McLaren Vale's alternative reality

Peter and Duncan Lloyd tasting at Coriole, their winery in McLaren Vale

A hotbed of varietal diversity in South Australia. Above, Peter and Duncan Lloyd at Coriole, where nearly half the vineyards are planted to varieties other than Shiraz and Grenache.

In 1999 I was a judge at the first Australian Sangiovese Challenge, a tasting of all the locally grown examples of Sangiovese and Sangiovese blends then available. It didn’t take long. There were only 13 wines in the line-up. And one of those was a Chianti (a Poggerino), thrown into the blind tasting as a benchmark.

The top wine of the tasting wasn’t even 100% varietal: it was a blend of...