Italy is one of the largest producers of wine in the world. It has a viticultural history stretching back to the pre-Roman era, when the Etruscans trained indigenous vines up tree trunks – a practice echoed in the high-training systems found mainly in the North of the country. With over 800 grape varieties grown, there is an amazing range of styles- some are well known, some you will only encounter in a trattoria tucked away in a side alley of a small village.
There is something Italian for everybody:
If you are a Cabernet fanatic, why not try a Barolo from Piedmont. Made from Nebbiolo, it is very tannic and forceful when young, yet evolves into a scented, multi-dimensional masterpiece with age. The Ciabot Berton (£25 for one or buy 2 save £6 = £22) is a fantastic example from a fine vintage.
Prefer Pinot Noir? Why not try the Barbera variety? Lighter in body, it has fresh cherry and herb flavours and a pleasingly fresh acidity. The Sucule Lanata Barbera d’Alba (£7.99*) is a great example. But be warned: you may find that you no longer consider Pinot Noir to be your drink of choice!
If you fancy something a bit different, the Locoroso Carmignano (£11.99*) is well worth a try. A blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet and 10% Merlot, it offers dark fruits, sweet spice and a herby lift.
My favourite value-for-money red from anywhere in the world is the Ca’Del Pipa Corvina Rosso (£7.59*). Corvina is the main grape variety found in Valpolicella and Amarone and so clearly has a distinguished track record. This wine has lovely red fruit and licquorice, balanced by a touch of sweet spice and herbs. As with almost all Italian wines, the acidity is pretty high. This perfectly offsets the fruit intensity, and makes it ideal with a homemade pizza topped with parma ham and other Italian delights.
Prefer something white? The Suavia Soave Classico (£8.79*) is a beauty. Medium bodied, it has delicate floral aromas backed up by a slight nuttiness and tons of minerality and acidic verve. I have a feeling that if you like Chardonnay or are bored of Sauvignon Blanc, partnering this wine with some fish will be the best decision of your week!
There are masses of Pinot Grigio’s that come out of Italy. The worst are watery and fairy neutral in flavour, however the better examples have fresh tropical flavours and floral aromas. Something like the Banfi Serena Pinot Grigio (£5.99*) will see you through many barbecues over the summer.
Finally, the Orvieto Classico (£5.59*) is a lovely crisp aromatic wine, a great match with a fresh lettuce based salad or a simple seafood starter.
Yes, Italy is a minefield of laws and labels, but part of the pleasure is discovering something new. Why not pop into your local store between Friday 14th and Monday 20th May to see what we have available to taste during our Italian Tasting Week.
*20% off when you buy 2 or more still Italian Wines between £4.50 and £19.99