20 August 2014

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Italy - five styles for the purist and five for new-wave drinkers


Offering a huge variety of grapes and wine styles, Italy can be a confusing port of call for wine lovers. To help out, Hamish Anderson recommends five styles for the purist and five for new-wave drinkers, with a choice of wines to try


Pinot Grigio

Bottles of Barolo wine DSCN0395_opt.jpgMade mostly in the cool northerly regions of the country around Venice, Pinot Grigio has been Italy’s star performer over the last 10 years, driving phenomenal sales. The wines come in a range of styles: light, fresh and easy-drinking through to rich, spicy and age-worthy. This serious style often comes from the smaller sub-regions like Alto Adige, Friuli or Collio, and the wines have much in common with Pinot Gris from Alsace – the same grape variety.

WINE TO TRY 2006 Jermann Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giula.

Jermann has been setting the standard for Pinot Grigio since the 1970s. This crisp glass has a palate of dried herbs and spice.


Soave is a region on the up, but sadly its image has been damaged by poor quality, cheap bulk wines. Now, however, a number of quality-conscious estates are helping to restore its tarnished reputation. The best Soave has fabulous aromas of flowers, honey and citrus fruits. The finest wines are generally made in the hillside Classico zone and also utilise the Garganega grape as opposed to the high-yielding, neutral Trebbiano. A small amount of decadent sweet wine, Recioto di Soave, is produced.

WINE TO TRY 2006 Anselmi San Vincenzo.

Anselmi currently chooses not to label its wines as Soave, though this is a classic version. Floral, citrus aromas mix with a savoury palate, while a streak of refreshing acidity runs throughout.


Chianti is Italy’s most famous wine, but it comes from a large area and is produced in a varied range of styles. From savoury, juicy wines designed for drinking now through to complex, spicy bottles that are full of black cherry and leather, meant for the long haul. All are characterised by a refreshing acidity. The main grape of Chianti is Sangiovese, which is grown in a number of different sub-zones, each producing subtly different styles. The ones to look out for are Classico, Rufina and Colli Senesi. A wine labelled Riserva has spent extra time maturing in the barrel and bottle before being released, and is usually an estate’s top offering.

WINE TO TRY 2005 Brolio Chianti Classico.

Founded in the 12th century, Brolio is a historic estate with a modern outlook. This is a structured, intense wine full of creamy black fruits and spice.


Barolo is the jewel in the crown of the Piedmont region. Here in the hilltops that surround the village of Barolo, Italy’s most long-lived wines are fashioned from the Nebbiolo grape. The wines can be deceptively light in colour, yet are nonetheless powerful, brooding bottles that often need a good stint in the cellar to tame their harsh tannins. High in acidity, with flavours of cherries, tar and minerals, these are distinct and world-class wines. Bottle age adds gamey, truffle aromas to the fruit, not unlike a great old Pinot Noir.

WINE TO TRY 2003 Conterno Fantino Barolo ‘Vigna del Gris’.

This estate has made a truly brilliant wine in what was a difficult vintage. Its perfumed nose gives way to red cherries, mocha and spices on the palate. Will happily improve over the next decade.

Brunello di Montalcino

Along with Chianti, Brunello is Tuscany’s other great Sangiovese-producing area. But unlike Chianti, Brunello must be made from 100 per cent Sangiovese. It is also a tiny area compared to Chianti, so the resulting wines are much sought after. Being further south, the vineyards are hotter, resulting in serious, structured wines designed for long-term ageing. They must be four years old before they can be released. Younger wines can be sold under the Rosso di Montalcino label; these are juicy, fruit-driven bottles designed for early drinking.

WINE TO TRY 2002 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino.

2002 was a difficult vintage and only the top estates produced great wines. Lighter than the top years, this is enjoyable now and has attractive flavours of red fruits, sour cherries and wild herbs.



