Monday 26 September 2016

Drink: Italy's national grape

Liam Campbell

Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30

Italian wine
Italian wine
Porta 6 (Red) 2012, Portugal 13.5pc
Pinot Grigio 2013, Santa Margherita, Valdadige DOC 12.5pc
Pinot Grigio 2013, Terre Siciliane IGT 12pc
Quartanota Pinot Grigio 2013, Sasso dei Lupi, Umbria IGP 12.5pc
Pinot Grigio 2013, Franz Haas, Alto Adige DOC 13.5pc

Italy is home to over 1,000 different winemaking grape varietals. However, only 40 are of serious commercial importance. One of the most popular white wines is the undemanding and easy-going Pinot Grigio. Widely planted the length and breadth of Italy, each region has given its local accent to this wine.

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Italy's most northern and mountainous Alpine region Alto Adige produces flavoursome white wines. The region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire a century ago before World War One, and German is the first language, so Südtirol may appear on the wine labels in place of Alto Adige.

Umbria is unique in Italy as being the only land-locked region with no coast. It's more famous for its local white, Orvieto.

The island of Sicily has a reputation for producing reliable and affordable wines. On the labels, Terre Siciliane indicates non-local grapes are used to offer a more international alternative.

Here are the Italian Pinot Grigios that received top marks in our blind taste test.

1) Wine of the week: Pinot Grigio 2013, Santa Margherita, Valdadige DOC 12.5pc

Intense grassy and fresh flavours. Lovely balance with acidity and length. Enjoy with a mushroom and asparagus risotto.

€17.99 at Deveney's, Dundrum and O'Donovan's, Littleisland Cork. In Galway: Morton's, Salthill and Clarke's SuperValu, Barna

2) Pinot Grigio 2013, Terre Siciliane IGT 12pc

Ripe fruity flavours well-rounded and a lengthy mineral after-taste. Happy with a plate of undressed oysters.

€11.49 at Marks & Spencer nationwide

3) Quartanota Pinot Grigio 2013, Sasso dei Lupi, Umbria IGP 12.5pc

Assertive salty flavours sheathed in an oily texture. Good with paella and saffron rice.

€13.99 at Curious Wines, Cork, Naas and online curiouswines.ie

4) Pinot Grigio 2013, Franz Haas, Alto Adige DOC 13.5pc

Orange zesty palate, fuller-bodied and an elegant austerity. Serve with baked monkfish wrapped in bacon.

€22.99 in Dublin at Thomas's, Foxrock; Drink Store, Manor Street; Clontarf Wines and McHugh's, Malahide and Kilbarrack Roads

Value buy: Porta 6 (Red) 2012, Portugal 13.5pc

Soft and gentle tannins allow the fruity ripe red berry flavours to shine. A great all-rounder with casual dishes.

€9.99 reduced from €12.99 at O'Brien's nationwide during the Winter Sale which runs until January 3, 2016

Tasting notes

Friday November 6:

James Nicholson's wine tasting from 5pm-8pm at Smock Alley Theatre, 6/7 Exchange Street Lower, Dublin 8. Tickets, €15, can be purchased by calling 1890 667 799 or online at jnwine.com.

Thursday November 12:

Comparative wine tasting with Maximilian Riedel, an 11th-generation glass maker from Vienna. Begins at 7.30pm in Ballymaloe House's Grainstore, Co Cork. Tickets €65 each, or €55 each for bookings of two or more. Each ticket includes €97.50 worth of Riedel Veritas glass. To book, tel (021) 465 2531 or email colm@ballymaloe.ie.

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