The perfect way to start the tasting with a fresh and fruity sparkling rosé from Monsupello
Italian wine offers a never-ending journey of discovery – from little known grapes and styles to unfamiliar DOCs, there's a plethora of treats for any wine lover looking for something different. Therefore, it was very easy to accept an invitation to attend the inaugural 'An Italian Wine Journey', organised by GS Wines and Beacon Italy in the tasty surroundings of London's Fish Central restaurant.
A smaller, less formal and more intimate wine tasting than usual, this event focused on boutique wine producers from around Italy, many looking for distribution in the UK, with two masterclasses led by Gordon Stuteley, CEO of GS Wines and Luciana Girotto, experienced sommelier and wine consultant.
Otrepò Pavese is a lesser known wine region in Lombardia (NW Italy), although it is starting to be recognised for the quality of its wines. Bordered by Emiglia Romagna to the east and Piemonte to the west, it has absorbed influences from those regions and also carved out its own style of winemaking with a particular emphasis on sparkling wine, most notably from Pinot Nero. Two interesting sparklers I enjoyed were:-
- Terre Oltrepò SVIC Otrepò Pavese Cruasè Metodo Classico Brut DOCG Rosé
Cruasé is a brand, registered by the consortium of Oltrepò Pavese producers, that refers to Metodo Classico DOCG rosé sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Nero and aged for a minimum of 24 months. This superb example shows notes of red berries and cherries with a saline hint, a slightly savoury/earthy edge with some yeasty/bready notes from the four years lees ageing and a little touch of smoke. An elegant, fruity sparkling wine with plenty of character and a good finish.
- Terre Oltrepò Casteggio Otrepò Pavese Bonarda Frizzante DOC
Sparkling Bonarda was a new style for me and I really enjoyed this version. Floral, medium-bodied with notes of blackberries and a refreshing touch of pomegranate bitterness plus excellent acidity, this should appeal to fans of good quality Lambrusco looking for a little extra oomph! A very interesting and unusual wine that would be great with food, including ravioli, lasagne or charcuterie, for example.
Just when you think you've tried all Italian grape varieties commercially available, along come some more! Maceratino, aka Ribona, is a white grape indigenous to Le Marche on the eastern side of the country and family winery, Il Pollenza, brought two examples to the tasting:-
- 'Angera' Colli Maceratesi Ribona 2016 DOC
Made from 100% Maceratino, this is vinified on lees for six months in cement vats. Floral, delicate and dry with notes of citrus, a slightly honeyed character and a hint of herbs, this is a light, refreshing and very appealing easy-drinking wine.
- 'Brianello' 2016 IGT
A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Maceratino, this is vinified in the same way as the Angera, is richer yet still delicate, with touches of tropical and citrus notes to add to the honey and herbal hints. A lovely discovery!
- Monsupello 'Podere la Borla' Rosso Oltrepò Pavese 2013 DOC
This wine is a blend of Barbera, Croatina (a late-ripening indigenous grape) and Pinot Nero. Served in several renowned restaurants, this wine is aromatic with notes of cherries and raspberries, touches of coffee, a slight savoury edge and an impressively long finish.
Barolo is one of the great wine styles of the world and Franco Conterno had two at the tasting:-
- 'Pietrin' 2013 DOCG
With 24 months in Slavonian oak and one year in bottle, this shows touches of rose petal, red fruit, leather and wild herbs. Still young, this is nevertheless very attractive and the tannins will soften with further years in bottle.
- 'Bussia' Riserva 2011 DOCG
Spending 48 months in French oak barrels before ageing for one year in bottle, this wine is aromatic with notes of berries, violets, liquorice, black pepper and a touch of balsamic with well-integrated tannins. Good potential for ageing.
Fontana Reale produces organic vegan wine in Campania and I particularly liked the two still Aglianicos they brought along:-
- Aglianico Sannio 2012 DOC
This shows fresh acidity, fine tannins and lightness with notes of cherries, spice and a hint of earthiness.
- 'Morgia Noce' Aglianico Sannio Riserva 2011 DOC
More complex, this spent 36 months in oak and although 15% ABV still manages to retain some lightness and delicacy. Aromatic and smooth with red and black berry notes, good acidity and touches of liquorice, cinnamon and wild herbs, this is a very impressive wine.
Raboso is an ancient grape variety from the Veneto drunk by the Roman Legions and mentioned by Pliny the Elder no less!
- Casa Roma Piave Malanotte 2009 DOCG
This Raboso wine is made with 15% rack-dried grapes which add that extra 'appassimento' richness, sweet fruit and texture. It's a complex, rounded wine with notes of fragrant cherries, plums and blueberries, spice, herbs and a touch of molasses. With refreshing acidity and a long finish, this is another unusual, delicious and very interesting wine.
Other wines that stood out from this tasting include the following:-
- Tenuta Villa Trentola 'Il Moro' Sangiovese di Romagna 2011 DOC
This wine from Emilia Romagna is refined, complex and fruity with good acidity, softening nuances of vanilla and coffee plus a little earthy touch.
- Matané Primitivo di Manduria 2015 DOC
This Puglian red has elegance and finesse. Juicy and quite opulent but still fresh, with notes of plums, cherries, sweet spice and a little touch of cocoa, it would go beautifully with lamb.
- Monte Antico Supremus Toscana 2012 IGT
A 'Supertuscan', made from 75% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this shows a lovely balance of cherries and red berries, complemented by softening oaky notes with touches of tobacco and spice and an earthy hint.
While the above shows only a few of the wonderful wines I discovered on the day, there were plenty of others of note and I continue to get the feeling that my own Italian wine journey has many more miles to go!