When you think how much Italian food we all eat, it’s surprising there isn’t more of a buzz about Italian wine. Of course there’s prosecco, but that’s almost a brand in itself these days. Pinot grigio? OK, but it’s not that exciting. And the choice of chianti is limited compared with, say, rioja. Basically, I’m not feeling the lurve for Italy that there currently is for Spain.

Morrisons’ Valpolicella Ripasso 2014/15: serve with gorgonzola.

Wine merchants, on the other hand, adore Italy because of the variety of flavours and styles it offers, and the fact that these are wines that are made to go with food, rather than win awards. London-based Lea & Sandeman, for instance, has long been a champion of Italian wines, and there were plenty to linger over at its recent tasting, among them the mouthwatering Felugan Feliciana Lugana 2015 (£14.25, or £12.95 if you buy a mixed case; 13% abv), from around Lake Garda, which would make a lovely aperitif; and Andrea Oberto’s sensuously silky Barolo Vigneta Albarella 2011 (14.5% abv) for £44.95 (or £40.75 by the case). Yes, I know that’s very expensive, but this is one special bottle and it will age beautifully (until 2023, according to Lea & Sandeman).

For a quarter of that price, you can buy a really intriguing red, Melis Bovale Isola dei Nuraghi 2015 (£11.50 Tanners; 14% abv), from Sardinia, which would be perfect with roast lamb. It’s made from bovale sardo, which is a synonym for graciano, according to Jancis Robinson et al’s scholarly Wine Grapes.

In fact, avoiding the big names tends to pay off when you’re buying Italian. You rarely find amarone at under £15, for example, yet for half that you can get Morrisons’ Valpolicella Ripasso 2014/15 (£7.50; 13% abv), which is re-fermented on amarone skins. Richer and sweeter than valpolicella, but not as alcoholic as amarone, this would be great with rich meats such as ox cheek and venison, or a strong cheese such as gorgonzola.

I also like the bitter cherry flavours of Majestic’s Cantina di Negrar Corvina 2015 (£8.99, or £7.99 on the mix-six deal; 13% abv). This is also made from one of the grape varieties used to make valpolicella, but it’s light enough to serve with salumi and lighter pasta dishes such as spaghetti al limone.

Look out, too, for barbera, which the Piedmontese would drink every day over barolo and which perfectly suits the last pasta bakes and stews of winter. The generous, fleshy Araldica Barbera D’Asti Superiore 2014 (14.5% abv) is a good example: it’s currently on promotion at Waitrose for £6.99, down from £8.99, and is good value at that price.

This article was sourced from http://rockcreeknews.net