Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Italy is a volatile place as you probably know, not just the passions of its people but is a place of active volcanos and frequent earthquakes. One of the most devastating earthquakes in recent years was the one that struck the Amatrice region in 2016.

Almost 300 people died, almost all in the small village of Amatrice. The beautiful historic village was flattened and is still recovering. In July this year Revolve PR Company hosted an event to remind us that Amatrice is still recovering and that it needs support. 

Food and wine at the event was all from the region. With the three-year anniversary of the earthquake approaching a ‘Made in Amatrice’ label has been created for the excellent cheese, meats, wine and other products from the area: terradiamatrice.it

Pasta all’Amatriciana is the classic dish the town gave to the world - one of those simple but perfect Italian dishes that works as well in summer as in winter. While best served with a fruity red it can also work with a crisp white. Either of the Casale del Giglio wines below would work nicely. 

Crisply fry a handful of chopped guanciale (or use lardons) with whole, hot chilli peppers (1-3 depending on heat levels); deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine and reduce; remove the chilli and add a tin of the best Italian tomatoes (San Marzano for preference), simmer for 25-30 minutes. Serve with spaghetti or rigatoni and lots of grated pecorino.

There are only a limited number of wines from Lazio on the Irish market these days. Twenty years ago Frascati, Orvieto and other light Italian wines were on every off-licence shelf but their simplicity was their downfall and the public happily switched to sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. 

The problem was simply the high-yielding but rather dull trebbiano grape which needs a sensitive winemaker to show at its best. I have read the wines these days are much improved but I rarely encounter them. If you know of good examples of Frascati or Orvieto please contact me!

Selections this week include two of the Lazio wines served at the Amatrice celebration, a gorgeous Tuscan red and three tasty wines from the south including two from Puglia made by Fantini Farnese, an Abruzzo producer that I have featured a couple of times.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Vigneti dei Salento I Muri Primitivo, Puglia, Italy - €14.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: JJ O’Driscoll, World Wide Wines, Baggot St Wines, Vintry, Martins, Lilac, McHughs, www.wineonline.ie.

From 80% old bush vines grown in Manduria, Primitivo’s home territory, and nearby Sava. Ripe generous red fruit aromas, crunchy plum and textured black cherry fruits with a touch of spice. Supremely drinkable and satisfying.

Vigneti dei Salento I Muri Bianco, Puglia, Italy - €14.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: JJ O’Driscoll, Worldwide Wines, Vintry, Lilac Wines, Mortons, www.wineonline.ie.

From a blend of verdeca, chardonnay and malvasia (in almost equal amount), this is from the same vineyards as the Primitivo above. While cool fermented in steel this does get a chance to soften in old oak barrels, yellow-straw colour with golden hints, tropical peach and apricot aromas.

Poggio al Casone Chianti Superiore, Tuscany - €12.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: Spar, Mace, EuroSpar

From organic grapes and with a touch of oak ageing this is classical in style with bright red fruit aromas and solid cherry fruit on the palate. Excellent for the price this is well balanced and flavourful with a good fruit and acidity balance. You can generally buy the Castellani range with confidence.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Casale del Giglio Cesanese, Lazio, Italy - €19.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: Terroirs Donnybrook www.terroirs.ie

Cesanese is an ancient Latium grape from the hills to the south of Rome — low yields and late ripening. This is a deep ruby red colour and has bright cherry fruit aromas with floral notes, more cherries on the palate with spice touches (pepper), juicy and soft but with balanced acidity — perfect for pasta al amatriciana.

Casale del Giglio Bellone, Lazio, Italy - €19.99

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: Terroirs Donnybrook www.terroirs.ie

Bellone is another ancient Italian grape you probably haven’t heard about but given it was mentioned by Pliny the Elder we know the Romans drank it. From a seaside vineyard 50km from Rome, tropical and citrus fruits, textured and lively with a pleasing salty touch. Also watch for this producers’ ripe apple flavoured satrico chardonnay-Sausignon-trebbiano blend.

La Potazzine Rosso di Montalcino 2016, Tuscany, Italy - €42.50

Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Deveney’s Dundrum, Nectar wines Sandyford.

A gorgeous Italian red I discovered imported by Solera Wines. From a tiny 4.7 hectare estate, 100% prognolo gentille sangiovese with rich plum and blueberry aromas, luscious and complex with integrated soft tannins and a long floral influenced finish. Has a big brother called Brunello.

- Contact Leslie Williams at wine@examiner.ie

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