Opinion

Tuscan Wines from the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale

The 2022 edition of the SuperValu Italian Wine Sale is already in full swing and runs to the 8th of June. As well as reductions on dozens of existing lines, SuperValu Wine Manager Kevin O’Callaghan has secured some excellent “guest wines”. These are wines brought into Ireland by independent wine importers that are only available in SuperValu during the sale.

According to Kevin, “the guest wines we will showcase give our shoppers a chance to expand on their repertoire of wine, showing them the breadth of choice available with the Italian offering and the unique wines produced there. These guest wines really do represent an excitement to try new wines and we really encourage shoppers to use this event to explore new tastes and varieties within the range.”

Here are five guest wines from Cassidy Wines and Febvre & Co that hail from Tuscany:

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana 2020

Cortezza Vermentino Toscana

Vermentino is a real success story for quality Italian white wine. In Tuscany it is mainly planted on the coast, where it benefits from relected light and cooling sea breezes. It’s a late-ripening variety with plenty of aromatic goodness; more than a replacement for Pinot Grigio, it even barges into Riesling territory with its fresh citrus and acidic spine. There are also some subtle herbs on the palate, a reminder of its Mediterranean origins. This is fairly priced at €15 but a total steal at €10 on offer.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Cortezza Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2017

Cortezza Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wine geeks will probably be aware that Sangiovese, the main black grape of Tuscany, has dozens of different “clones”, slightly different versions of the grape. They arise naturally and the ones that survive are those best suited to the various soils, microclimates and altitudes of the vineyards where they grow. Montepulciano is just a few kilometres from Montalcino, the home of Brunello, but is far less famous. It has similar soil and climate but a less celebrated name and hence a much lower price.

Contezza’s fine example of Vino Nobile spends at least 24 months ageing in large oak casks. Primary aromas are strawberry and cherry, balanced with balsamic notes from the oak. This is wine that really responds to ageing, with tobacco, leather, dairy and forest floor notes joining the nose. For me this is a food wine, perfect to accompany red meat, with fine tannins and a long finish.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €15 down from €22.49 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Forte Ambrone Vino Rosso

Forte Ambrone

This red blend has its roots in Tuscany but its branches stretch to Puglia where Primitivo and Nero d’Avola are sourced to add punch and bright fruit flavours to the the Tuscan Sangiovese. Despite the classic-looking label this is a new wine, designed to appear to modern wine drinkers more than traditional fans of Italian wine. It’s a smooth, rich red with the spikiness of Sangiovese softened out by the southern varieties. It’s an approachable, quaffable wine which won’t appeal to purists but could well convert new world wine drinkers to the charms of Italy.

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €10 down from €14.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino

The Banfi estate was set up very recently – by Italian standards – in 1978. They pride themselves on a socially fair and environmentally friendly approach  to producing wine. The estate is large, covering 3,000 contiguous hectares, though only a third of the total is planted with vines. 170 of that is dedicated to Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine and one of the most prestigious in Italy. The regulations that come with the reputation also come with a price in terms of cashflow; wines are usually released more than four years after the harvest, and with no en primeur-type system in place that equates to a lot of cash tied up (or “bottled up”!)

The answer is Rosso di Montalicino, a younger brother which is still made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, aka Brunello, but only has to spend a minimum of six months in oak and twelve in the cellars in total before release. The grapes selected for the Rosso tend to be from younger vines with slightly less concentration, but the same philosophy.

The Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2019 is a serious wine, with the high tannins and acidity that Montalcino wine is known for. It cries out for food, making the wine better and giving it proper context. It’s a young wine that really needs another decade to shine, but right now a decanter and a thick steak would really elevate it.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €18 down from €26.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Banfi Toscana Belnero 2017

Belnero Toscana IGT

This is another serious wine form Banfi, though as it contains “international grapes” – namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – in addition to Sangiovse, it is classed as a “Super Tuscan” and not a Brunello. The proportions of each variety aren’t given but the order they are given in suggests that Cabernet has the highest percentage.

It’s not too far removed in style from the Rosso above, though it does have an additional two years under its belt which help round its edges. Belnero is a big wine with lots of power and structure – though less noticeable acidity than its brother – but bright red and black fruits. Though still very young, it is drinking well already, but would obviously gain in complexity and stature over the rest of this decade.

  • ABV: 14.5%
  • RRP: €20 down from €29.99 from 19th May until 8th June
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

 

Tasting Events

Free Pour (Part 4 – Reds)

With Liberty Wines’ strength in Italian wine, there is no surprise to see that country well represented in my review of their red wines, but Chile and Australia also fly the flag for the southern hemisphere.

