing regions.

The five subregions of Clare Valley are - Sevenhill, Clare, Watervale, Polish Hill and Auburn, each influenced by the interweaving creeks and valleys and each with its unique soil types, climate and altitude. Throughout the region, the moderately continental climate, with its cool to cold nights and warm to hot summer days are ideal for producing its most important white, Riesling.

Whilst Riesling is no doubt the king white grape for the region, very elegant Shiraz with soft palates and Cabernet Sauvignons are produced there too. Lesser amounts of Sémillon are grown, though Grenache and blends like Shiraz/Cabernet or Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec can also be deliciously smooth and textural.

Grosset produces arguably Australia's finest Rieslings from his Clare Valley Winery. Atlas and Leo Buring too create nice Rieslings.
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