Wiine List: European wine harvest kicks off despite unsuitable conditions

The European wine harvest is in full swing but the late spring frost and hail and an extreme summer heatwave have not proved beneficial.

Most regions are looking at severely reduced crops, with France and Italy particularly badly hit — remember these are by far the two largest wine producing nations.

Italy’s yields are likely to be down by a quarter, the worst since the 1950s, and France will have its lowest since 1945 with Alsace, the Loire and the Right Bank of Bordeaux particularly badly hit. The good news is that quality levels should be above average but supply and demand issues may push up prices for the likes of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Yields in Southern Italy will be worst hit with Sicily and Puglia likely to be 30% down. This will particularly affect small producers who are often paid by weight by their local co-op so spare them a thought.

So with my mind on small Italian producers the selections this week are all from Italy and I don’t think I have mentioned any of them before. Italy has around 400 distinct commercial grape varieties and hundreds of DOC wine regions so it can be difficult to get a handle on the country’s wines. You will just have to persevere — a visit to a few wine regions would also help and will not be a hardship.

The Schioppettino grape is making its debut in the paper today, it is only grown in Fruili in NW Italy near the Slovenian border and was almost wiped out by phylloxera. It was revived in the 1970s surreptitiously as it was not in the local DOC regulations — by 1987 however it had achieved its own DOC.

Also below are a trio of Puglian wines including one made from Uve di Troia, a grape that was rare on Irish shelves until very recently.

For the diary: Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct is presenting wines at several events during the Taste of West Cork which runs until September 17. Fionnuala’s Italian Masterclass in the O’Driscoll Building in Skibbereen at 4.30pm next Saturday, September 16, will be a highlight.

I recommend two of the reds below but there will also be Gavi, and Barolo and should be well worth attending.

Best value under €15

Candido La Carta Salice Salentino 2014,

Puglia Italy — €12.99

Stockists: O’Donovans, Drink Store, Jus de Vine, Martins, Independents

This wine is a delightful ruby colour which develops hints of orange on the rim with maturity. The nose has an ethereal bouquet and distinctive aromas of cocoa and leather. On the palate, it has a pleasant enveloping structure with the typical rich and warm black fruit notes well combined with the typical French oak aromas.

Le Vigne die Sammarco Uve di Troia 2015,

Puglia, Italy — €15.60

Stockists: Wines Direct Arnotts and Mullingar www.winesdirect.ie

Slight cheat on the price with this one but it is worth the extra 60c. Uve di Troia (or Nero di Troia as it is usually called these days) is almost exclusively grown in Northern Puglia around Bari. These wines can be tannic and dense but as well as the liquorice and forest fruit aromas this has admirable light ripe red and black fruits and lingering freshness.

Verso Rosso Salento IGT 2016,

Puglia, Italy — €14.95

Stockists: Gibneys Malahide, Karwig Wines Carrigaline

A blend of Negroamaro (60%) plus Primitivo (35%) and a little Malvasia Nera, all typical of the heel of Italy. This is packed with ripe sweet fruits with touches of tobacco and chocolate. This could be served a little cooler (eg, 12-14C) if we get a burst of heat in mid September. Try with spicy salami or with pizza.

Best value over €15

Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica,

Marche, Italy — €17.95

Stockists: Baggot St. Wines, Bradleys, Le Caveau, Corkscrew, McGuinness Wines, Greenman

Verdicchio is grown all over Italy under dozens of names but perhaps the most famous version is Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi which is just to the north of V. di Matelica. This is floral, fragrant and delicious with bracing lemon acidity and freshness. Perfect for a warm day or with shellfish.

Cá Vittoria Appassimento 2015,

Puglia, Italy — €16.90

Stockists: Mollys Liquor Stores, Karwigs Carrigaline

Drying grapes prior to crushing is known as Appassimento and is all the rage in Southern and other parts of Italy these days, not just in the Veneto (Valpolicello, Amarone etc). This is dark purple in colour with rich dried red fruit flavours and nice chewy darker fruits on the finish.

Colutta Scioppettino 2012,

Fruili, Italy — €27.80

Stockists: Wines Direct Arnotts and Mullingar www.winesdirect.ie

The Scioppettino grape is only grown in Fruili where many would claim it makes the regions best red wines. This has intense aromas of wild berries with a smoky elegant texture and taut chewy red fruits. Best with some wild mushrooms, hard cheese or perhaps with braised venison.


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