Italy is known as land of vine and wine! They say over 1000 grape varieties can be found growing in diverse micro climates and ancient soils over a landmass where wine growing has existed for thousands of years. Most of us are familiar with Tuscany, famous for Chianti from the Sangiovese grape, but there is so much more just under the radar. When it comes to Southern Italy there are three cool influences that make it stand out. These influences are unique grape varieties, the wine regions and the active volcanoes.
When it comes to diversity, Southern Italy has a lot going on. Grape varieties are as diverse as the terroir. Have you heard about Aglianico? It’s sometimes known as the Barolo of the South for it offers power and structure in a similar fashion. Maybe you have heard of Primitivo. It shares its DNA with Zinfandel offering ripe black and red fruit aromas and flavours with mouth filling richness. How about Negroamaro the delicious dark bitter one? Or two unique and sometimes blended partners Nerello Mascalese and Frappato from Sicily? Let’s not forget Nero d'Avola. Even on the remote island of Sardinia, you will find something special in Cannonau, known as Grenache in France.
Southern Italy consists of seven provinces spread over a large diverse area. From Campania, Molise, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicilia and Sardinia these regions are as distinct as they are similar. In this warm Mediterranean climate, grapes grow high in the rugged terraced mountainsides right down to the sea shore. They share the ocean influence,s the winds that keep the vineyards relatively pest and disease free and three active volcanoes.
These three active volcanoes bring uniqueness and uncertainty. Mt Vesuvius is one of the most studied volcanoes in Europe and may be the most famous as in 79AD it buried the city of Pompeii (its last significant eruption was in 1944). Mt Stromboli, located off the coast of Sicily, is considered the most active volcano in Europe while Mt Etna, also called Mongibello (beautiful mountain), is the highest volcano in Europe at 11,000 feet. It most recently erupted Friday March 12th, (yesterday as I write) sending a 4 kilometer high plume of smoke into the sky. Mt Etna is located in the eastern region of Sicily and known for its vineyards planted on the west facing slopes at 3500ft or higher. While it poses a viticultural nightmare because of the steep terrain, there is a wine quality that comes from hand work and careful attention to the vineyard detail. Somehow the pioneers of this region including Planeta, Vini Franchetti and Pietradolce are making wines that are trending. These styles are akin to red Burgundy and Teroldogo from Trentino.
Diverse, exciting, rugged, trending, flavourful and affordable sums up the state of red wines coming from Southern Italy today.
Here is a list of the red wines for this week’s class on Reds of Southern Italy. These wines can be found on the BC Liquor Store website and Marquis Wine Cellars (marked).
Montepulciano Blend - Biferno Rosso - Di Majo Norante $26.99
Aglianico - Taurasi – Mastroberadino Radici $63.99
Aglianico - Taurasi – Feudi di San Gregorio 2016 Trigalo $24.26 | Marquis
Aglianico - "Grifalco" Aglianico del Vulture 2017 $40.78 | Marquis
Aglianico del Vulture - Basilisco Teodosio 2015 $21.99
Nero di Troia blend – Castel Del Monte Riserva -Rivera Falcone 2013 $29.99
Primitivo – Luccarelli $14.99
Negroamaro - Luccarelli $15.99
Salice Salentino Riserva - Codici $14.99
Negroamaro - Masseria Li Veli 2018 Primonero $27.74 | Marquis
Nero d'Avola Feudo Maccari "Saia" 2016 $52.96
Nero d’Avola Cusumano Sicilia 2017 $17.99
Nerello Mascalese - Tenuta Delle Terre Nere - Etna Rosso 2018 $32.99
Nerello Mascalese - Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2017 $28.99 | Marquis
Wine and cheese are a match made in heaven. Here are some recommendations that are sure to please.
Pecorino Crotonese DOP – Aged sheep’s milk cheese from Calabria.
Moliterno al Tartufo – Aged sheep’s milk cheese with black truffles from Sardinia & Basilicata.
Capra Sarda di Montagna – Aged goat’s milk cheese from Sardinia.
Fiore Sardo DOP - Aged sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia
Caciocavallo – semi hard cow’s milk cheese from across southern Italy (the Grana Padano of the South!).
Provolone del Monaco DOP – semi hard cow’s milk cheese from Campania.
Links to some awesome cheese stores in our local market
La Grotta del Formaggio
Les Amis de Fromage