Italian grapes and wines have often been featured in this column, and there is no doubt of the continuing popularity of Italian wines here and across the world.
We are most familiar with the wines of central and northern Italy: Sangiovese, Chianti, Amarone, Valpolicella, Barolo, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano and Prosecco, etc. These regions feature some great wines, and some great value everyday wines. But that’s not all there is to Italian wine, and we would be ignoring some of the most productive wine producing regions of Italy if we stopped with the above. To be sure, the high-volume regions in the south have not always been known for quality wines.
That’s been changing and we should hope and expect to see more quality and good value from the southern parts of Italy. I wanted to focus on a few of the good-value and quite tasty wines I encountered at the NLC’s Italian wine from the southern regions of the country.
Puglia is the heel of the boot of Italy. With the heat of this southern district, it is the influence of the seas that assists the development of good grapes. In recent times we have seen a few wines from this region based on the Primitivo or Negroamaro grapes. A less common, but delicious grape from the region is the Malvasia Nero di Brindisi. The Mé Dos 2012, IGT Salento from Castello Monaci (NLC $19.98) is deep purple and provides a heady sweet aroma redolent of very ripe black cherries and chocolate. The wine shows good acidity and grip in the mouth, with some finish as well. It is robust, but sippable nonetheless. Score: 15.5/Very Good.
Sicily, with its heat and sunshine, is a natural place to produce large volumes of wine. For decades most of this wine went into the production of the fortified wine Marsala, for export for blending, or “emergency” distillation to preserve farmers’ incomes and reduce a glut of cheap wine. That has also been changing and we are seeing some interesting production from the Mount Etna wine region varietals as well as solid red wines based on the Nero d’Avola variety.
Grillo, a Sicilian native variety, produces high-quality, full-bodied white wines. Production has been targeted at Marsala, but it is becoming more common as a varietal wine, and several were featured at the wine show.
The Sotto il Sole 2012 includes a small percentage of Viognier which boosts the aromatics of the nose. The wine was a very nice match with a bean salad and a selection of cheeses for a light supper. Score: 14.5/Good.
We can’t neglect other southern regions such as Basilicata, Calabria and Campania. This area features Aglianico as a high-quality red grape variety producing dark, concentrated, tannic wines which have the ability to improve with aging. The grape has sometimes been described as producing the “Barolo of the south.” There is a regularly listed Aglianico at the NLC from Terredora, but the one I tasted this weekend is from the wine show, the Villa Matilde 2010 (NLC $21.99 for the handful left). It showed all the quality expected from this grape, with dense fruit flavours, full body, and good grip. Score: 15/Very Good.
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @delaneystephen