Italy Today

POSTED ON 25/05/2013

Which wine country today has the greatest capacity to confuse, irritate, reward, inspire and delight? Got it in one: Italy. It’s not really surprising for a country of 20 different wine regions with its head in the Alps and foot in the Mediterranean. To add to that confusing diversity, Wine Grapes (Allen Lane, £120) a scholarly new work co-authored by Jancis Robinson MW, tells us that Italy leads the world in the number of its commercially produced native grape varieties: 377 compared to France’s 204 and Spain’s 84.

The best place for Italophiles to hunt down their wines is often the independent Italian specialist. The list is long, but to mention just a handful, Lea & Sandeman, Vini Italian, Oeno, Great Western Wine, and both Raeburn and Valvona & Crolla in Edinburgh really know their cipolle. In contrast, high street and supermarket customers have often found Italy to be a graveyard for Italy, but the summer press tastings have revealed encouraging signs of renewed vigour.

Marks & Spencer’s new Italian range is designed to meet the challenge of that sappy freshness that makes Italy’s wines so appetising. Showing the character of Italy’s newfound thirst for intriguing dry whites, the 2012 Etna Bianco, £10.99, is a case in point, a richly concentrated yet bone dry, almost mineral white that springs from Etna’s volcanic soils. A counterpart to the Etna Bianco, the 2011 Etna Rosso, £9,99, is bright and strawberryish, almost pinot noir, with a spicy cherryish undertow and typically grippy, rustic tannins.

Bright new reds include an effortlessly juicy 2010 Frappato, £7.99, a moreish, barbecue-friendly summery red with fragrance and summer pudding bite, while, most intriguing of all, the new 2011 Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, £11.99, from the Marche near Ancona, displays a spice and rose petal perfume which infuses the scented fruit with its floral, spicy quality. It’s equally intriguing to see the bad old chianti wicker flask on display. The retro fiasco is virtually a visual joke now, yet the liquid within the 2012 Chianti Flask, £9.99, turns out to be a genuine herby, spicy, cherryish chianti of good quality.

Chianti can be a minefield but it’s pleasing to see so many good examples. Sainsbury’s juicy red berryish Winemaker’s Selection Chianti Riserva, £6.99, does what it says on the tin, while the superior 2009 Cecchi Sagrata Chianti Classico, £9.99, Waitrose, shows that lively acidity, textured richness and succulent sour cherry fruit quality that you’re hoping for in a chianti at under a tenner. For an affordably juicy rosso for the this summer, I doubt that you’ll be disappointed by the Waitrose Rich and Intense Italian Red, £4.99. It’s not a looker, but this southern Italian native grape blend packs a punch of gutsy, peppery and plum spice fruitiness above its weight.

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Something For The Weekend Saturday 25 May

Night In

2010 Tesco Simply Garnacha, Bodegas Borsão

You only get 30p’s worth of wine after tax and costs in a £5 bottle, but this bright strawberryish Spanish Beaujolais-alike delivers a gluggy quaffability that would equally service picnics or wash down pasta and barbecued ribs. Tesco, £4.99.

Dinner Party

2011 Loimer Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal

Fresh, floral and fragrant with a peppery note, the purity of peach and apple fruit in this summery dry biodynamic white is complemented by a citrus-crisp aftertaste. £14.50 - £16, Sheldon’s (01608661409), Morrisons, Stainton (01539 731886), The Secret Cellar (01892537981).

Splash Out

2010 Dog Point Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand

Behind the berry fruit fragrance is a seductively juicy mulberry and loganberry fruit quality with the silkiest of textures and the most mouthwatering balancing freshness. Imagine New Zealand meets Vosne Romanée. £27.50, Berry Bros & Rudd (08002802440).


Our sponsor