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One of most exciting and wonderful aspects of the Italian wine culture has to be the plethora of native grapes that the country contains which is rumoured to be in excess of 2,000 unique varieties spread across twenty different geographical regions. This incredible number gives the country such a broad range of styles at all sweetness, body, flavour profile and complexity levels that there really is something to please everyone, as well as something new and exciting to try.
The Arneis grape - who’s name literally translates to ‘difficult personality’- has an interesting and complex past. The grape was once one of the most widely planted grapes in North East Italy and produced some of the best white wines in the region. The grape is native to the Roero hills subregion of Piemonte and have been cultivated in this part of the world for around 500 years. However, as the name suggests, Arneis is extremely difficult to grow and for this reason it is important to select only the best producers for the wine. At its best the wines produced can be rich, complex and fuller bodied, with notes of ripe pear, white flowers and stone fruit. Sadly, after phylloxera hit the grape almost became extinct and was saved in the 1960s by two great houses of the region - Vietti and Bruno Giacosa – who still produce great examples. Since then other great houses have jumped on the bandwagon. One of the finest in our opinion is Castello di Neive who produce an exceptional Arneis which pairs well with white fish dishes, creamy pasta and herbed chicken dishes. This wonderful wine is a bargain at £22.00
Cortese is a grape also native to Piemonte and is predominately grown around the town of Gavi. It has become the principle white grape grown in the region and famous for its subtly aromatic profile and its striking lemon zest character. In the warmest vintages can develop a significant body and fruit to balance the grapes natural acidity. This region has cultivated Cortese for centuries but began to gain popularity in the 1960s. The wines of Gavi are a perfect sipper for any patio during the summer months, which is partly due to the freshness preserved by the region’s altitude. This freshness also makes the wine an amazing accompaniment to white fish dishes. The Villa Sparina Gavi is made from 100% Cortese and is one of the iconic wines from the region. The winery owes its unique bottle shape to the historic bottles found when excavating the cellars beneath the vineyard. These are available in 750ml for £21, magnum for £44.50 and halves for £12.20
Greco di Tufo is an aromatic wine made from the Greco grape. The wines are focused around the town of Tufo in Campania. The volcanic tufo soils produce wines that are often of exceptionally high quality and can easily withstand significant bottle age. The Tufo, or Tuff in English is formed from fallen volcanic ash gives the wines a strong mineral profile, while the southernly warmth of the region gives the wine weight and its distinctive stone fruit profile. A great example of this wine comes from I Favati, who are a house that is well regarded in the region for the quality of their wines. The vineyard was founded in 1998 by Giancarlo Favati and is the result of the combination of careful attention to detail in the vineyard and the latest technology in the winery. The I Favati is a bargain at only £18.50
The wines from Sicily have been produced for centuries, but are currently some of the most exciting wines on the market. The region has benefited from the volcanic soils movement which has seen the vineyards focus far more on quality, showcasing the wonderful minerality and precise flavour profile for both the reds and the whites coming from the region. The best quality region on the island comes from often incredibly old vines planted on the slopes of the Etna DOC – one of Europe’s most active volcanos.
The altitude counteracts the hot Mediterranean climate giving the wines their characteristic acidity and freshness. The reds are made from Nerello Mascalese and the whites from Carricante, both of which are some of Italy’s greatest grapes for showcasing terroir. Nerello Mascalese is often described as having the elegance of Pinot Noir and the fruit of a Zinfandel.
Tenute Pietro Caciorgna is one of our store favourites right now. The founding couple fell in love with the region when they moved from Tuscany with their seven children and initially only started making wine for family and friends, but the quality was so good they were requested to start making it commercially! Their Ciauria is a medium bodied wine showing notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, leather with that underlying volcanic soil minerality. This is only £19.70.
The Puddora Etna Bianco from Tenuta di Fessina is a crisp zesty white wine with notes of lemon, orange peel tropical fruit and a wonderful long saline finish. These wines often have a slight nuttiness and the top tiers truly are age worthy wines. This is incredible value for the quality at £35.55
Umbria is responsible for some truly remarkable wines made from unique grape varieties – the most popular and distinctive of which has to be Sagrantino which is native to the area around Montefalco. The grape is an ancient variety which was historically made into a sweet passito wine however today the wines are almost always fermented dry.
The king of Umbria wines is Sagrantino Montefalco which are typically full bodied with robust tannins, mellowed by at least 30 months of aging before release and balanced by intense aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum along with complex notes of leather, meat and spicy notes. These wines are often incredibly powerful and dense with lively acidity which make them suitable for long term ageing.
The Sagrantino Montefalco di Pannone 2010 from Antonelli is a perfect example of these wines which comes from the Pannone vineyard one of the best sites in Montefalco. The Antonelli family purchased the estate in 1881, and it still remains in the same family to this day. From 2009 the estate moved into completely organic farming practices, and their wines have become regarded as some of Italy’s finest wines.
This wine can only be described as having an almost ethereal quality, with notes of cherry, berry, mint and oregano and comes into its maturity with ten years of bottle age with a lifespan of up to thirty years. This is certainly one for the cellar! Available in limited quantities for £50.00 Alternatively, we also have the Antonelli, Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC 2016 which is an extremely well made, but earlier drinking version for £29.90
All of these wines mentioned above are available to order. Simply contact Andrew at email@example.com or click here to view the collection.