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Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia - Unearthing Our Exclusive Wines

The opportunity to travel around Italy searching for wines and wineries that are not available here, but which offer a level of quality that make them exactly the sort of wines that should be in every cellar, does not come around very often. Especially the chance to do so in the company of one of our absolute best Italian experts (on his 41st visit to the wine regions of Italy) and also one of our top sommeliers.

Ken Gargett  15 February 2024

Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia


Over two weeks, chock-a-block as they say in the classics, with appointments, we visited a collection of Italy’s most famous wineries, a selection that are already coming here and the majority of visits, exciting contenders. Of course, not all would make the grade, though often we felt it was almost Sophie’s choice to decide which, out of two or three excellent options, would best suit this market. Sadly, you cannot have them all.

The Beginning Of Our Journey

The trip began in Rome, where we discovered that our Italian expert’s driving skills were in direct opposition to his knowledge of Italian wines, and I realised I had two weeks of car sickness ahead of me. Aside from the trips between regions, most rides were short, so we managed. It only took us an hour or so to lose our sommelier, but eventually we rectified that and were off.

First stop, one of my absolute favourite wine regions in all the world, Brunello di Montalcino. We had a couple of days there before taking on another Tuscan superstar, Chianti. Something a bit different followed as we spent some time in Florence (which seemed to be 99% Americans when we were there) to work through the portfolio of one of the largest negociants in the region. Valpolicella/Amarone then beckoned, before we settled in, in the tiny town of Barolo, to explore the wineries there for the final week.

Overall, we saw two to three wineries every day. That might sound like fun (and who am I kidding, of course it is), but it is also challenging work. My past three blogs have focused on the first three wineries we have available. We have another five or six in the process and full details on each of them will appear in future blogs – no spoilers here.

Assessment Of Market

As well as those we visited for the purpose of an assessment for this market, we managed to spend some time with some of the great names of Italian wines – the Marchesi di Gresy from Barbaresco and anyone expecting pomp and circumstance could not be more wrong, as we had a wonderful tasting with their Kiwi winemaker, Jeff Chilcott, the Marchesi and his son. Pertimali from Brunello – I have been a fan for decade so was extremely excited, although to turn up for our appointment (and apparently dinner) as they were locking up was a touch awkward. Even more so when the owner turned to our expert and announced, ‘what on earth are you doing here?’ This was less than encouraging, though they quickly took us in (seems our expert was a day early) and we had a sensational tasting and dinner. Sordo in Barolo which just gets increasingly impressive every time I see their wines. Time with the team at Roberto Conterno, perhaps the most legendary Italian winemaker of them all, and a visit to Mascarello, the winery most likely to challenge Conterno for that title. One thrill after another.

Is There Time To Mention The Food?

I have not mentioned the scenery and most especially the food, as there is no space to do so, but how every Italian is not 25 stone is beyond me.

An Enormous Success

Overall, the trip was an enormous success. You will be seeing the results in the coming months as these brilliant wines arrive here. Many are simply must-haves for your cellar. We have also opened lines of communication with a number of other scintillating producers so we can continue to expand the range.

And all was achieved, touch wood, without any real dramas. Well, stuck in Qatar on the way home where it was 47°C at 8am was less than fun, as was having Qatar security insist that my bottle of Italian olive oil constituted a clear and present threat to the security of Australia and would not be making the trip.

My favourite disaster (one can laugh about it now) was surely on the very last morning, quite early, as we were about to head off from the tiny town of Barolo to travel to Milan for our flights. Needless to say, that was the day the battery-operated door opener for the car decided to die, but not before setting off an alarm that would have drowned out the London air-raid sirens during the War. Much fiddling and doing car-stuff and our expert managed to get into the car but in trying to turn off the alarm, he managed to set off another. Who knew cars had two alarms? No one in Barolo managed much sleep that morning, but we got our planes and more importantly, we have returned with a wonderful selection of wines.

Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia
Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia
Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia
Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia
Vino Voyage: From Italy to Australia

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The Reserve Cellars. ABN 89621364994 Liquor License 196883. The Reserve Cellar supports the responsible service of alcohol. It is against the law to sell or supply alcohol to, or obtain alcohol on behalf of, a person under the age of 18 years. WARNING: Under the Liquor Act 1992, it is an offence to supply liquor to a person under the age of 18 years (Penalty exceeds $6,000). for a person under the age of 18 years to purchase or receive liquor (Penalty exceeds $500).

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