Italy is on my mind this week having recently watched the documentary Natural Resistance at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe about rebel “natural” wine makers in Italy.
The excellent “rustic Italian” meal served afterwards featured wines from the film provided by Le Caveau and most worked well with the food.
One of the wines served was an “orange wine”, a white wine fermented on its skins like a red wine, a process that obliterates all varietal and regional character in my view. While the wine was pleasant enough to drink and matched the radicchio salad (and seemed to go down well with the audience), I remain to be convinced.
The director’s previous wine-themed film Mondovino had a simple (albeit distorted) message also – “big wine producers are evil, small producers are saints”.
Mondovino, however, gave some real insight into the business of wine and was genuinely hilarious in parts (eg, famous wine critic Robert Parker interviewed beside his incessantly flatulent bulldog).
All the winemakers featured in Natural Resistance grow their grapes organically or bio-dynamically, use natural yeasts and add minimal (or zero) sulphur to their wines. I completely approve of the first two and am distrustful of the last, given that sulphur has been used in winemaking to prevent spoilage since Roman times.
I enjoyed parts of the film as winemakers (and dedicated farmers) are always interesting to listen to, but overall the film is a total mess, with bizarre clips from old movies randomly dropped in without rhyme or reason. The film is also an agitprop polemic without a hint of balance or perspective and contains an appallingly offensive moment when the director compares clonal selection of vines to the Nazis attempt to eliminate Jews and homosexuals – at this point I wanted to throw something at the screen.
I am fine with natural winemaking if the wines taste good (and most of Le Caveau’s wines taste great) but what I dislike is zealotry.
For the diary: Irish Beer and Whiskey Festival — March 13-17, RDS Main Hall, Dublin. Featuring more than 100 Craft Beers and four Distilleries — www.irishbeerandwhiskeyfestival.com/
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Santoro Negroamaro Puglia IGP, Italy — €11.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Stores Waterford, Kellers Carry Out, Roscrea and Nenagh, Vintry Rathgar, Independents
Smoky, baked fruit aromas with a bright blackberry and red-fruit-driven palate, some decent acidity and a lingering cherry skins finish. The smoky flavours mean this would very much suit a pizza from a wood-burning oven, but also tomato-based pasta dishes.
Castellani Syrah 2010 IGP Sicilia, Italy — €11.00
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Made with organically grown grapes and containing aromas of tar and cassis, chewy structured blackcurrant fruit on the palate, good acidity, and a touch of chocolate on the finish. Try with spicy Italian sausage. Dunnes have a 25% discount on every four bottles of wine until Paddy’s Day.
Pasqua Passimento 2011, Veneto IGT, Italy — €13.99
Stockists: No. 21 Cork, Midleton, Charleville, Matson’s Bandon and Grange, Brosnan’s EuroSpar Schull, Ardkeen Stores, Vintry Rathgar, Independents
The only Northern Italian in this week’s selection, but proof value can be found in the posher parts of Italy. Made from a blend of fresh and dried (apassimento) grapes with a juicy flavour of cherries and redcurrants.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
A Mano Fiano-Greco 2013, Puglia, Italy — €16.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines Waterford, Vanilla Grape Kenmare, Bean & Berry Wexford, Sweeney’s, The Corkscrew, thewineshop.ie
The A Mano range was a highlight of the recent Liberty Wines tasting and I adored this floral, peach-driven aromatic white. Following the aromatic attack comes some structure and fine acidity with a lime and grapefruit finish. Try with creamy pasta or some mussels.
A Mano Primitivo 2009, Puglia, Italy — €16.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines Waterford, Vanilla Grape, Kenmare, Bean & Berry Wexford, Sweeney’s, Clontarf Wines, The Corkscrew, thewineshop.ie
Primitivo is genetically identical to Californian Zinfandel — a smooth ripe-cherry and blackberry-flavoured wine which also has touches of coffee and chocolate and good acidity. All the A-Mano reds are worth trying.
Vigneti del Salento Salice Salentino 2012, Puglia, Italy — €15.99
Stockists: No. 21 Cork, Midleton, Charleville, Florries Tramore,
Negroamaro is the dominant red grape in quality red wine from Puglia and it is usually worth taking a risk on an unfamiliar bottle.
This has weighty stewed fruit aromas and flavours with a soft blackberry and bitter cherry mid-palate and a lingering soft finish.
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