Vignetti Zabù “Il Passo” Nerello Mascalese 2017 (13.5%, RRP €19.99)

Il Passo Nerello Macsalese

Extra richness in Italian reds has become a major trend over the past few years, often with a degree of drying the grapes before fermentation to give extra alcohol and / or sweetness in the finished wine.  Like many trends in wine there are volume manufacturers who jump on the bandwagon but, for all the boxes ticked by the wines they are often unbalanced and unsatisfying.

After getting my fingers (palate?) burned a few times I tend to stay clear of these wines, but this is one that really breaks the mold and hangs together really well.  The increased concentration is achieved by partially cutting the vines and letting the grapes dry by around 15% before harvesting and fermenting.  The finished wine has 9 g/L of residual sugar, but the acidity from the Nerello Mascalese grape balance it perfectly.

There’s also a version made from 100% Nero d’Avola and there was previously a blend of 60% Nerello Mascalese with 40% Nero d’Avola, but this is the one that really does it for me.

Cadbury Cherry Ripe

With cherries, chocolate and coconut it instantly reminded me of my favourite chocolate bar from Australia – Cherry Ripe!

Principe Pallavicini “Rubillo” Cesanese 2016 (13.0%, RRP €19.99)

Rubillo

Cesanese is a new grape for me, though like many Italian varieties it has an ancient history and could date back to Roman times.  It is one of the best grapes indigenous to the Lazio, the region which includes Rome.  Here it is very smooth, but interesting rather than bland – in fact it’s drop dead gorgeous.  Its ripe red and black fruit make it perfect for a winter tipple.

Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d’Avola 2017 (13.0% RRP €22.99)

DonnaFugata Sherazade Nero d Avola

Donnafugata are one of the premier producers in Sicily and retain a special place in the heart of all those who taste their wines.  The Sherazade is a bigger, smoother, juicier Nero d’Avola than most in the Irish market.  The price means that it’s perhaps a weekend rather than weekday treat, but its spicy black fruits are well worth your consideration.

Outer Limits by Montes “Wild Slopes” Apalta CGM blend 2016 (14.0%, RRP €31.99)

Outer Limits Wild Slopes CGM NV

Montes are a leading producer in Chile, managing to make everyday wines that are very drinkable plus their premium Alpha range wines which have long been a favourite of mine.  The Outer Limits wines are more premium still, but are in a finer, more ethereal style than the Alphas.  This is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre – which might be termed a “Languedoc Blend” for want of a better term – all from the company’s own vineyard in Apalta.

On pouring and even before tasting, berries jump right out of the glass.  It’s a big wine (14.0%) but not humongous – the fruit is fresh and complemented by restrained oak.  If you know anyone that “doesn’t like Chilean wine”, let them try this blind!

Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (14.5%, RRP €42.99)

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon NV

Coonawarra is in South Australia, not too far from where the border with Victoria hits the sea.  The southerly latitude and greater exposure to coastal breezes give the area a significantly cooler climate than the Barossa Valley which is 250 miles / 400 kilometres further north (a short distance in Australian terms!)  Add in the famous iron-rich red Terra Rossa topsoil over limestone, and you have probably the best place for varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia – and a candidate for best in the world.  Keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming in-depth feature on the area.

This 2012 is showing a little maturity and lots of great Cabernet character – black fruit with graphite and tannins.  In fact it’s probably more Cabernet than stereotypically Coonawarra in character, with mint and eucalyptus notes definitely in the background. Gorgeous wines like this show why Coonawarra is my favourite red wine region in the world!

San Polo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 (14.0%, RRP €63.99)

San Polo Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello is one of those wine regions which really needs some time to be understood – and given the premium prices, that’s well worth doing.  San Polo is owned by Marilisa Allegrini of the Valpolicella producing family – she has undertaken significant investment to further improve quality.  For me this wine isn’t really about Tuscany or Sangiovesi, it’s about power with finesse – just a very accomplished wine.

Montes “Purple Angel” 2015 (15.0%, RRP €68.99)

MontesPurpleAngel fs

Trying this wine at first made me think of my friend Joey Casco’s brilliant meme from his wine blog TheWineStalker.net:

151224_arnold

Whether this says more about the (necessary) drawbacks of such tastings or my lack of familiarity in appraising such wines is debatable, but after being open for over 24 hours this angel really spread its wings.  Consisting of 92% Carmenère (Chile’s signature grape) with 8% Petit Verdot, this is a big, oaky wine that’s set for the long haul.  Intense black fruit has a halo of violets and mocha – a combination that might sound strange but really works.  Probably the best Carmenère around?

