Italian wines getting better and better

I’m revisiting Italy for the first time in a while this week with a selection of recommended wines that have not appeared here before.

Italy is not an easy country to get to grips with for wine enthusiasts given the huge number of grape varieties and regions — Jancis Robinson’s book Wine Grapes lists 377 Italian varieties that are cultivated commercially.

There is also a bewildering range of designated DOC with every hillside and plain demarcated. 

Italy was once synonymous with inexpensive table wine of only medium quality but with the introduction of the DOC system in the 1960s things began to improve and by the 1970s the Super Tuscans had arrived (ironically ignoring the DOC system altogether). 

A gradual improvement came over the next few decades and now finally in the 21st century the great individual ‘lieu-dit’ sections of Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Chianti are being zoned in the same manner as the tiny vineyards of the Côte d’Or. 

Meanwhile at the lower end quality has massively improved with lots of new IGT wines and lesser known DOC regions appearing on our shelves.

I don’t think I had tasted Tuscan Morellino di Scansano before this year and I certainly had not tried Nero di Troia from northern Puglia either – both are worth seeking out. 

I’m still not a fan of 98% of all Pinot Grigio and have yet to taste a Frascati or Oriveto of interest but Soave is now excellent and I think Prosecco may be improving. 

Most frizzante is forgettable but at the Spumante level (which is double-taxed like Champagne and Cava) I’ve tasted a few this year that I liked and I recommend one below.

Karwigs have recently taken on some new wines from Teruzzi & Puthod which are worth a try and I suggest two below along with some supermarket Italians that I picked out from recent tastings. 

The final wine is a perfect example of what I love about Italy. 

Poggio al Gello is a small organic family run winery located around 40km from Siena in the Southern Tuscan region of Montecucco. 

The winemakers’ daughter Stefania moved to Clare a number of years ago and sells the wines through her art gallery and coffee shop in Newquay in the Burren. 

There is also an excellent peppery fruity organic olive oil and two rare wines made from obscure local grapes which I will review another time.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Lot 25 Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG 2016, Veneto, Italy — €14.99

Stockist: Aldi

It is relatively rare that I recommend Prosecco but I liked this full-fizz Spumante from the town of Valdobbiadene, the premium Prosecco region in the cool Alpine Dolomites — pronounced Val-doby-add-eh-nay.

Light fruity peach and citrus-pear aromas, dry, fruity and fresh with pleasing lemon verbena touches and a mineral dry finish.

Gavi di Gavi, Piedmont, Italy — €9.99

Stockist: Aldi

Both this wine and the Exquisite Collection Gavi are significantly better than most of the Gavi around. 

Now don’t expect profundity, by its very nature the Cortese grape is light and fairly straightforward but can be a lovely with seafood or starter courses.

 Lemon zest and citrus aromas, mineral, stony and fresh with a hint of white peach.

La Casada Montpulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy — €9

Stockist: Centra

Montepulciano is the dark fruity workhorse grape of the Marches and Abruzzo and is nothing to do with the Tuscan town of the same name (the grape in Rosso di Montepulciano is Sangiovese). 

This is entry level but very pleasing for all that — soft plum fruits, decent acidity and clean chewy blackberry tartness on the finish.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Tenuzzi & Puthod Peperino IGT, Tuscany, Italy — €19.95

Stockist: Terroirs Donnybrook, Independents, Karwigs

New to the Karwigs range this IGT is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot (the addition of Merlot prevents the wine getting full DOC status). 

Aromas of bitter cherry and red fruits with ripe textured red fruits on the palate with good structure and elegance. Their oak aged Arcidaovla (€28) blend is also excellent.

Tenuzzi & Puthod Vernaccia di San Gimignano — €17.99

Stockist: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinllough, 64 Wines Glasthule, Karwigs

The beautiful walled medieval village of San Gimignano has many mentions in literature and history and their famed white wine was the very first Italian DOC in 1966. 

Fragrant with floral stone fruit aromas, crisp and fresh and a perfect match for smoked salmon and shellfish.

Rosso del Gello, Montecucco Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy — €16.95

Stockist: Russel Gallery, Newquay, Co Clare; www.russellgallery.net

Organic wines from a family run vineyard (their daughter runs the Russell Gallery). Light brick red colour, red fruits with earthy touches, elegant and subtle.

The Reserva version is significantly darker with denser fruit aromas and a fuller more supple texture and some ageing potential. 

Both represent good value for the quality as does the full range.


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