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Wines of the week

8 wines from Italy to buy online and drink now

Terry Kirby recommends some excellent buys to support both Italian wine makers and the online wine industry

Thursday 26 March 2020 13:50
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Win-win situation: not only do you get to taste great wine, you also help regions devastated by the pandemic
Win-win situation: not only do you get to taste great wine, you also help regions devastated by the pandemic

The consequences for the global wine industry of the Covid-19 pandemic, like all sections of the economy, are grave, for many very obvious reasons. But one small crumb of comfort for us stay-at-home-consumers in the UK is that the wine trade is both thriving on, and adapting to, the new reality, because, as I said last week, wine is both a solace in times of stress and a reminder of civilised times and pleasures.

And everyone likes an excuse to stock up their cellar. Majestic, which has closed its stores but is still delivering, said that sales were up 200 per cent last week on the same week last year. Other online retailers and some smaller independents that deliver are reporting similar surges. Here is a useful list – still being compiled – of wine retailers large and small who are very much open and want your business and includes a number English vineyards that also selling online.

We will return to English wines in the future but at the time of writing, the situation in Italy, particularly in the north, is the worst in Europe, which has become the global epicentre of the virus. With that in mind, here are some excellent Italian wines that you can buy to support both Italian wine makers and the online wine industry.

The main affected region is Lombardy and one of the wines from the region that we see in the UK is sparkling Franciacorta, which has unfortunately been rather overlooked in the prosecco surge. In fact, it is quite a different wine, made from mostly chardonnay grapes and using the traditional champagne method. It is therefore more complex and fuller flavoured than the usually light and frothy prosecco. The Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Gran Cuvée Brut NV (£34.95, slurp.co.uk) is an excellent example of the elegant style, with floral hints, stone fruit flavours and a firm mousse. Every week we survive this is an excuse to open a bottle of fizz…

Neighbouring Piedmont is the home of barolo, made from the nebbiolo grape and which of course produces very fine wines of great finesse and subtle power. Southwold-based Adnams is a local wine and beer business that has its excellent own label wines such as the organic, vegan-friendly, good value Barolo DOCG 2015 Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba (£24.98, adnams.co.uk), full of elegant and supple black fruit and ideal with any tomato-based dishes; decant and leave to breathe for at least a couple of hours before drinking.

Another often overlooked gem from northern Italy is the Dolcetto grape, which produces medium-bodied, juicy wines, made to be drunk young and, if and when the weather warms up, will benefit from being lightly chilled. If you like Beaujolais Villages wines, you will almost certainly like Dolcetto – wines that are great with charcuterie and soft cheeses. The best Dolcetto comes from the Alba area, so try Dolcetto d’Alba, Fratelli Serio e Battista Borgogno 2018 (£14.95, tanners-wines.co.uk) with juicy ripe cherry fruits; from an excellent Shrewsbury-based company that delivers nationwide. For a serious step up in quality and complexity, try the more substantial Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati (2017: £22.10, qwines.co.uk; 2018: £26.64, richardgrangerwines.co.uk; 2013: £25.95, winebuyers.com), named after the two high altitude vineyards in Barolo where the grapes come from.

The Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Gran Cuvée Brut NV (second left) comes from Lombardy, the worst affected region in Italy 

The mountainous Trentino region in the northeast is also less well known for its wine in this country but the Masi Bossi Fedrigotti Mas’Est, Trentino DOC 2017 (£12.69, allaboutwine.co.uk), made largely from the obscure marzemino grape and medium bodied, is full of lovely juicy, tarry, mocha hints, topped with vibrant blueberry fruit. Lovely for any lighter Middle-Eastern spiced dishes.

The north of Italy is also known for its brilliant white wines, including the impeccable soave classico made from the garganega grape by Pieropan, who are one of the best producers in the elite classic zone. The Pieropan “La Rocca” Soave Classico 2018 (£29.47, northandsouthwines.co.uk) is intense, concentrated, packed with almond and citrus flavours and a slightly spicy, honeyed edge and a clean finish. It will go with all kinds of fish and vegetable dishes.

The other signature grape of the north is cortese, which produces the Gavi wine of Piedmont. The Gavi del Comune di Gavi, La Chiara 2018 (£14.50, tanners-wines.co.uk) has characteristic crisp, green apple freshness and citrus notes; a lovely refreshing wine for when it warms up and we can sit in our gardens or balconies.

Sauvignon blanc is not a well known grape in the region, but the Vette Sauvignon Blanc Vignetti Delle Dolomite San Leonardo 2018 (£13.58, vinissimus.co.uk; £16.50, hic-winemerchants.com; £16.95, jeroboams.co.uk), also from the Trentino region and made by the excellent San Leonardo estate, has lovely tropical fruits, plenty of green vegetal notes and lovely, mountain stream mineral freshness.

Finally, please bear in mind that many of these producers may run out of stock or decide to temporarily close at short notice, while others are struggling to cope with demand and the stringent hygiene conditions. Please bear with them. We will get through this, with glass in hand.

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