Some wonderful wines to try from southern Italy

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.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

The Fire Tree Nero d’Avola Appassimento, Sicily - €6.99

Stockist: Aldi

The new Fire Tree range from Aldi is named for the trees around Mount Etna that catch on fire during eruptions. There is a crisp simple Vermentino and a Sauv Blanc-Pinot Grigio and this cherry and bright fruit wine. Given our taxes this almost costs negative money — chill a little and serve with spicy pizza.

The Fire Tree Reserva, Sicily - €9.99

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Stockist: Aldi

No grape varieties are given for this but I’m guessing it is either pure Nero d’Avola or a blend with Primitivo. Rich and chocolate tinged aromas with ripe black fruits and lingering black cherry on the palate and a hint of mocha on the finish. Well worth a tenner and probably more.

Le Vigne di Sammarco Salice Salentino 2014, Puglia, Italy - €14.30

Stockist: Wines Direct www.winesdirect.ie

If you have had one wine from Southern Italy it is probably a Salice Salentino as wines from this region have been around since the 1990s (Candido’s version with the map label is the best known). This has a lighter touch than others from the region but still has lovely depth and earthy ripe fruits with lingering black cherries.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Pipoli Aglianico del Vulture 2014, Basilicata, Italy - €16.95

Stockists: World Wide Wines, Vintry, Mitchell & Sons, Baggot St. Wines, Corkscrew.

Aglianico from Basilicata can be unyielding in youth and ages well but even when tannic it has an exuberant amaro fruitiness. Some red but mainly darker fruit aromas, game touches, ripe and bright, blackberry-fruity and fresh with fennel and chocolate touches on the finish.

Tufarello Nero di Troia, Puglia, Italy - €15.99

Stockists: McHughs, World Wide Wines, Drinkstore, Greenman, Corkscrew, Blackrock Cellar.

Nero di Troia is really only grown in Northern Puglia near Bari and due to its tannins is usually blended. This is made by fine Abruzzo producer Farnese whose wines are generally worth seeking out. Aromas of dark fruits, liquorice and prunes, full and ripe on the palate with liquorice and herbal-juniper hints and a bitter chocolate kick on the finish.

Colacino Savuto, Calabria, Italy - €15.99

Stockists: World Wide Wines, Corkscrew, Greenman, Blackrock Cellar, Wineonline.ie

This is a blend of Calabrian grapes — namely Avino (also known as Maglicco Dolce) with Greco Nero and another Magliocco which is probably Gaglioppo (used in DOC Cirò). Bright ruby red colour, cherry and red currant aromas, fruity palate with good acidity and freshness and a structured cherry skin finish.


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