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Suzie HarrisonItaly was named Oenotria or ‘Land of Wine’ by the colonising Greeks. As Majestic Wine Buyer Suzie Harrison explains, it’s an apt name for the most brilliantly diverse wine-producing country in the world – a land whose wines show all the spirit and charm of its people.

Italian Wine estateThe unique world of Italian wine can seem a little unwieldy at first, with an estimated 1,000 vine varieties, annual production pushing 5 billion litres and 20 delineated wine-producing regions producing more than 250 separate Denominazione di Origine Controllata wines, hundreds of Indicazione Geograpfica Tipica (IGTs) and millions of bottles of vino di tavola.

Add in some pretty bewildering nomenclature and the question quickly becomes “where do I start?” It’s an impossible question to answer in three pages, but here’s a brief tour of just some of this summer’s Italian highlights at Majestic.

Whites

Italy MapLet’s kick off with Italy’s varietal superstar: light, crisp, refreshing Pinot Grigio. Northeast Italy is its traditional home and you’ll find the perfect example in a perennial Majestic favourite from Cantina Breganze. Lovely fresh stone-fruits and zippy acidity make this the perfect summer quaffer – easy to see why it’s one of our best sellers.

Across the peninsula is Banfi’s Tuscan take on Pinot Grigio, combining crisp citrus characters with a lovely soft richness on the palate, courtesy of southern Tuscany’s sunny climate.

Of course, there’s far more to Italian whites than Pinot Grigio. From the Roero region of Piemonte, north of Tuscany, comes our delightful Arneis from Marco Porello’s small family estate, with very clean, precise citrus and floral notes, fine acidity and good mineral tone.

Marco Porello WinemakerTo the south, just below Italy’s ‘knee’, Campania’s exciting wines are really starting to make a name for themselves, with the mainly volcanic soils from nearby Vesuvius providing incredible freshness and unique minerality. Lucio Mastroberardino and his team have made a fantastic, superbly rich, beautifully aromatic Falanghina, whose balance and relative weight on the palate make it a great match for a variety of foods.

Another rising star of the Italian white wine scene is the Fiano grape. The recently arrived Fremondo Fiano, from the Sannio region, shows great varietal character – bold white fruit flavours, a hint of nuttiness and a refreshing line of balancing acidity.

Buy any 2 Italian wines save 20%Cross the peninsula again, head north a couple of hundred miles and you arrive in Abruzzo, home of Sistina Pecorino Terre di Chieti. Various legends surround the origin of the name Pecorino – many based on the old belief that the grape bunch resembles a sheep’s head (the Italian for sheep being pecora). The wine itself is fragrant and crisp with a deliciously zesty, lemongrass-infused palate. Salute!

Roero Arneis 2009, Marco PorelloRoero Arneis 2009, Marco Porello

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Pinot Grigio Superiore 2009, Cantina Beato Bartolomeo da BreganzePinot Grigio Superiore 2009, Cantina Beato Bartolomeo da Breganze

£6.99 or £5.59 when you buy 2 bottles*

Sistina Pecorino 2009, Terre di ChietiSistina Pecorino 2009, Terre di Chieti New!

£8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

‘Serena’ Pinot Grigio 2009, Toscana Banfi‘Serena’ Pinot Grigio 2009, Toscana Banfi

£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Falanghina 2009, Terredora Falanghina 2009, Terredora New!

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

La Guardiense Selezione Fiano 2009, DOCLa Guardiense Selezione Fiano 2009, DOC New!

£8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Reds

Italy’s red wines are every bit as enigmatic as its whites, and the styles are even more diverse.

Perhaps the finest of all is the redoubtable Barolo, made from 100% Nebbiolo. Our Galarej Barolo from the classic 2004 vintage is a great entry-level standard bearer for the Denominazione, ably showcasing the classic pure, long, layered Nebbiolo style: herbal compote nose with a palate of dried flowers, underbrush and black cherry.

The next most famous red varietal is Sangiovese, best known for its role in Tuscan classics Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti. The first of our new reds is a stylish 100% Sangiovese from Castello Banfi, with classic cherry and cigar box characters, lovely ripe tannins and balanced acidity.

Italian Reds Group ShotNorthwest of Florence, Carmignano is one of Tuscany’s oldest DOCs and the first to demand the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon to the predominantly Sangiovese blend. The Pratesi family blends 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet and 10% Merlot to make a wine that’s then judiciously aged in French oak barriques. This leads to classic red cherry and violets, with a dense chocolatey palate rounded on the finish by silky smooth tannins. A serious, substantial wine combining depth and power with real finesse.

Moving southeast into Umbria, we come to Polago, a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Montepulciano that’s bright and supple, with lovely juicy fruit and assertive but soft tannin – classic central Italian wine.

Beyond central Italy and Sangiovese, the classic red variety of Veneto is Corvina, the main grape of Valpolicella and Amarone. Ca’ del Pipa’s delicious 100% varietal Corvina has dense black cherry fruit and cassis with a velvety richness and weight on the palate that’s rare at this price level.

Grape picking in the Italian VineyardsFinally, southern Italy presents a very different winemaking scene. A combination of large co-ops and wineries and a conscientious new generation of winemakers has produced a dramatic rise in quality in recent years, yielding wines of lovely character, such as the Terre dell’Isola Nero D’Avola. From a cantina sociale in Mazzara del Vallo, close to Trapani in the northwest of Sicily, this is plummy, peppery and bright on the palate with lovely sweet tannin. A fabulous bargain to finish.

Galarej Barolo 2004, FontanafreddGalarej Barolo 2004, Fontanafredda

£18.99 £18.69 or £14.95 when you buy 2 bottles*

‘Mandrielle’ Sangiovese 2008, Toscana Banfi‘Mandrielle’ Sangiovese 2008, Toscana Banfi New!

£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Pratesi Carmignano Locorosso 2007Pratesi Carmignano Locorosso 2007 New!

£14.99 or £11.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Barberani Polago Rosso 2008, IGTBarberani Polago Rosso 2008, IGT New!

£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Corvina Rosso Veronese 2006, Ca’del PipaCorvina Rosso Veronese 2006, Ca’del Pipa

£9.49 or £7.59 when you buy 2 bottles*

Terre dell’Isola Nero D’Avola 2008, ContriTerre dell’Isola Nero D’Avola 2008, Contri New!

£5.99 or £4.79 when you buy 2 bottles*

*All prices valid until 30th August 2010 unless stated otherwise

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