Italian Wines – Now and Later

massimagoIt’s been a strange year, but it has had the bonus of allowing us to appreciate such things as one’s garden, home-cooked meals – and wines. Italian wines are getting noticed again!

Italian wines have often been overlooked and that is a shame as there are many superb bottles to explore. Massimago Profasio 2013, a UK-exclusive Passito Valpolicella Superiore DOC, is 100% organic, low-sulphite and ideal for long ageing (ageing potential: 10 years). This would be a perfect Christmas gift for any wine lover!

Winery is 100% organic and sustainable

This Passito Valpolicella Superiore has a delightfully concentrated flavour, simply packed with red cherry, luscious red fruit, chocolate and delicate spices. It’s one of my favourite reds from any country and well worth a try. Usually the Passito method, which dates back to Roman times, is used to make expensive Amarone wine. Amarone is unique and typically very alcoholic, full-bodied and juicy.  Camilla Rossi-Chauvenet, the winemaker at Massimago, is known as an innovator. Her winery is 100% organic and sustainable, generating 80% of their electricity from solar panels. She decided to make a Valpolicella with richer and deeper flavours, as a more refreshing twist on traditional Amarone. This wine has received a seriously impressive 92/100 accolade from wine expert James Suckling.

Unusually, to make a Passito wine, grapes are harvested by hand before they are fully ripe, so they are still full of natural fresh acidity. Then they are then dried indoors, in a fruttaio, (a well-ventilated drying room) for a month in order to concentrate the natural sugars and to promote flavours. The fruit is then crushed and macerated for four days to extract a richer colour. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve aromas and develop flavour.

The new wine is left to mature for five months in stainless steel tanks, and then aged in French oak barriques for a year which adds still more depth. It is rested for another year or more to mature in the bottle. This gives all the flavours time to marry and balance. The resulting wine is characterful with flavours of berries, spices and herbs. The wine has pronounced aromas of fresh red cherry, redcurrant and liquorice, with tannic hints of cedar, warming pepper and dark chocolate.

speraBalanced hints of minerals

Siddùra Spèra 2018 is a Vermentino di Gallura DOCG – ‘Spèra’ means ‘beam of light’ in the dialect of Northern Sardinia, from where this fabulous wine hails. As the name suggests, it is bright and fresh, with white blossoms on the nose and flavours of fresh green apples and balanced hints of minerals on the finish. It’s Sardinia’s signature white grape and these wines are worth seeking out.

The grapes for this wine are picked by hand in a vineyard in the foothills of the island’s fertile mountains. They are stemmed and gently crushed, with the free-run juice fermented at just 12-13°C – a very low temperature – in stainless steel tanks. Dino Dini, the winemaker at Siddùra, uses this technique to preserve the flavours of the grape. The wine is matured sur lie for a short time to develop a more complex texture. ‘Sur Lie’ or ‘ageing on the Lees’ is the ageing of wine on dead yeast sediment which remains after the fermentation process. This wine will be a good match to hard cheeses or even Cheddar on Boxing Day. Serve chilled.

Christmas might be a very different affair this year, but it will still be a special time. Some well-chosen wine to complement your food will elevate the festive dinner. Italy produces wines to enhance food of every kind – and at reasonable price too!


Learn about these and other delicious bottles at Independent Wine