This week I want to tell you a little about the wines of Southern Italy. I use the word ‘little’ advisedly as you could write several books about the subject taking it region by region.
Virtually every nook and cranny on the Italian peninsula is used to grow grapes and has been since at least the third century BCE. Each year Italy competes with France on who has made the most wine, with Spain also in the running. Currently Italy is in the lead (according to figures from 2015) at 49 million hectolitres which is around 7 billion bottles made from 377 known grape varieties (France has just 204 named varieties).
Most of us know the wines of the north and centre (Valpolicella, Soave, Barolo, Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo), but learning a little more about the South will be hugely rewarding. Like the rest of the country Southern Italy has a bewildering range of Demoninazione (DOP), sometimes with just a small handful of producers. Don’t be put off by unfamiliar names and in general if an importer has taken the trouble to source wine from one of these regions there is usually a quality reason, as obscure wine remains a difficult sell in brand-conscious Ireland.
Southern Italy is hot but never forget how many mountains there are in Italy so freshness is rarely a problem and there are also many fascinating white wines with new grape varieties to learn such as Greco di Tufo and Falanghina (Campania), Fiano, Inzolia and Grillo (Sicily) to name just a few. For reds you need to know about Nero di Troia, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera (Puglia), Gaglioppo and Aglianico (Campania and Basilicata), Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (Sicily) and of course Primitivo which is grown throughout the south and is better known as Zinfandel (although the clones would generally differ from those grown in the US).
All my selections are reds from mainland Southern Italy including a couple of bargain wines from Sicily. Not many importers source from Southern Italy so Liberty Wines are to be praised for their impressive selection. Liberty sell well in restaurants in Munster and elsewhere and you should also find some of these wines in the likes of Ely and L’Atitude 51.
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