Wines of Italy by Morgan Edwards
A Taste of Italy - The Italian Selection
Our latest selection case sees us wander our way across the sunlit vineyards of a historic winemaking country. The inhabitants of what is now known as Italy have cultivated the vine for so long, and with such passion, that the Ancient Greeks referred to the peninsular as ‘Oenotria’ - wine land. Take the ‘Strada del Vino’ through Italy and you encounter a wine culture that is both more diverse and more localised than any of the other great wine-producing countries. The reasons for this are both cultural, historical and geographical. When the merchants of Bordeaux created their famous 1855 classification Italy wasn’t a unified country and the cultivation of the wines was very much the province of the farmer with a smallholding, generation after generation eking out a simple living selling their grapes to the local landowner. In this climate localised styles, techniques, even bottle shapes, take on a distinctive character of their own. This also mirrors the evolution of the vine in Italy, 3000 years of near continuous viticulture and natural genetic mutations means that Italy is now home to over 2000 different grape varieties. The result is a dizzying array of flavours and styles as fascinating as they are beguiling.
This month's Morgan Edwards case, then, provides a simple introduction to the often mystifying world of Italian wine, presenting classic styles and local grape varieties for you to explore and enjoy.
Cantina Belisario, ‘Terre del Valbona’, Verdicchio di Matelica
Located further inland and at a higher altitude than the wines of it’s more famous neighbour Verdicchio di Jesi, the wines of Matelica, with its more continental climate, are riper, more concentrated and more aromatic, whilst the higher altitude maintains the varietals bright natural acidity.
The Cantine Belisario co-operative was founded in 1971. Today, it is the biggest producer of Verdicchio in the Matelica DOC. The vineyards are situated on a south-facing hillside 350-450 metres above sea level.
The ‘Terre del Valbona’ shows a lovely aromatic and clean bouquet of acacia with a touch of honey. Surprisingly full-bodied, it shows a great balance between its crisp green apple character and the richer honey and lemon flavours. The finish is dry and vibrant.
Cantina di Monteforte, ‘Terre di Monteforte’, Soave Classico
The picturesque mediaeval-walled city of Soave, situated in the historic winemaking area of the Veneto in northeastern Italy, is home to one of Italy’s most distinctive white wines, the floral and aromatic Soave, made from the Garganega grape.
The Cantina di Monteforte co-op is situated part in Soave Classico and part outside the Classico zone, with some of the best vineyards in Soave Classico. 60% of their vineyards are on the hills, facing south and southeast, which gives wines that are riper and fuller than most others produced in Soave.
Light, clean and bright with a lovely floral nose and notes of ripe peach and almond. The wine shows excellent depth on the palate and a lovely balance between ripe, aromatic fruit and fresh, zingy acidity.
Mandrarossa, ‘Le Senie’, Viognier
Mandrarossa is the jewel in the crown of Sicilian viticulture. A relatively new estate, the selection of the finest plots in which to plant the 32 varieties the winery cultivates took an initial 20 years to identify.
Almost all the vineyards are situated close to the sea, where intense sunlight, moderating sea breezes, mild temperatures, multiple elevations and a myriad of different soil types combine to wonderful effect.
The Mandrarossa Viognier is the ‘odd one out’ in our selection as the Viognier is not native to Sicily, but it encapsulates how the varied topography of Italy can adapt to different varieties. Its also rather good, exemplified by its Gold Award at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2020.
Fantini Farnese, Terre di Chieti, Sangiovese
A stalwart of our wine range since the very beginning, the ‘Terre di Chieti’ Sangiovese embodies all the wonderful, distinctive character of the grape made famous by Tuscany. One of the most prodigious and migratory of all Italy’s grape varieties Sangiovese, and its descendents are the heart of the wines of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Carmigiano and Morellino, to name a few.
The ‘Terre di Chieti’ has a distinctively Italian flavour; it has bright fruity notes of red fruits and morello cherry, with subtle vanilla characters from the oak, structured tannins, fresh acidity and a long finish.
Vigneti del Salento - ‘I Muri’ Primitivo
Another Morgan Edwards staple and firm favourite, the ‘I Muri’ Primitivo from the heel of Italy, Puglia, is from the same Farnese stable as the Sangiovese above. Farnese’s operation in Puglia was inspired by the potential of Primitivo (also known elsewhere in the world as Zinfandel) to produce rich, ripe fruit flavours with minimal intervention.
The vineyards are mostly situated in the communes of Manduria and Sava where the rich, red calcerous clay brims with iron, minerals and nutrients. Production is strictly limited to ensure only the best quality grapes are selected.
On the nose, the ‘I Muri’ Primitivo has intense red berry fruit perfumes. Full-bodied with firm tannins, it is well-balanced with lots of ripe fruit flavours.
Vigneti del Vulture - ‘Pipoli’ Aglianico
Aglianico is one of Italy’s best kept-secrets, a remarkable variety that has been planted in Italy since pre-Roman times. It produces intense, tannic dry red wines from predominantly volcanic soil in its native Calabria and Basilicata. The ‘del Vulture’ zone is recognised as producing the finest examples in Basilicata. Young Aglianico wines are known for strikingly savoury flavours of leather, white pepper, black fruits and cured meat that when aged, develop soft dusty aromas of dried figs and sun-tanned leather.
Salut and Happy May Day!
Morgan and Edward