Italian vineyard GH480936_opt.jpg Sicily makes vast amounts of wine and for many years was the workhorse of Italy’s wine industry, producing quantities of robust wines destined for local consumption and blending. The surprise is that despite its southerly, warm location there are still enough cool spots on the island to produce reds with real elegance and fresh, aromatic whites. An initial wave of modernisation in Sicily centred on international grape varieties, but now native ones, such as Nero d’Avola and Inzolia, are taking centre stage.

WINE TO TRY 2006 Mandrarossa Nero d’Avola.

This producer makes outstanding wines that are a bargain. The 2006 has flavours of ripe black fruits and pepper, while supple tannins and a fresh acidity give it structure.

Chianti is Italy’s most famous wine, but it comes from a large area and is produced in a varied range of styles.

From savoury, juicy wines designed for drinking now through to complex, spicy bottles that are full of black

cherry and leather, which are meant for the long haul


The hills around Naples provide the perfect cooling environment for the production of quality grapes. Aromatic, intriguing whites come from Greco and Fiano. Greco is powerful and distinct, often with a piercing core of minerality. Fiano is more delicate with a pronounced floral character. Meanwhile the most important reds come from Aglianico, which makes very deep wines full of character, acidity and tannins. Campania also contains a number of superior sub-regions such as Greco di Tufo, Fiano d’Avellino and Taurasi for reds.

WINE TO TRY 2006 Colli di Lapo Fiano di Avellino.

This is a lovely pure glass of wine that will satisfy Chablis fans. Green apples and flowers on the nose lead to an intense, mineral-laden palate.

Alto Adige

The profile of Alto Adige wines continues to rise in the UK. Many of Italy’s best whites are made in this region, as the cooling influence of the mountains provides perfect growing conditions. Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay are the international varietals, but there are also some wonderful wines being made from local grapes such as Veltliner (Austria’s Grüner Veltliner), Kerner, Müller Thurgau and Sylvaner. Their hallmark is purity of fruit and refreshing acidity. Increasingly, exciting reds are also being made from Lagrein, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

WINE TO TRY 2006 Colterenzio Gewürztraminer.

Colterenzio is a model of how a modern co-operative winery should be run. Quality across the range is stellar. The wine reeks of this highly individual grape – rose petals and a touch of spice – while a core of acidity holds it together.


Puglia comes second only to Sicily in terms of the volume of wine produced and like Sicily, the quality and fortunes of its wines have improved dramatically in recent years. There are a number of sub-regions, such as Salice Salentino, however most wines are simply labelled as coming from Puglia and show the grape variety on the label. The area does make whites, however it is the reds that garner all the praise. Two varieties in particular are suited to the hot, sun-baked countryside: spicy, red-fruited Primitivo and the more concentrated, leathery, robust Negroamaro.

WINE TO TRY 2005 Ognissole Primitivo di Manduria.

This is a dense, full-bodied version of Primitivo. Deep in colour it has flavours of plums, chocolate and coffee while a tannic backbone provides structure.


Abruzzo is yet another region that is shaking off its old image of producing cheap, bulk wines. The whites here are made from Trebbiano, which usually produces a light, innocuous glass but occasionally, in the hands of the best winemakers, can result in rich, complex bottles. The reds, made from the Montepulciano grape, have undergone the biggest changes though. The best are now dense, black-fruited wines which can improve after a few years in bottle. These are some of the best value wines to be found in Italy.

WINE TO TRY 2003 Montipagnano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane ‘Costamorro’.

The famous Marche producer Umani Ronchi runs this estate and has created a chewy, full-bodied expression of the Montepulciano grape.

The wines mentioned in this feature are available from Enotria. With more than 30 years’ experience of supplying the restaurant trade, Enotria is one of the

UK’s leading importers of Italian wines, within a unique portfolio that includes wines from all over the world.

Tel: 020 8961 4411

Web: www.enotria.co.uk

Editorial feature from Square Meal Restaurants & Bars 2008

« Wine - Italy