The Free Pour Series:

Make Mine A Double

Sicilian Blends from Feudo Luparello [Make Mine a Double #18]

Map_of_region_of_Sicily,_Italy,_with_provinces-en.svg
Credit: NormanEinstein

All of Italy’s regions produce wine, and most of them have indigenous grapes which are rarely seen outside the country – or sometimes even outside the province.  Although rightly proud of their native grapes, when exporting wines to other countries the lack of recognition can be an issue.  Italy’s southernmost region has a clever solution: blends of local and international varieties.  If consumers don’t know the local then they might still buy the wine if they know the other, and over time the local grapes get better known.

Of course, the blends have to work well as wines, otherwise they would be forgotten quickly.  Here are two Sicilian blends I tried recently which I think are very successful:

Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided for review.

Feudo Luparello Grillo – Viognier 2015 (13.0%, €15.85 at winesdirect.ie)

feudo_grilloviogner 2

Grillo is a native Sicilian grape which copes well with the island’s sun-baked climate. Sometimes on the neutral side, it has received most recognition to date as the grape behind Marsala, Sicily’s famous fortified wine (One of “Frankie’s Rules of Thumb”: where regular wine is turned into another product (Sherry, Cognac, Champagne etc.) the underlying wine is usually bland as hell).

Careful viticulture, restricting yields and better winemaking techniques have allowed Grillo to be quite expressive, but Feudo Luparello add 30% Viognier in this wine.  It’s quite apparent on the nose, as Viognier is highly aromatic, with floral and stone fruit notes.  On the palate it adds richness, and almost a touch of oiliness (which I love in varietal Viognier).  It’s not a flabby wine as the Grillo keeps it on the straight and narrow with fresh acidity.

This is an interesting and versatile white wine which represents great value for money.

Feudo Luparello Nero d’Avola – Syrah 2014 (13.5%, €15.85 at winesdirect.ie)

feudo_nerodavola2

Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted black grape in Sicily – and indeed takes its name from the city of Avola in Syracuse – though it is held in considerable esteem.  It has been likened to Syrah / Shiraz by some, though personally I don’t find them that alike.  In the past it has been seen as a little rustic in character, but that was mainly down to the winemaking.

This red keeps the same proportions as the white – it’s 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Syrah. Feudi Luparello is based in Pachino, just down the coast from Avola in Syracuse, so the vines get plenty of cooling sea breezes.  That sounds lovely, I hear you say, but what effect does it have on the wine?  The main one is to make it smoother and more elegant – there’s no hint of rusticity at all.  It is jam-packed full of juicy black fruit, with a touch of exotic spice.  Even French friends who had a taste grudgingly admitted that a “foreign” wine was pretty good!

Read more on Make Mine a Double

 

 

 

Tasting Events

A Lidl Italian Wine

Flag_of_Italy

If you cast your mind back all the way to February of this year, you may remember that supermarket group Lidl launched a limited release of new French wines in Ireland (here are my posts on the Reds and Whites).

Now they’re going to do the same with a batch of Italian wines, set for release on Monday 13th June, and available while stocks last.  The wines in this batch don’t reach quite as high as the more expensive French ones did, but they are still worth seeking out.

Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2014 (12.5%, €9.99)

202888_Gavi_di_Gavi

Gavi is the town in Piedmont (NW Italy) where this wine is made from the Cortese grape (which I always think sounds like a family from The Godfather) – and the wine is sometimes usefully called Cortese di Gavi, in case you forget.  Wines from the production area closest to the town are called Gavi di Gavi as we have here.

By the way, if that’s all too confusing, feel free to call it “Gavin”.  The wine won’t mind either way.

The wine is clean and unoaked, with pear and stone fruit flavours.  It has some texture too, so it could stand up against seafood and lighter chicken dishes.  Make sure you give it a chance to warm a little if it’s been in the fridge for a while.

Soave Classico DOC 2015 (12.0%, €9.99)

213281_Soave_Classico

I suspect I’m not the only person who has been put off “Soave” by the cheap swill on the cheapest supermarket or convenience store shelves – but when it’s done right, it can be a very pleasant drink.  Trademark Italian acidity is still there but with soft citrus, pear and apple fruit.  The perfect drink for sitting in the back garden – especially if someone else is doing the gardening!

Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015 (12.5%, €7.99)

211240_Barbera DAsti

Barbera is the grape here and Asti is the province in north-west Italy where it’s made – together with Alexandria next door.  As part of Piedmont (or Piemonte to the locals) it tends to fall into the shadow of Nebbiolo, especially Barolo and Barbareseco, the “King and Queen” of the area.  Barbera can make top class wines, but even the more economical end of the market gives some very drinkable examples such as this.  It’s full of soft, juicy red and black fruit, with a slight smokiness.  Remarkable for the price.

Teroldego Rotaliano DOP Superiore Riserva 2012 (12.5%, €8.99)

211104_Teroldego_Rotaliano

Teroldego is the grape in this wine.  Haven’t heard of it?  don’t worry, neither had I!  It’s from the Trentino area of northern Italy, Superiore meaning it’s 12.0% minimum and Riserva meaning it has spent at least 24 months maturing before release.

This wine has lots of character – it’s zippier than a gobshite from Rainbow!  Super fresh acidity makes it mouthwateringly tasty and really food friendly.

Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP (13.0%, €13.99 – 1.5L)

213221_Nero_dAvola_Terre

At first glance this might appear a bit more expensive than the other wines – but it’s a double sized bottle!  Magnums are great fun at parties, so buy a few for a BBQ and you’re sorted!  Nero d’Avola is a popular grape in Sicily, giving spice, dark berries and chocolate.  It’s very drinkable, just make sure you don’t get carried away on a school night!

Larger format bottles are nearly all named after Biblical figures such as  Methuselah and Salmanazar – the Magnum is the exception as it was named after a Private Investigator*

Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2013 (13.5%, €9.99)

213357_Salice_Salentino

Now we’re in the heel of Italy’s boot, in Puglia.  Salice Salentino is the staple of Italian restaurants everywhere – for good reason!  It’s made from the Negroamaro grape which translates as “black and bitter”, but if there is any bitterness it is pleasant.  What it does have is spicy black fruit, and it’s so more-ish!  A barbecue wine that you will want to carry on drinking after the food has all disappeared.

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011 (13.5%, €9.99)

211313_Chianti_Classico_Riserva

Up to now, all the wines I’ve recommended have been in the easy drinking style.  This is a bit different – not for the uninitiated, unless you are prepared to try something new.  The heart of Tuscan wine is Chianti, particularly the original central area which is now Chianti Classico.

This is a Riserva – aged in barrel for 24 month then 3 further months in bottle.  It has the full on Chianti experience – tobacco, liquorice, cherry and a touch of vanilla.  This should keep for another five years at least, and will soften and mellow over that time.  Who am I kidding?  This is going to be drunk within a week!

 

*this may not be 100% factually accurate.

 

 

Opinion

Valentines Wines (VI) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 3)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world.  Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better.  Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine.  A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in!  Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Judeka Insolia ‘Angelica’ 2013 & Nero d’Avola ‘Orlando’ 2013 by Richie Magnier (@motleycruwine) of the motley cru

judeka-insolia-angelicajudeka-nero-davola-orlando

The Judeka wines I tasted late last year in the Wine Workshop would be really good Valentine’s Day bottles.  Their Angelica & Orlando wines are named after the characters in Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love) by Matteo Maria Boiardo.

The Angelica was a lovely, light, fresh, lemon-and-lime wine with some apricot. It was deliciously refreshing, and I couldn’t get over how light, both in colour and texture, it was, but without feeling insipid.

The Orlando differed so much from Nero d’Avolas I’ve had before which tended to be big, hot and spicy.  This was deliciously fresh and light with bright juicy red fruits.  It had nice integrated acidity: enough to be noticed, and to go really well with food, but not too much to be a major factor.  A touch of dustiness and salinity underneath the juicy fruits added a distant allure to an otherwise delightfully appealing wine.

Here is Richie’s full report.

Both are €14.99 from Sheridans’ Cheesemongers (in store and online)

Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 by Liqueur Plate (@LiqueurPlate) of Liqueur Plate

Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010
Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010

I have always regarded Amarone as one of the most sensuous wines I’ve ever tasted.

Intense, full bodied wine where rich feminine flavours of red and black cherries are warmed with cocoa and strengthened by the masculine tobacco and coffee character in this extremely seductive wine.

Let it decant for an hour or two before serving.

€39 Available from most off licences and supermarket nationwide.

Philippe Michel Cremant Du Jura NV by SolicitingFlavours (@SolicitingFlavo) of Soliciting Flavours

Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura NV
Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura NV

From the Aldi website: “Made from 100% Chardonnay this wine has a sophisticated subtlety with stimulating fresh citrus notes and a lovely length.  Perfect for any occasion, with hints of apple and lemon citrus.”

£7.29 UK / €10.49 Ireland

Kicks most prosecco’s arse!

 

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts: