March 17, 2013

I’m guessing the majority of you feel Italian wine labels offer very little indication as to the usually delicious liquids residing inside the bottle. Some wines even come without a back label. This is probably not going to change very much in the near future. I hope the following will help.

You may not have heard of  Trebbiano, however, this is the grape variety responsible for some white wines that you are probably very familiar with; Frascati, Orvieto and Soave, named after the places the grapes are grown. The wines themselves are all fairly pleasantly neutral, with reasonable levels of acidity making them fresh & clean to the taste and very food-friendly.

A favourite white of mine is Gavi produced from the local Cortese grape in the Piedmont region. It is a delicious dry wine with lemon & lime flavours along with some minerality. As you can imagine it is a perfect accompaniment to seafood pasta.

Pinot Grigio (aka Gris) is produced in reasonable quantities in the Tre Venezie area – a collective term for three north-eastern regions. It has its critics but is now apparently the Italian wine of choice accounting for 40% of UK sales. Generally produced as a single varietal (not a blend) it will simply be labelled “Pinot Grigio“ now that’s novel isn’t it?? Good examples offer flavours of green apple, peach and almond.  A wonderful example just came back in stock from Sud-Tirol Alto-Adige (within Tre Venezie) San Pietro Pinot Grigio. It is a wine of quite remarkable quality and the price has remained competitive, worth a try definitely.

Another international grape variety more and more common in Italy is the ubiquitous Chardonnay; often labelled an IGT (a country wine) because of very confusing local wine laws. It does however make some interesting wines there which should not be overlooked.

I couldn’t write about Italy without mentioning the Moscato grape, responsible for the iconic Asti Spumante and also Moscato d’Asti. The latter is more Frizzante (fizzy) than Spumante (Sparkling). I think this is worth a little bit of experimentation if you don’t already know it. A delicately sweet and fabulously fruity wine (think peaches & cream). Low alcohol levels of 5.5% or less make it either a pleasant aperitif or the perfect partner to a fruit-based dessert.

Finally Prosecco, is the name of the grape variety and the wine, better quality versions come from the villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It is produced by the “Charmat” method, unlike Champagne, making the wine more fruit dominant with less toasty notes. I don’t need to tell you, I assume, what a refreshing and uplifting drink, this can be; it too can be found in the frizzante style.

I hope this helps when you next find yourself trying to decipher an Italian wine label.




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