ItalyThe last two years have been something of a revelation for self-confessed Francophile Christine Mitchell, who manages our Bearsden store. Here she recalls the two voyages of discovery that led her to embrace the true delights of Italy.

Italy had always been a bit of an enigma to me, until I finally got round to exploring it in 2009 and 2010. Since returning from those trips, on which I was treated to the very best food and wines in some of the country’s most exciting wine-producing regions, I’m converted. And of course, I can now share all that firsthand experience with my customers.

2009 – First impressions

Italian vineyardMy first trip, a tour of the picture-perfect vineyards of Umbria, Tuscany and Le Marche, began in the medieval hill city of Orvieto. And what a start it was: dining on Cinghale (wild boar) and truffles while supping a refreshing glass of Orvieto and looking out over the Umbrian countryside. From there, it was on to Chianti. Sitting in the picturesque San Leonino winery, tasting its brilliant wares among undulating hills peppered with pretty vineyards, it’s hard not to imagine yourself on a film set. Similarly memorable was Montalcino at sunset, with a glass of decadent Brunello di Montalcino in hand.

Driving through the Appenines to Jesi in Le Marche was a fabulous final leg to the trip. As well as sampling the sassy Sangiovese/Montepulciano blend Sassaiolo, I discovered the startling ageing capacity of Verdicchio, thanks to a vertical tasting of vintages from the last decade. It was astonishing to find that the older wines hadn’t lost their freshness at all.

2010 – Second coming

Italian vineyardLast year’s trip started in Basilicata, the mountainous, sparsely-populated sole of Italy’s boot, sandwiched between Calabria and Puglia. There we visited the D’Angelo family, who make a stunning Aglianico del Vulture and who introduced me to one of the best food and wine pairings I’ve ever tasted. The chef simply emptied a bottle of Aglianico into a pan, reduced it down to a syrup, then poured it over the strong, sharp local cheese and served it with walnuts. Fabulous!

ItalyOn to Puglia, the ruggedly beautiful region that contrasts starkly with Italy’s central belt. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with its warm, sunny, laid-back charm – or its unique wines. Here, Masseria Monaci makes long-time Majestic favourite Copertino from the rich, juicy Negromaro grape. And following an abundant lunch, we marked a harmonious relationship by signing a magnum that now takes pride of place at the winery.

Just when we felt things couldn’t possibly improve, we met Gregory, who makes our Primitivo, I Monili. Our winery visit began with yet more amazing food, washed down with delicious full-bodied reds. After a quick look round the winery, Gregory decided that an afternoon at the beach was called for. And so it was that we found ourselves at his beach house eating homemade Melanzane Parmigiano, beef olives and octopus stew, laughing all evening with our hosts and finishing the night – and the trip – off in style, eating gelato at 1am in the nearby village.

2011 – Third time even luckier

Italian vineThis year sees me return to Italy once again, to the north where I’ll be taking in the sights and sampling the oenological delights of Piedmont, Veneto and Alto Adige. I cannot wait!

Pinot Grigio Bacaro 2010, IGT Venezie
£6.49 £6.24 or £4.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Light, fresh and easy drinking with floral notes and stone fruit hints.

Copertino 2007, Masseria Monaci
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
This Puglian red, made with the intriguing Negromaro grape, is soft, rich and juicy with dark plummy fruits and a touch of spice.

‘Sassaiolo’ Rosso Piceno Superiore 2008, Monte Schiavo
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
A phenomenally quaffable wine at a great price, with ripe black fruit and a lingering finish.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2010, Monte Schiavo
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Floral aromas and zippy lemony characters on the light palate. Almonds linger on the finish.

I Monili Primitivo del Tarantino 2009/10, Racemi
£7.99 or £6.39 when you buy 2 bottles
Soft tannins and luscious black fruits with some dried fruit on the finish. Drink with a rustic tomato pasta dish.

Gavi La Lancellotta 2010
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles
This Piedmont beauty continues to be a Majestic favourite. Fresh green apple and pear flavours balance superbly with flinty mineral crispness.

Sistina Pecorino 2010, Terre di Chieti
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Firm and dry with a mineral finish and citrus nuances, this is perfect as an apéritif or with summer salads.

Valpolicella Classico 2009, Cantina di Negrar
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Juicy red berries abound, balanced by sweet spice. The finish is smooth and velvety.

Corvina Rosso Veronese 2006/08, Ca’del Pipa
£9.49 or £7.59 when you buy 2 bottles
Lighter than Amarone, but retaining all those soft juicy black fruits, plus hints of violet and spice, for a full, rich mouthfeel.

Barbera d’Alba Sucule 2008, Villa Lanata
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Intense black cherries, plums and liquorice on the nose, while the dark fruits on the palate are well balanced by firm tannins.

Chianti Classico San Leonino 2008, Tenimenti Angelini
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
A robust Chianti displaying typical tangy red cherry and berry fruits, with integrated tannins and a smooth finish.

Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio 2010, Alto Adige
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
A wonderfully rich Pinot Grigio. Its rounded pear, melon and peach flavours are offset by a crisp acidity.

Soave Classico 2009, Inama
£13.99 £13.74 or £10.99 when you buy 2 bottles
This is no run-of-the-mill Soave. The Garganega grape gives complex honey and apricot flavours, floral aromatics and a persistent finish.

Locorosso Carmignano 2007/08, Pratesi
£14.99 or £11.99 when you buy 2 bottles
An elegant blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet and 10% Merlot aged in French oak barriques, this has classic red cherry and violet flavours, plus firm tannins. Fabulous with roasted red meats.

Castel Turmhof Gewurztraminer 2009/10, Tiefenbrunner
£19.99 or £15.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Complex on the nose and palate alike. It’s aromatic with a depth of tropical fruit flavours, honey and just a dash of nutmeg.

*Prices valid until 29 August 2011

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