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Whilst most of Australia consists of arid deserts and dense bushland, the oceanic coasts to the south of the country have a terrain and climate ideal for vine cultivation and wine production. It took several decades of failed attempts at the end of the 18th century in order to produce vines of a decent enough quality for making wine, but since those first false starts, the Australian wine industry has continued to grow and grow. Today, wine production makes up for a considerable part of the Australian economy, with exports in recent years reaching unprecedented levels and even overtaking France for the first time ever. Whilst the greatest successes in regards to quality have been the result of the Syrah grape varietal (known locally as Shiraz), Australia utilizes several Old World grapes, and has had fantastic results from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay and more. As the Australian passion for locally produced wine continues to develop, wineries have begun experimenting with a wider range of grape varietals, meaning that nowadays it isn't uncommon to find high quality Australian wines made from Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Viognier, amongst many others.
The Fleurieu peninsula is a stunning region of south Australia, located close to Adelaide and constantly drawing attention to itself over recent years due to its international status as an 'up and coming' wine region. Indeed, there has been much excitement over the wines produced in Fleurieu during the past decade, as this relatively small and unusual peninsula has consistently been producing many of the most flavorful and accessible red wines ever to come out of Australia. Thanks to its Mediterranean style climate, the vines in Fleurieu are able to produce fully ripened fruit each year, and the climatic conditions allow vintners plenty of flexibility when it comes to their wine making methods. Whilst the region is still primarily producing Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, there has been much successful innovation and experimentation with a wide range of grape varietals over recent years, and we can expect to see and hear much more from Fleurieu in the near future.
Italy’s largest island, Sicily, has a wine producing history that can put most other European regions to shame. It was producing quality wines before the days of the Roman empire, and even the Ancient Greeks were not the first to cultivate vines on the island. For as long as anyone knows, the key grape varietal of Sicily has been Nero d’Avola, the beautiful, deep blue skinned grape which produces the region’s characterful, powerful red wines. While in the past, Nero d’Avola was mainly used as a blending grape, due to its deep color and intensely full body, it is today being increasingly celebrated as a single varietal wine grape, and is perfect for those who like their wines boisterous, loud and strong.
Nero d’Avola is grown pretty much everywhere on Sicily, as demand for wines made from this grape have never been higher. Despite its power and body, it is quite a versatile grape - it can be aged in oak barrels, which produces a dense and dark wine which puts its intense characteristics to good use, but it is also often drunk quite young, which allows its jammy, plummy character to come forward. It is also used to make rose wines in some appellations of Sicily, demonstrating a softer side to this otherwise heavy, deeply flavorful grape.