Sample some of the intriguing wines from Italy

Tucked in between olive groves , in backyards, between churches and ancient monuments… there’s always a vineyard or two or even three

Italy is awash with wine from vineyards planted just about everywhere.

Tucked in between olive groves littered with sheep and goats, in backyards, between churches and ancient monuments… there’s always a vineyard or two or even three.

The region known as Abruzzo is divided into the four provinces of L’Aquila, Teramo, Pescara, and Chieti. Abruzzo borders the region of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and south-west, Molise to the south-east, and the Adriatic Sea to the east.

Citra came into being in 1973 when 7,000 small growers scattered throughout the Abruzzi opted to band together to form a single wine cooperative. After light crushing and pressing of hand-picked grapes, the ‘must’ for Citra Pinot Grigio Terre di Chiete (539312) $12.99. undergoes a long cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Light and bright, full of sassy citric flavours is offers up flavours of apple, white peach and pineapple.

A blend of 60 per cent Merlot and 40 per cent Corvina, Gran Passione Rosso (509018) $16.99 is crafted in an ‘Appassimento’ style like the Amarone wines of the Veneto. Over the centuries, this technique of drying the grapes before crushing has clearly been perfected. Ripe dark cherry, plum, vanilla and cake spices predominate in this remarkably luscious red.

Refosco is a very old family of dark-skinned grape varieties native to the Venetian zone and neighbouring areas of Friuli, Gavi, Trentino, Istria, and Karst Plateau. Made from 100 per cent Refosco Masi Rosa dei Masi (764068) $17.99 has aromas of wild strawberries and some cinnamon spice. A small proportion of the grapes are dried using the appassimento method to concentrate the wine’s acidity and freshness.

Tuscany is best known for its Chiantis and Brunellos – both red wines that are made primarily from Sangiovese grapes.  Recently, however, winemakers have created ‘SuperTuscan’ blends by adding non-traditional grapes.  Think of them as amped-up Chiantis!

Gabbiano Solation Toscana (301754) $18.99 is a blend of 50 per cent Syrah, 45 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 per cent Sangiovese. The peppery, spicy Syrah leads, sliding into the dark blackcurrant notes of Cabernet Sauvignon. can be pretty full-bodied, this blend smells fresh and lively. Cherry and strawberry linger in the finish thanks to the splash of Sangiovese.

Barbera has long filled-in the low slopes and valleys of Piedmont in Northern Italy. Considered a lesser variety than the fables Nebbiolo – ‘the little foggy one’ that is made into Barolo – it doesn’t necessarily get the best hillside exposures. Despite its lowly position, Barbera is the quintessential ‘wine of the people’.

Pico Maccario, a dedicated Barbera specialist, is found on the hills of Mombaruzzo in the Asti DOCG at an average altitude of 180 meters. Comprising one single, contiguous parcel, their vineyard covers 70 hectares and is the largest solely-owned vineyard in Piedmont.

Refreshingly juicy reds like Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera d’Asti (459024) $25.80 is teeth-tinging purple, light-bodied and fresh with aromas of cherry and raspberry, it finishes with the same array of fresh berries, sweet plum, delicate tannins and soft earthy notes on the palate.

The original Chianti blend was proclaimed by Baron Bettino Ricasoli  – later Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy –  as being 70 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Canaiolo and 15 per cent Malvasia Bianca  – a white wine grape -in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Wines labelled ‘Chianti Classico’ come from the largest and most traditional sub-zone of Chianti that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this sub-zone may boast the black rooster seal  – known in Italian as a ‘gallo nero’ – on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium

From that same legendary winemaking family today’s Barone Ricasoli ‘Castello di Brolio’ Chianti Classico (555649) $67.99 Castello di Brolio is typically created from a blend of 90 per cent Sangiovese, 5 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 per cent Petit Verdot.  Fascinating aromas of rose petals open into sweet, ripe cherry aromas and flavours with distinct notes of anise, vanilla and dark chocolate.

Like the finest French wines, Italy’s best wines are built to be enjoyed with a wide range of foods.  Make sure one finds its way to your table at your next feast.

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