Most stunning of the Chiantis is the magnificently fruity and delicately oaky ***** Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigna Bucerchiale, Selvapiana ( pounds 11.39); the same estate's ***1991 Chianti Rufina, Selvapiana ( pounds 5.99) is also delicious. ****1985 Chianti Rufina Riserva, Villa di Vetrice ( pounds 6.29) is elegant and delicate, with mature raisin and cedar flavours. And more affordable is the **1991 Chianti Rufina, Villa di Vetrice ( pounds 4.39) with its lovely flavours of plum, fig and almond. There are more Tuscan stars apart from Chianti. From west of Florence, Carmignano gets a blackcurranty overtone from a proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The ****1988 Carmignano Riserva, Tenuta di Capezzana ( pounds 11.99) is particularly classy, and **1993 Barco Reale, Tenuta di Capezzana ( pounds 5.99) is very scented, soft and plummy, with just a touch of tannin. Another easy- drinking favourite is the soft, rich ***1991 Le Volte, Ornellaia ( pounds 7.99), made on a famous estate just five miles from the central Tuscan coast.
Three wines from south-west Sardinia, all made with the usually boring Carignano grape, are delicious: from the inky, intense blackberry and buttery **1991 Carignano del Sulcis, Santadi ( pounds 4.99) and the velvety, bulgingly fruity ***1990 Carignano del Sulcis Riserva Rocca Rubia ( pounds 7.95) to the ****1989 Terre Brune, Vino de Tavola, Santadi ( pounds 12.99), dark and very oaky, with tarry damson fruit, made with a third Carignano, a tenth Cabernet, plus the obscure local Bovaleddu grape. **1990 Aglianico del Vulture Le Vigne Basse ( pounds 5.39) is grown on the slopes of the extinct Vulture volcano down in the wild southern Basilicata 'instep'. It is dark, smoky-tarry and with plenty of tannin. From the stiletto heel of the Salento Peninsula comes **1990 Cappello di Prete, Rosso del Salento, Francesco Candido ( pounds 4.99), with lovely plum, savoury and almond flavours.
My favourite red wine type from north-west Italy is the super-fruity Dolcetto, and the ***1993 Dolcetto d'Alba Pian Romualdo, Mascarello ( pounds 7.69) is a delicious example, soft and bursting with fragrant raspberry fruit. ***1991 Barbera d'Alba Conca Tre Pile ( pounds 8.99), with its lovely, rich raspberry fruit and attractive new oak, is also from the north-west. Intensely strawberry-fruity ***1990 Ronco di Mompiano ( pounds 7.99) comes from the central north, and **1992 Breganze Rosso, Bartolomeo ( pounds 4.99) from near Venice, a raisiny, savoury red.
Swoon-worthy Italian whites are rare finds, but the ****1992 Lugana Vigna Brolettino, Ca' dei Frati ( pounds 8.25) certainly qualifies: big, soft and aromatic, with a subtle hint of oak and fruity greengage flavour. The **1992 Lugana Vigna I Frati ( pounds 6.79) is also lovely, honeyed, and really fruity. From Piedmont, the tangy **1993 Cortese dell'Alto Monferrato, Araldica ( pounds 4.39) is deliciously and subtly flowery-fragrant. For a good white on a budget, *1993 Pinot Grigio, Via Nova ( pounds 3.49) is soft and ripe but tangy. And **1992 Soave Classico Superiore, Pieropan ( pounds 6.55) and **1993 Frascati Superiore Sant'Antonio ( pounds 4.99) are proof that even in dull denominazione, there are wines with real flavour.
Stockists: Winecellars (shop and mail order), 153-155 Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 4JB; tel 081-871 2668. Other stockists include the Wine Society of Stevenage; Lay & Wheeler of Colchester; Eaton Elliot of Alderley Edge; Noel Young of Trumpington; Bennetts of Chipping Campden; Valvona & Crolla of Edinburgh; Harvey Nichols of London SW1; Connolly's of Birmingham; a Case of Wine of Llanwrda, Dyfed; Campbell Moore of Douglas, Isle of Man; Sandiway Wines of Sandiway, Cheshire; and Sommelier Wines of St Peter Port, Guernsey.
*****superb, ****complex and exciting, ***excellent, **very good, *goodReuse content