By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 10 May 2019
As the largest wine producing country in the world, Italy can be a minefield for the wine lover with its myriad of little known regions. To help you choose, we have selected unusual fizz, white, red and sweet gems from across the country to suit all tastes and budgets:
Lombardy: FERGHETTINA FRANCIACORTA BRUT NV (12.5%)
£20 Woodwinters, Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan & Inverness www.woodwinters.com
Grapes: 95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir
Italian fizz has made a name for itself, but many UK drinkers are missing out on one of Italy’s best kept secrets, the prestigious Franciacorta fizz. Made by the same method and grapes as Champagne, with a touch more ripeness, nuttiness and vinosity and the usual racy Italian zip. If you normally buy non-vintage Champagne, try Ferghettina’s crisp creamy version or their vintage version at £30.
Marche: LA CALCINARA CLOCHARD BIANCO 2017
£19.95 Swig www.swig.co.uk
Verdicchio with a just touch of Chardonnay from Marche region on Italy’s east coast, once the historic borderlands of the Papal States. Best known for its gutsy reds, this rich textured tangy minerally white is a real discovery. It is named Clochard, which means vagrant in French, as the vines lie outside Verdicchio Castelli DOC boundary – so it is labelled as a simple IGT rather than DOC.
Sicily: ZIBIBBO ORGANIC VITESE 2018 Colomba Bianca (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£11.69 Valvona & Crolla
From Sicily’s dynamic Colomba Bianca cooperative, an enchanting Muscat (known locally as Zibibbo) with lifted floral blossomy aromas, zesty tangy palate with very ripe citric fruits, but so bright and vibrant. Muscat is often used for sweet wines, but this is crisp and dry – ideal for those who like pungent whites as an aperitif. Very popular with tasters who loved its uplifting aromas and textural minerally palate.
Marche: PASSERINA DELLE MARCHE 2018 Fazi Battaglia (12.5%)
£14.99 Valvona & Crolla
You don’t often see the Passerina grape on labels, as this old Marche variety is often swallowed up into blends with Pecorino or Trebbiano. At its best grown on Marche’s sunny hillside vineyards, it makes an enchantingly fresh apple and pear flavoured dry white with a distinctly spicy aftertaste.
Lazio: MALVASIA PUNTINATA ‘ROMA’ 2018 Principe Pallavicini (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£14.49 / £15.99 HendersonWines; Valvona & Crolla; The Cave; Cornelius Wines
Grape: Malvasia del Lazio
Malvasia Puntinata is one of many rare versions of the Malvasia variety found in Italy; it is actually a sibling grape of Muscat of Hamburg and Schiava Grossa created in Castelli Romani in southern Lazio region. This unoaked version smells like a cross between floral Riesling and grapey Muscat with highly aromatic notes, its palate is more like a Sauvignon Blanc with green fruits and plenty of zippy acidity and minerally notes from Lazio’s volcanic soil.
Abruzzo: CERASUOLO D’ABRUZZO 2018 Fantini (13%)
£12.99 Valvona & Crolla
It’s time to pull out the pink to enjoy in the sunshine. This is the rose version from the Montepulciano grape produced amongst a sea of reds across four subzones in Abruzzo: the best from Teramo. As a rose, it is enchantingly lively with light cherry fruits and vibrant acid bite.
Sicily: IL PICCOLO VINDING MONTE CARRUBO 2017
£28.50 Swig www.swig.co.uk
Syrah is not such an unusual grape, but it certainly is in Sicily. This is made by legendary Danish winemaker Peter Vinding Diers, who worked across Europe from Bordeaux to Ribera del Duero (where he was mentor to his nephew Peter Sisseck of Pingus) to Hungary. Now he has landed in Sicily to explore its volcanic terroir, where he makes this very Rhone-like version of Syrah with spice and pepper aromas and ripe smooth flavours.
Veneto: VENETO ROSSO ‘SORAIE’ 2016 Cecilia Beretta
£11.95 Corney & Barrow www.corneyandbarrow.com
Grapes: Corvina, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Croatina
A fabulous bargain for Amarone lovers. The Pasqua family use the same method partially drying grapes prior to fermentation to enhance aroma, glycerol, raisiny depth and flavours. An unusual blend of local Corvina and Croatina grapes with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cherry fruited, silky smooth, juicy raisiny with hints of spice.
Sicily: NERELLO MASCALESE MICINA 2018 Fantini (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£16.59 Valvona & Crolla
Grape: Nerello Mascalese
Our tasters loved this meaty earthy blackfruited red with its hints of vanilla and burnt earth. The palate has interesting savoury balsamic notes and gentle tannins. Quite pricey, but this noble Sicilian grape grown around Etna has so much character and depth even at such a young age – Nerello Mascaleses are also capable of ageing. Its ethereal notes reminded me a little of Nebbiolo grape, so if you are a Barolo fan try this Sicilian gem.
Lazio: CESANESE RUBILLO 2017 Pallavicini (12.5%)
£14.99 Valvona & Crolla
From Lazio’s prime red grape planted here (and in Tuscany) since C17 and named after a village south of Rome. It was traditionally made sweet and frothy, but this is a light unoaked smooth red. What is very noticeable is its incredible aroma of blackberry and mulberry which tempts you in. The palate is surprisingly light (ideal for summer drinking) with soft cherried fruits, velvet smooth initially with a hint of bitterness on the finish.
Umbria: ORVIETO CLASSICO SUPERIORE MUFFA NOBILE ‘CALCAIA’ 2015 Barberani (11%)
£25 for 50 cl bt The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com
Grapes: Trebbiano & Grechetto
‘Muffa nobile’ means the grapes were affected by ‘noble rot’, the same as found in Sauternes in France. This Umbrian dessert wine really does rival the best botrytis wines with its incredible aroma, smooth soft palate and clean dry finish. Barberani are based close to the enchanting hilltop town of Orvieto with vineyards sloping down to Lake Corbara which creates this a special microclimate conducive to developing the essential noble rot.
Veneto: I CAPITELLI BIANCO DOLCE 2015 Anselmi (12%) ***STAR BUY***
£20 hf bt Fine Wine Co Musselburgh; £25 hf bt Great Western Wine
This is basically a Soave Passito (a sweet Soave), made from Garganega grapes dried on mats, fermented and aged 16 months in oak. Winemaker Roberto Anselmi is based in the heart of Soave Classico, but refuses to use the name Soave. Capitelli refers to the chapels in the vineyards which have the best sun exposure. Honeyed apricot and pineapple flavours, rich spicy and sweet – but finishes long and dry like all the best sweet wines.
Join Rose’s Hidden Italian Gems wine tasting with Italian Charcuterie at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh Thursday 20 June £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com