Liberty Wines have a very varied portfolio – at a guess I’d say they cover over 40 countries – but Italy was one of their founding strengths and continues to be well represented in their range. Here are brief notes on some of the Italian whites that impressed me this year:
Vigneti del Vulture “Pipoli” Greco / Fiano 2017 (12.5%, RRP €17.99)
The Vulture region of Basilicata in southern Italy is best known for its Aglianico, but here we have a blend of two white grapes which are also late-ripening and have Greek origins shrouded in time. Produced by the well-respected cooperative, this Greco-Fiano blend has lovely fresh fruit and is far more interesting than I expected for a relatively inexpensive wine – a definite bargain.
Franz Haas Pinot Grigio 2017 (13.0%, RRP €22.99)
Regular readers might be perplexed by the inclusion of an Italian Pinot Grigio – after all I Don’t Like Pinot Grigio, I Love Pinot Gris. To be honest the quality of this wine was quite unexpected – perhaps I just hadn’t been paying attention and should have known better – but it tasted nothing like a regular Italian Grigio. It has LOTS of texture with lots of lovely pear and citrus flavour – a grown up, sophisticated wine.
Luigi Baudana “Dragon” Langhe Bianco 2017 (14.0%, RRP €23.99)
Wowser! My wine of the tasting – elegant and clean but with some decent body and texture. An unusual blend with both international and local grapes: 45% Chardonnay, 30% Nascetta, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Riesling. The Luigi Baudana estate is now owned and run by the Vajra family whose wines I have really enjoyed in the past. This is quite herby, with plenty of acidity but a broad textured palate.
La Giustiniana “Lugarara” Gavi di Gavi 2017 (12.5%, RRP €23.99)
When you come across the cheap as chips versions, just like Pinot Grigio, Gavi can be quite dilute and dull. This has far more character than the stereotype of Gavi – more concentrated flavours and a balance between pip fruit and stone fruit.
Specogna Friulano 2017 (13.0%, RRP €23.99)
There are rumours as to why Friulano was known as Tocai, but, just like Tokay d’Alsace, the name had to give way for Tokaji from Hungary after that country’s entry into the EU. The other synonyms are Sauvignon Vert and Sauvignonasse which obviously lack the link to Friuli where this variety flourishes. If you haven’t tried it before then this is a great example to start with. It’s a good match for a wide range of food but would be pleasant on its own.
Cà dei Frati “I Frati” Lugana (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
Gimme! This beauty from Lugana in Lombardy is 100% Turbiana, a grape variety that I wasn’t familiar with until I found out that it is the same as Verdicchio grown in the Marche. It’s a very fresh style so would partner very well with seafood, but to be honest it should be on every Italian restaurant’s wine list!
Vie de Romans Chardonnay 2016 (14.5%, RRP €43.99)
Italy has hundreds and hundreds of fantastic indigenous grapes, so why bother with foreign varieties? If ever there’s a case for international grapes in Italy, this is it. It’s very tangy and leesy but not particularly oaky – this is due to nine months maturation on the lees in barriques of which only 20% were new. In my opinion it has just moved into its drinking window now but would benefit from being laid down for a few years (if you can resist!)
The Free Pour Series: