Tags: Italian wines. Red. White. Wine.
At the last Beefsteak and Burgundy dinner held at the Surf Club, I found myself doing something I hadn’t done for some time and that was taking the cork out of a bottle of wine, something that not too long ago would have been almost a daily event when you work in the wine industry.
The reason for this happening was an evening of trying a selection of wines from Italy, which was the country that gave us a wine industry in the first place because it was the Romans who established vineyards in most of the countries they invaded to keep their love of this beverage at their fingertips instead of having to transport it from Italy all the time. They say there are a thousand grape varieties in Italy that wine can be made from, although I am not convinced of that story, there are certainly many lesser-known varieties on their grocery store shelves that we have here.
If you have an opportunity to visit Italy make sure Tuscany is high on your list if not for the excellent wines produced there but the history that appears from around every corner. Many of the towns are situated on the tops of hills and surrounded by thick castle walls such as Sienna where they have a horse race every year which takes place in the main square, they just rope off a track and put sand on the cobbled floor, and around the town are many excellent family run vineyards selling wines and some of the vineyards have been established for centuries.
Unlike Queensland, which has the worst liquor licensing rules in Australia, most corner stores have a section devoted to selling wines as we found out in one small butcher’s shop where we were enticed in by the wonderful arrangement of salamis hanging in the window. After entering the shop we were invited to try a local wine and some crusty bread with a slice of Salami and some thirty minutes later exited the shop around twenty euros lighter with a bottle of wine and enough cold meat to last several days! Near Florence, we found a beautiful winery up a well-worn track on the side of a wooded hill, and it was evident this establishment had been here for many years.
As we approached the warehouse a lady emerged and I asked if we could try a few wines and she escorted us to the tasting shed where down in the cellars were rows of very ancient barrels. Upstairs she started to open fresh bottles of wine, although I tried to stop her as I thought this might be very wasteful as we were on our own. Anyway the range of wines was very interesting and the quality excellent so I decided as she had gone to so much trouble we would buy enough to enjoy at the various stops on our trip so I ordered 10 bottles of the range we had sampled, and she apologised about the cost which came to the princely sum of $38 euros saying she had some cheaper wines if we wanted.
At the last dinner, the menu was deliberately themed Italian to match the wines for the evening. On arrival, we enjoyed a Zonin Prestige Prosecco, and with the entrée of a squid ravioli I matched it with a Kettmeir Pinot Grigio and an Abbazia Monte Olietoveraccia from San Gimignano made from Vernaccia grapes, everything worked very well. Like Sienna, the old town of San Gimignano is perched on a hilltop and is notable for all the watchtowers that are situated within the town’s walls.
Italy’s wine growers are angry that countries such as Australia are producing sparkling wines and using the name Prosecco which is made using the Glera grapes in the Veneto and Friuilli regions about 24kms north of Venice. To overcome this the region could be renamed Prosecco in the same way as Champagne which will then put pressure on countries wanting to trade with Italy to drop the name of Prosecco. With the main course of slow-cooked osso bucco, we enjoyed The Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella and a twenty year aged Carpinetto Sillano which was drinking very well, this wine was made from Sangiovese grapes (60%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) making it a “Super Tuscan”.
If you enjoy Merlot then I would suggest trying the Valpolicella it really was a very pleasant wine. Taking the cork out of the Carpinetto proved something of a challenge as the corks in older wines can sometimes break, as did happen with one bottle, but with a bit of careful manoeuvring finally popped out. To finish with a cheese platter I served a Di Capri Limoncello icy cold and acted as a great palate cleanser. It is said that Limoncello originated from Capri where the best lemons in Italy are grown and this is the original company established at the beginning of the 19th century.
I have an affinity with Zonin as in the mid 1990’s I discovered their wines at The London Wine Show, they had one of the largest stands there and after chatting to the marketing manager for some time I was invited to catch up at the Hong Kong wine show a few months later where they were holding a dinner for their representatives from around Asia. At that time I was establishing myself as an agent in Western Australia and had very little money to go off to Hong Kong but sometimes you have to dig deep and off I went.
My accommodation was sparse, to say the least, but I had a suit on my back a tie to match and a pair of shiny shoes. Zonin was established in 1821 and has 11 wine Estates in Italy producing over 2 million cases a year and they certainly put on a great show that night serving their very best wines including on vintage from the late 1800’s, when I got back to Perth I ordered a container and although selling Italian wines at that time wasn’t easy they all went, but then stepped in Mr Woolworths and took over the agency and that’s where you will find these excellent wines, at BWS and Dan Murphy’s.
When you are buying Italian wines look for a piece of paper attached to the top and neck of the bottle with the letter DOC or DOCG printed on it. In the second half of the 20th century, Italy introduced regulations into the wine industry to safeguard the quality and authenticity of premium wines. Wines carrying DOCG and DOC labels have had to adhere to these regulations which control the grapes used, alcohol content and how long the wines have been aged.
Cheers, Philip Arlidge
Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing