Italy is a fascinating country for many reasons but in the wine world it is perhaps the most difficult to get a grip on. There are just so many grape varieties, so many regions and sub regions and so many producers.
Italy is the world’s largest wine producer (followed closely by France) and accounts for almost 20% of world wine production. That’s 49 million hectolitres of wine (1 hectolitre is equal to 100 litres) which equates to around 7 billion bottles.
As I’m sure you know, Italy is intensely regional and the same applies to its wine industry and that is part of the fun of Italian wine — there is just so much to learn, so many wines to taste and so much to explore — and yes it can be daunting. You just have to learn to cope with the fact that there is always a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or a grape variety you have never heard of — my ego has learned to cope, hopefully yours can too.
So this week I have a sort of primer selection of Italian wines to try. SuperValu has had an Italian wine sale running since last Thursday and there are some classic wines at great prices and some great value entry-level wines.
Not everything was to my taste as there is a worrying trend in the market for wines with high residual sugar and Italy seems keen to supply it — the telltale sign is often ‘passito’ or ‘dried grapes’. Having said that many people have a sweeter tooth than they think they do so you might love the Chianti Baffo Rosso for just €9 (it has a moustache on the label) or the Arbos Sangiovese for €8 — personally I found them a little too fruity and sweet. Strangely I didn’t mind the 8g of residual sugar in the Amasso (a wine I’ve featured before), perhaps because it had more prune and bitter cherry flavours.
Both the Barolo and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are bargains and well worth trying — you also won’t find a better Gavi under €15 than the Ricossa Gavi and SuperValu are charging just €10.
M&S also has a couple of new Italian wines although I only had room for one — besides the Nerello Cappuccio below you should seek out their orange and lime-flavoured Ribolla Gialla from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. These wines are part of the new inexpensive ‘Found’ range which includes such rarities as Mazuela from Spain, Gros Manseng from France and Xinomavro from Greece.
Vermentino is grown all over Italy but especially in Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia (e.g. Vermentino di Sardegna) — you will also find it in Corsica and in Southern France (sometimes called Rolle). Vermentino is rarely complex but always drinkable and lively and this is a solid example. Floral, pear, white peach and lemon aromas, creamy and fresh with some stony citrus flavours on the palate and a pleasing salty zing on the finish.
This is available for €10 per bottle or €28 for a 3 litre bag-in-box which makes it less than €7 per bottle. I admit I’ve only tried the bottle version but the bag-in-box should hold up. Made from 100% Nero d'Avola with half the fermentation from dried grapes, this is nicely concentrated with aromas, fruit and sugar levels all up - bitter cherry notes, creamy and fruity with nice supple fruits - a fruity summer wine best served slightly cool.
Part of a new M&S range of a dozen wines celebrating quality underappreciated grape varieties. Nerello Cappuccio is more usually encountered blended with Nerello Mascalese in the vineyards of Mount Etna but this version is grown in Western Sicily by the Mandrarossa Co-Op. Dark purple colour, black cherry aromas with some violet hints, supple and fruity with some cloves and allspice hints — great value.
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Mitchell & Son, D6 Wines, Pinto Wines, Baggot St. Wines, The Corkscrew, Green Man Wines, Martins, Mortons Galway & Dublin, Red Island Skerries.
Falerio DOC is the white wine of the Rosso Piceno region (another underrated wine/region) in the Marche’s Apennines foothills. A blend of Trebbiano Toscano, Passerina and Pecorino that pours straw-yellow with floral and lemon zest aromas, tangy pear and apple flavours, good acidity and balance and more weight than most Italian whites.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a sort of baby brother to Brunello di Montalcino and mercifully affordable by comparison — although you would usually pay at least €25 for Vino Nobile so this is a fine intro to the wine. Dark black cherry colour, rich berry flavours with balsamic and mocha notes, smooth, ripe and flavourful on the palate with bitter cherry, developed fruits and some maturity coming through allowing some cedar and spice notes.
Barolo is never inexpensive and finding a decent one for less than €30 is a challenge. This Ricossa example is aged three years before release and has quite a bit of Barolo typicité. Aromas of spice, liquorice and caramel with soft mature fruits, concentrated red and darker fruits with earthy tones and a hint of coffee and ink — textured and lively with a touch of voluptuousness and a dried red fruit finish. The Ricossa Gavi for €10 is also recommended.
Stockists: O’Briens, Molloys, McHughs, Matsons, Bradleys, Ardkeen, Castle Tralee, Redmonds www.blacksbrewery.com
Saturday is the last day of Indie Beer Week. Tomorrow night's online tasting will be fun and informative and includes the brewers from Cotton Ball, Blacks, Metalman, Dead Centre, West Kerry, Kinnegar, Black Donkey, Lineman Porterhouse and Dungarvan — packs are sold out and tasting tickets cost €15 via indiebeerweek.ie.
This Session IPA from Blacks of Kinsale is perfect for warmer days and one of tonight’s highlights. Pouring a hazy pale gold with a light fluffy head and aromas of grapefruit and citrus with a light malt background — zingy and fresh with a light citrus spice kick on the finish.