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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Italy's indigenous grape varieties received a boost last week when Safeway's Italian range review was unveiled at its Autumn tasting. Safeway's Italian wine buyer, Emma Bolger, who moved to the company from Oddbins earlier this year, has changed 36 wines in the 58-strong range - dropping some fashionable international grapes to bring in lesser-known indigenous varieties. We used to list eight Italian Chardonnays,' said Bolger, and now we've got two, but some of the wines we've brought in are far more exciting. Italy's real strength is its indigenous varieties, and except for Sangiovese, they are hardly grown anywhere else in the world.' New listings include: 2001 Verdicchio Castellani and 2001 Castel del Monte Bianco (70% Bombino Bianco, 30% Pampanuto). From Sicily comes Inycon Grecanico, replacing its sister brands Inycon Merlot and Chardonnay. The one international grape that seems to have escaped Bolger's wrath is Syrah, which Bolger joked is pretty close to being indigenous, seeing it grows so well in Italy and has been there so long'. Safeway has also included three Italian wines in its fine wine selection (limited stores only): 1998 Barbaresco, Pelissero (26.99), 1996 Barolo Vigna Big, Rocche dei Manzoni (32.99) and 1999 Chianti Classico, Castello di Brolio (19.99). Bolger told Harpers that Safeway has no plans to increase the overall size of its Italian range for the moment, although we'll see how the new range is received. Italy has had a good run of vintages and the difference in style between the regions is really exciting at the moment. It is hard not to be enthusiastic about Italy.' Sainsbury's also gave Italy a boost with the launch of its Signature Collection' - a range of mainly European wines sourced from highly respected producers, which aims to raise their profile among consumers. The Signature Collection was made for Italy,' said Sainsbury's' Italian buyer, Julian Dyer. Only the most knowledgeable of consumers could name a handful of producers.' Five of the ten-strong collection are from the boot'. Sainsbury's Autumn Wine Fair will run from 2-29 October. Wine from Australia, South Africa and the Americas will retail at 20% off the normal price for varying periods.