The Italian Collection
You could spend a lifetime travelling around Italy's back roads searching for those illusive vineyards that don't get sign-posted, or appear on a tourist “wine trail” map. It's a secret that's been well kept by the locals and, by the time you found them, you still wouldn't have time to sample all their vinous delights!
One thing, for certain, is that wine is made in every corner of the country. From the alpine ski-resorts and mountains bordering Austria and Switzerland in the north, to the Cypress trees and villas of the rolling hills of “Chianti-shire” (Tuscany, to you and me), taking in the splendour of Rome and following the “boot” down to the far Mediterranean south of sunny Puglia and Sicily, you'll find exciting wines wherever you look. The Italians do love style and their wines certainly prove it.
There's a myriad of wine producers and hundreds of different grape varieties from which to choose.
Classic names come to mind such as Barolo and Amarone (if 'Big Red' is your ideal), to the, now, ubiquitous dry white Pinot Grigio of the Veneto, or the all-conquering, U.K. favourite, Prosecco.
Here at Connolly's, we've got that covered, but we know you want more!
These are some of our current favourites:
'La Monacesca' Verdicchio di Matelica (Marche)
Low yielding, old vine Verdicchio grown in the Matelica valley high in the Apennines mountains in central Italy are the source of superb fruit used by Aldo Cifola to produce wines of extraordinary quality, complexity and longevity. His top 'Mirum' cuvee has been awarded the 'Tre Bicchieri' on countless occasions. For a more affordable example of his brilliant wine-making and, if you like really good Chablis, but don't like the price, then the 'Monacesca' is the perfect alternative. Rich and minerally in texture with flavours of honey, toast/brioche, nuts and citrus. A powerful, dry white to partner seafood.
I Pastini 'Antico' Locorotondo (Puglia)
The far south of Italy is generally known for its local reds; Primitivo, Aglianico, Negroamaro etc, but the Valle d'Itria, on the Adriatic side of Puglia (between Brindisi & Bari) favours white varieties.
This is the classic landscape of the “trulli” houses. The wines made by Lino Carparelli at I Pastini are produced from organically grown grapes and fermentation uses only natural, native yeasts found on the grape skins. 'Antico' is a blend of mainly Verdeca and Bianco d'Alessano with a touch of Minutolo (the local name for Fiano). It has a fresh style that's similar to the French Picpoul from Languedoc. Considering the hot, Mediterranean climate, it's quite low in alcohol and has light, citrus and apple fruit with a mouthwatering saline acidity and a waxy texture. Pair it with crab or lobster.
'La Battistina' Gavi Spumante Brut (Piedmont)
Not all Italian sparkling is Prosecco and not all Gavi is still!
The spectacular and stunning region of Piedmont is world renowned for its Nebbiolo red from the crus of Barolo and Barbaresco, but, if you head east to the town of Gavi you'll find that white is king here. Most Gavi is made into quaffable, very well-priced dry white wine and, if you're prepared to pay extra for the higher quality examples, then Gavi di Gavi is often the best choice. More recently, the sparkling version has been appearing on the world export markets and, as the U.K. can't seem to get enough bubbly from Italy, it was bound to be a style that would be successful here at home. Cortese grapes are used to make this dry, 'Brut' offering that has an aroma combining citrus, apple, floral and spicy ginger notes. A much fuller body than Prosecco, with citrus and apricot flavours. The producer, Araldica, uses fruit from 35 year old vines grown on chalk soil and gives the wine 3 months lees ageing for extra palate richness, texture and complexity.
Ferghettina 'Milledi' Franciacorta (Lombardy)
Can't stand Prosecco? Can't afford Champagne that actually tastes good?
Then head to Italy's best kept secret for bubbly, Franciacorta.
Ferghettina was established by Roberto Gatti as recently as 1991 near the town of Adro in southern Lombardy in the hills to the east of Milan. Initially, just 3ha of land was planted with Chardonnay and a small amount of Pinot Noir. Today, it has grown to over 200ha of prime vineyards.
Meticulous production control, high quality Chardonnay fruit, bottle fermentation and extended ageing, gives this wine considerable finesse and a much more 'French' feel. Elegant, white flower and citrus bouquet with brioche notes on the palate coming from the three year's lees ageing. Drink with fish, poultry, sushi, or simply on its own.
Corte dei Papi 'Colle Ticcio' Cesanese di Piglio (Lazio)
When in Rome, drink chilled Frascati like the Romans...but not if you like red!
The vineyards of Corte dei Papi are situated in the DOCG of Cesanese di Piglio to the south-east of both Frascati and the city of Rome and the winery has long specialised in using the two obscure red Cesanese grapes; Cesanese Comune & Cesanese d'Affile.
These rare varieties give a very soft mouth feel to the 'Colle Ticchio' wine, plenty of blackcurrant and plum character along with white pepper and a charred note. It's quite dense, with up-front fruit and not a hint of oak. Try it with mushroom based pasta or rice dishes, or even with wild boar.
The 'Gambero Rosso' gave the 2016 vintage a '2 Bicchieri' award (3 is the highest possible score).
Payten & Jones 'Valley Vignerons' Sangiovese (Yarra Valley)
This one's a bit of a ringer!
Behn Payten and Troy Jones describe their wines as, “A bit edgy, always interesting, delicious, completely smashable, with a little soul left in.” They're also natural wines with minimal sulphur.
For many years the Yarra has produced many excellent examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some fine Shiraz (try the 2015 'Major Kong' from Payten & Jones that has just had rave reviews from Matthew Jukes and Jancis Robinson), but you won't find many people making Sangiovese!
Yes, the Italians do 'Chianti Classico' really well, but the dynamic duo of P & J have accomplished great things with Tuscany's most famous vine from their vineyards in Australia's Yarra Valley, near Melbourne. Decant this red and you'll get raspberry and cherry fruit, savoury notes of dried herbs and a beautiful rose petal aroma. If the weather holds, grab a glass, fire up the BBQ and make sure you've got enough 'Valley Vignerons' to go round. You'll need plenty of it!
As an added extra, we're awaiting delivery of a new range of Sicilian wines from Cantina Paolini.
A white Grecanico (the same grape as Soave's Garganega), plus red varieties from the Frappato and Nerello Mascalese.
Lastly, if you're visiting the shops, all our Italian range (over £10/bottle) is on offer until the end of August. So, stock up in time for the Bank Holiday. Check in-store for details and prices.
As we make our way through another dreary, if unseasonably warm, January it’s always nice to have something to look forward to, so we wanted to throw some beer-related joy your way.
Currently making its way across Europe to us we have a selection of carefully chosen beers from one of Eastern Europe’s most exciting breweries, Mad Scientist!
Founded in Budapest as recently as 2016 Mad Scientist has already, and some might say greedily, nabbed three spots on Untappd’s top 10 of Hungary’s best breweries between their main brewery and its specialist offshoots (MadX which specialises in alternative fermentation and long maturation, and Mead Scientist their ode to honey and fruit).
If Connolly's made a TV advert for “The Italian Collection”, what would it be like?
Hollywood stars? Yes!
And the best director? Let's go for Francis Ford Coppola.
(He also happens to own a well known vineyard in California. Are you getting the theme?)
What film style? Action? With “Mini” car chases? Romantic? Musical? Italian food & drink?
I think I have the answer to the dilemma...