Italian wines to sip in the summer heat…

WINE WISE: It sometimes seems that every inch of Italian hillside that isn’t planted with olive trees must be planted with grapevines

Like Spain and France, Italy offers a full range of wines. Still or sparkling, “dry” or sweet, white or rose or red, food-friendly or fortified – if there’s a style of wine that can be made from grapes, there’s an Italian equivalent.

And, invariably, Italian wines are at their best with food!

From the southern heel of the boot Mezzomondo Negroamaro Puglia IGT (135178) $10.99 is a surprisingly smooth medium-bodied red that features lush ripe black cherry/ tarry berry flavours over a leathery twist of liquorice.

For thousands of years, Italy has been awash in wine. It sometimes seems that every inch of Italian hillside that isn’t planted with olive trees must be planted with grapevines. There’s a wealth of styles available to us from this one small boot-shaped country.

Fresh from a facelift with a new label for the 2014 vintage Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT (667915)  $11.35 should be on the top of everyone’s list for pairing with oysters and white-fleshed seafood.

A touch of tree bark lingers beneath first impressions of apple and pear, then this lively white wine slides through lemon and grapefruit into subtle notes of mandarin orange and mango.

There is a treasury of traditional Italian wines but Italy is continually and busily redrawing its own wine landscape. Expect more IGT surprises – Indicazione Geografica Tipica – next time you peruse the Italian selections in your favourite wine shop.

Nespolino Rosso Rubicone IGT (520833) $13 is a masterful blend of 70 per cent Sangiovese and 30 per cent Merlot.

There are no excuses for not having a few bottles of this affordable and easy to like medium-bodied red on hand, while it is still available.

Aromas and flavours of cherries and plums predominate, without overpowering the subtle notes of tree bark and fresh-stropped leather that add interest to the finish.

IGT wines are unofficially divided, in reality, into three rough groups: industrial grade, decent country wines, and creative (…and often pretty pricey) non-traditional blends.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing much about the eventual quality of the wine in the glass from the label.

Only patient sampling can sort them out.

Trends in sparkling white wine have settled on Prosecco, the light and softly sizzling white specialty of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in the northeast.

Emotivo Prosecco DOC Veneto (153981) $16 captures the freshness of just sliced peaches, a squirt of lemon juice and sweet and sour apple aromas and flavours. Like most Proseccos, this one should be sipped young and well chilled.

To be called Bianco di Custoza Superiore, a wine must reach a final alcohol level of 11 per cent alcohol by volume – a full 1.5 per cent higher than the standard version.

This is an unusually stringent DOC law; for almost every other superiore wine in Italy the requirement is just 0.5 per cent and occasionally 1 per cent  .

An amazingly tasty Italian white Monte del Fra ‘Ca del Magro’ Custoza Superiore DOC (216077) $21 is an incredibly complex blend of mostly indigenous Italian wine grapes that finished up at 13 per cent alc/vol.

The result is an astonishingly full-bodied dry white that overflows with ripe peach flavours over honeyed lemon drops with a dusting of chalk underlying the more obvious and tantalizingly tropical fruit.

Ripasso is a red wine style from Valpolicella zone north of Verona in the Veneto region of Italy often referred to as a kind of Baby Amarone. Regularly fermented wine is added to the skins and lees left over from fermented Amarone wines.

“The Montresor family has been making wine since the 1600’s and today owns around 375 acres of prime vineyards in the Veneto region” according to Wine Words Wisdom’s Richard Marcis. Montresor Capitel della Crosara Valpolicella Ripasso DOP (327791) $25 is aged in oak for 16 months and has rich and dusky dried black cherry, sweet vanilla and fragrant sun-roasted spice flavors.

This is a single vineyard red wine produced from grapes grown on the estate’s “Capitel della Crosara” vineyard.

Sponsored by MetroLiquor your WineWise guy will be guiding a Sauvignon Blanc and Seafood tapas event on July 11th at 6:30 p.m. at The Riptide Pub & Grill.  Tickets are $40.

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