The Wine Advent: 22 December: Italian Wines
The Wine Advent is a series of 25 posts in the run up to Christmas day where I will give you an insight into my favourite festive wines. Follow me on Twitter or Like my Facebook page to ensure you don’t miss opening up the advent!
While I hold French wines up as some of the finest in the world, there’s nowhere (apart from maybe English bubblies) that holds a heartier place for Christmas wine than Italy. Christmas is the season for such great food that you need wines that are made for drinking alongside food. There’s few better at doing that than Italian winemakers.
Sometimes it can be hard to understand grape varieties, especially in Italy where there are literally thousands of different types and they’re all named by their geographical laws, but one everyone should know about is Corvina, used to make Amarone. These wines are full bodied and so unique, but they’re also unbeatable partners with your roast beef (especially if you love rich onion gravy all over it). One of my all-time favourites, which I gave 92% BFWR, is Bertani Amarone Valpolicella Valpantena DOC Villa Arvedi (£34.50, Great Western Wine). Only a 2012, this young Amarone is already a light garnet with rich cocoa notes and dried berries, and a marvellously long finish.
If you’re not having anything full and rich (which would be a surprise at Christmas time!) or just fancy a tipple that’s a little looser on the tongue, then you really can’t go wrong with Triade Negroamaro Primitivo Nero di Troia (£8.99, Waitrose Cellar). Medium bodied, lightly jammy, so spicy, supple cherry fruit and a liquorice complexity, my word you get a lot of inky delicious red for your money.
While Vin Santo is possibly the usual dessert wine choice when people think Italian wines, I look again to Bertani. This producer is doing such creative things in Veneto, producing a more luscious, young style of pudding wine called Recioto Valpolicella DOC (£23.00, Great Western Wine). It smells like a seductive Rhone Valley red in the glass and yet tastes light, sweet and with gloriously sticky plum, prune and blackcurrant notes. Really tasty stuff.
Sauvignon Blanc lovers can be happy too with fruitier alternatives that curb the acidity ever so slightly, making them ideal with fish or toasted nuts. One of my favourite alternatives to Sauvignon from Italy is the Sicilian wine Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante (£18.50, Great Western Wine) from the producer Planeta. Obviously an expensive bottle but a real treat at Christmas with juicy elderflower, apple and gooseberry notes over a zippy lime body.
Of course, if you’re looking for bubbles then Prosecco is most people’s popular choice. Easy drinking, light grapefruit and plenty of pop to get the party started. However for aperitifs why not think along the lines of a medium sweet Asti, with those lemon curd and pear notes.
You can pick up a lovely bottle of Asti for around £9 too!