This week I am returning to Italy with a scattered selection of suggestions that range from north to south.
Italy’s wine output is huge and it is impossible to generalise about the country’s wines and difficult to grasp the diversity of the world’s largest wine producer.
Jancis Robinson’s definitive book on wine grapes lists 377 different grapes that are grown commercially for wine production in Italy, more than any other country (France comes second with 204).
From the cool north which grows Germanic grapes such as Gewurztraminer and Riesling to the heat of the south and Sicily growing grapes you have probably never heard of such as Aglianico, Narello Mascalese and Cattaratto.
Central Italy has underrated regions such as the Marche and Abruzzo and Molise, Sardinia has character all its own and to be honest there is hardly a scrap of the country that is not under vine.
The south generally offers the best value in Italy but also less easy to understand and you will have to get used to buying grapes that are unfamiliar.
Italy’s most famous wines are from the better off regions such as Piedmont, Tuscany and the Veneto and at the top end these can be as expensive but there is value here also.
Beware of inexpensive Chianti but I do have a good value one to recommend below.
I visited Tuscany as the guest of Lidl a few weeks ago and they have some bargains in their wine sale which begins on Monday next (June 12).
I visited the Chianti producer mentioned below and enjoyed an interesting walk among their immaculately tended Sangiovese vines which were just coming into flower.
If you haven’t visited rural Tuscany yet it really is one of those trips you need to make sometime in your life.
All you have heard is true about the beauty of the rolling hills with forests full of wild boar and the golden light shining on churches perched on hill tops.
Besides the wines I mention below there is a decent fragrant Sicilian Grillo, a solid cherry and blackberry Rosso de Montepulciano from Tuscany and a chocolate tinged Nero di Troia from Duca di Sasseta in Puglia.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Medici Riccardi Chianti Colli Senesi 2015, Tuscany, Italy — €9.99
Chianti is a huge region with many sub-regions such as Chianti Ruffina, Colli Florentina and this one — Colli Senesi which is located in the hills around Sienna.
This is a good inexpensive Chianti with cherry aromas, light red ‘amaro’ fruits on the palate, medium bodied in a fruity and very drinkable style.
La Cicogna Barbaresco DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy — €12.99
Barbaresco is an expensive region and it is rare to find a drinkable wine at entry level.
What I liked most here was the classic Nebbiolo grape fragrance — red fruits with a smoky tar-tinged edge followed by lingering structured red fruit on the palate. Best with meat but would also work with rich mushroom or cheese flavours.
Falanghina IGP Benevento 2015, Campania, Italy — €7.99
Falanghina is a very old variety from Campania that is aromatic, weighty and retains its acidity despite the heat in the region.
Fresh pear and peach aromas hit first followed by fruity creamy (bruised) apple flavours on the palate and a touch of bitter apricot on the finish. A good inexpensive aperitivo with lots of clean fruity freshness.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Pasquale Petrera Primitivo Gioia del Colle ‘Fatalone’, Puglia — €21.95
Stockists: Bradleys, Le Caveau Kilkenny, Baggot Street Wines, Greenman Wines, Corkscrew
From an organic vineyard 400m above sea level in the heel of Italy, this producer coaxes lovely purity from this grape with black berries and raisins on the nose, structured and dense dark fruits with clove and pepper spice elements.
A Mano Bianco 2016, Puglia, Italy — €16.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines, Vanilla Grape, Selected Next Door Outlets (eg, Ennis)
The A Mano range is eminently reliable and has been instrumental in pushing boundaries and bringing the wines of Puglia to a wider audience.
This is a blend of Fiano, Falanghina and Greco and has big ripe stone fruit aromas along with tropical and floral touches and crisp fresh acidity.
Nebbiolo de Langhe, Produttori Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy — €23.95-24.95
Stockist: Cinnamon Cottage Rochestown, Karwigs Carrigaline, Corkscrew, 1601 Kinsale
Nebbiolo is notorious for being unyielding and difficult in its youth but this fine co-operative always has a lighter more elegant touch.
This has classic violet and herbal aromas mixed with touches of chocolate and cherry. Structured but supple tannins and lingering cherry skins on the finish.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved