A taste of Italy, even if we can’t get there: Richard Esling May 19
Italy – that wonderful ‘boot’ of land jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea, filled to the brim with everything I love about life – culture, fashion, architectural gems, scenic beauty, fabulous food and of course a thousand different wines.
Characterful, effusive – if sometimes temperamental – people, with warm hearts and an in-built ability to enjoy themselves to the full.
Sadly, recent months have taken a devastating toll on both the population and their exuberant way of life, yet there are already glimmers of hope of at least some return to normality – or what is now called the ‘new normal’, whilst waiting for the world-saving vaccine.
Normally, I get to visit Italy two or three times every year, either for holidays or press visits, but this year will be somewhat different, with my plans, along with everybody else’s, put on hold for a while. Still, that doesn’t stop us from eating Italian dishes and drinking their first class wines, bringing a little Italian culture to the heart of Sussex, whilst we dream of a plate of spaghetti vongole washed down by some dry white under a parasol on the edge of a baking hot, flag-stoned piazza.
The good old Wine Society has a terrific range of Italian wines. Having closed for a while due to the pandemic, they are now up-and-running again, and although not taking on new members at present, current members can order mixed cases to their heart’s content! As a great fan of all things Italian, I love Italian white wines, especially in the warmer weather, when they seem just perfect with a variety of salads, or perhaps a courgette and smoked salmon quiche?
Here is a selection of four wines I can highly recommend, all of which are less than £10 a bottle. Firstly, two wines from the North-west Piemonte region, both of which are made from the Cortese grape variety, a native of the Piemonte hills. Piemonte Cortese 2019 is ridiculously inexpensive at £6.50 a bottle, and is crisp, fresh, dry and fruity with a citrus tang. Its counterpart, The Society’s Gavi 2019 is sourced from a single estate, and is unique, aromatic and zesty. Refreshing, with a satisfying amount of depth and length on the finish. £9.95.
My other two recommendations come from regions slightly further south. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2018 is made by Tenute Pieralisi. Verdicchio is one of Italy’s finest native white grapes. With bright acidity and mouth-watering citrus and mineral notes, this crisp fresh wine is perfect paired with seafood, salads or pasta dishes. £9.50. And finally, another of my favourites is Pecorino Abruzzo 2019 from Contesa. The Pecorino grape variety was all but lost by the middle of the 20th century, but in the past 40 years has made an enormous comeback, now producing some first-class dry whites in its native Abruzzo region near the Adriatic. Mineral, structured and aromatic, it has a depth of flavour which can complement fish, white meats, chicken and mid-flavoured cheeses, such as Taleggio or a creamy, soft Dolcelatte. £9.95.
If you are lucky enough to be a member of the Wine Society, order a mixed case and enjoy with our fabulous spring weather. For the others, why not sign-up to the newsletter for notification when membership is open again? And next year, visit the wonderful wine regions of this charismatic country, with a tour organised by the excellent tour operator www.tastesofitaly.co.uk