In a new series, wine expert, author and regular Borough Market columnist Jane Parkinson explores the international wines available at Borough’s specialist traders. This month: the Italian wines of Bianca e Mora
Without doubt, Italy’s biggest wine trump card is the wealth of mostly native varieties grown in its own soil. From the cool alpine hills of the north to the dusty heat of the south, thousands of local grapes have honed themselves in their natural habitat over the centuries to produce wines with individual character and delicious flavour, and they often make a seamless match with food from their local area too.
For example, let’s start with sangiovese. This is the darling grape of central Italy thanks to the fame and fortune of Chianti in Tuscany. That said, sangiovese’s home is not exclusively Tuscany, as many would think, but across the whole northern central belt of the country. And it’s always worth bearing in mind that when a sangiovese does not have its famous origin of Chianti on the bottle, but another region such as Romagna, it can sometimes offer much better value for money because you’re not paying extra for the famous name.
Anyhow, as prolific as sangiovese can be, a rare grape revival is also happening across Italy today, as producers are keen to keep their ancestor’s grapes—and therefore heritage—alive. Take famoso di Cesena, for example. This grape was practically extinct about 100 years ago but in 2000, two vines of the grape were identified and they are now nurtured by a group of winemakers who believe there is a future for this grape and wine. How lucky we are to now be able to taste something seriously ancient, which has been brought back from near extinction.
Unknown and underrated
Lambrusco is another unknown and underrated entity in Italian wine. No, it’s not that one you see propping up the lower shelves in the supermarket aisle; this lambrusco is a gem of a red wine, it’s fizzy and as picnic-friendly as you like, plus it’s packed with juicy red fruit flavours. It can be dry or sweet so check the bottle carefully, but in both cases it is seriously moreish and full of easy-drinking fruitiness.
While Italy does have a remarkable array of its own varieties, some producers have adopted grapes that we call ‘international’, such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Sometimes these are made by themselves and other times they are blended with local Italian grapes. From the success of its native grapes to the successful adoption of international ones, Italy’s strength is in its diversity and this is something we should all be celebrating—with, you guessed it, a glass of Italian wine.
Villa Venti Primo Segno Sangiovese di Romagna 2013, £17
The process of fermenting and aging this wine in steel has really preserved the intense cherry flavours of the juicy sangiovese.
Villa Venti Serenaro 2016, £17
A naturally-made wine with no addition of sulfites, it is rich in apricot and citrus peel flavours.
Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa 2016, £20
A dry and organic lambrusco with energetic fizz and buckets of soft red fruit flavours.
Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco di Castelvetro Amabile 2016, £18
An off-dry Italian red fizz with mellow red cherry and blackberry flavours. Delicious with a cherry-based dessert.
Pizzolato Prosecco 2016, £14
An organic prosecco with a toasted almond nuttiness as well as refreshing pear sweetness and frothy fizz.
Pizzolato Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, £13
This organic and ‘natural’ cab (no sulfites added) has smoky red fruit flavours and black pepper spice.
Pizzolato Merlot 2016, £13
Like the cab, this is organic and ‘natural’. Smooth tannins with plummy red fruit flavours and roasted tomatoes.
All wines are available at Bianca e Mora, Borough Market