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In vino veritas

The Italian wine landscape unites a myriad of regions, sub zones and numerous grape varieties like no other wine producing country; a blend of intrigue and sometimes bewilderment for the customer, with hard to interpret bottle labels regularly adding to its mystification.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if every single bottle simply stated the grape variety and offered a brief description of the wine like so many new world counterparts are able to do? Well yes it probably would be…and wouldn’t that run the risk of also being incredibly dull? It could do.

So while Italian wines rich cultural heritage and occasional eccentricities are better off celebrated and not taken out of context, perhaps a simple stamp as to where and when the wine was made plus who produced it wouldn’t go amiss either.

For now though a little endeavour is sometimes required and perhaps some friendly advice from your local independent wine shop might just alleviate any label challenges.

After our French portfolio, the range of Italian wines held is the largest – not just in terms quantity but also breadth – it’s an area we’re ardent fans of.

Here are a handful of favourites and some new arrivals, featuring traditional and international grape varieties. The focus here is red as the transition to autumn gets underway. Prices within this small selection range from £7.95 to £20.

Name / Producer: Terre di Montelusa, Calatrasi / Grape: Primitivo*

Region: Salento, Puglia / Price £7.95

An all round favourite and proof once again what good value there is from southern Italy. The vineyards are based in Salento where the grapes can comfortably achieve good levels of ripeness.

A dark ruby-red with violet overtones, this is medium bodied with a velvety texture featuring ripe predominantly dark fruits and a hint of spice. Works with or without food.

Name / Producer: U Passimiento, Baglio Gibellina / Grapes: Nero D’Avola, Frappato

Region: Sicily / Price £9.95

Nero D’Avola fruit is late harvested and slightly dried (for greater sugar content) while the Frappato is picked fresh. The grapes are fermented separately and then blended. The natural sweetness of the wine is obtained by interrupting the fermentation via cold stabilisation.

This is a full-bodied and hearty offering delivering smooth rich berry fruit and fine elegant tannins. Very much a crowd-pleaser. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Name / Producer: Sabazio Rosso di Montepulciano, Antinori / Grapes: Prugnolo Gentile**, Merlot

Region: Umbria, Tuscany / Price £14.95

An elegant wine, displaying bright red fruit on the nose and a delicate spicy fruit character. The palate delivers more red fruit, flowers and hints of subtle oak from 4 months barrel aging, which all meld perfectly with soft and supple tannins. For the price it punches well above its weight.

Name / Producer: Poggio alle Fate, Castello D’Albola / Grapes: Chardonnay

Region: Chianti, Tuscany / £19.95

New in and very impressive. Not only is this is a fine example of the Chardonnay grape but an original take too. Refreshingly, oak plays no part in the production process so the grape has been left to shine. The nose offers fresh notes of pineapple, grapefruit and lime zest. While the palate is crisp it’s by no means unforgiving; a light creaminess emerges offset by a good acidity. Citrus and green apple accents lead to a crisp dry finish. Not flashy or ostentatious, just downright delicious.

*Primitivo: Puglias most eminent grape variety and widely recognised as being identical to the Zinfandel grape of California. Perhaps less known is that the grape originates from Croatia.

**Prugnolo Gentile is a Tuscan synonym in Montepulciano for Sangiovese. Sangiovese has over 20 regional synonyms. Tuccanese in Puglia and Nerello in Sicily to name but a few.

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