The Doctor Wine European Capitals Tour 2013

Elena Walch selection
Elena Walch selection

All images by Robin Goldsmith

While beer sales, partly driven by financial considerations among younger consumers, have been rising markedly within Italy, wine consumption in the country is declining, hitting an all-time low, according to latest reports. In excess of 50% of Italian wine production is now exported, notably to the U.S. and Germany, with interest from China also growing strongly, an increase of nearly 30% over the last 13 years. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to see many Italian wine producers marketing their wines abroad, especially in the key London market. The taste for Italian wine in the UK capital has been growing for several years, with Prosecco, in particular, finding itself a fashionable drink of choice for many Brits. Indeed, as a report in the drinks business recently highlighted, sales are increasing 50% every year, outperforming both Cava and Champagne. However, quality levels vary immensely and consumers are not always being given a truly representative choice of what is available.

Italian wine styles are hugely diverse, from light sparkling whites to heavy, tannic and spicy reds. In an effort to showcase quality, terroir-driven wines from his country to a larger European audience, Italian wine expert, Daniele Cernilli, organised the Doctor Wine European Capitals Tour 2013 in three cities – Berlin, Amsterdam and London. The following is a review of the last of these trade fairs, which took place on October 29th at The Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington, London. The wines listed here do not represent an exclusive list of Italian regions or styles, but I think they do give a flavour of some of the more intriguing expressions of the country’s international and autochtonous grape varieties.

Veneto

  • Villa Sandi brought along some of their sparkling wines, available in the UK from Annessa Import Limited. Not just for drinking on their own, these are all good palate-cleansers, as well as having enough acidity to cut through fatty dishes.
    • Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Millesimato DOCG 2012
Villa Sandi
Villa Sandi

Unlike most Proseccos, this one is made from a single fermentation only. The result is fragrant and fruity with notes of apple, pear and melon.

  • Vigna La Riveta Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG NV

Only 12,000 bottles are made of this wine, with all the grapes hand-picked from the vineyard located in the highly-regarded Cartizze subregion. Floral, fruity, clean and smooth with a refined minerality on the end-palate, this is an elegant style of sparkling wine.

  • Il Fresco Rosé Spumante Brut

Made predominantly from Pinot Noir and Glera, with the addition of various local grapes, this is light, refreshing and slightly off-dry with notes of strawberry.

Trentino Alto Adige

  • Elena Walch is a family-owned winery with plantings of international and local red and white grape varieties in the heart of the Alto Adige winegrowing region. Their wines are available in the UK from Bancroft Wines.
    • Beyond the Clouds Alto Adige DOC 2011

This is one of their top white wines, made from a blend of grapes, predominantly Chardonnay. Floral, fruity, rich and creamy, this is a powerful wine at 14.3% ABV, which would go particularly well with full-flavoured chicken-based dishes.

  • Ludwig Pinot Nero Alto Adige DOC 2011

Using a blend of terroir, with grapes picked from more than one vineyard, this has a nose of forest fruits and hazelnuts, while the palate is light and fruity with good acidity and a touch of nuts and gentle spice on the finish. The previous year’s vintage was voted the best Pinot Nero in Italy and the 2011 has potential to develop well over several years.

  • Kastelaz Merlot Riserva Alto Adige DOC 2010

The south-facing vineyards are protected by mountains, benefiting from plenty of sunshine, but also wind, the latter helping to preserve acidity and produce smooth, elegant wines. The result here is a wine full of concentrated fruit aromas and a palate of ripe plums plus a hint of chocolate. The 18-month oak ageing does not overpower, lending finesse and softness.

  • Innovative co-operative group, Cavit, provides 60% of this region's wine production. The company brought four wines to the show from their Bottega Vinai range, which are available in the UK from Boutinot Limited, but two of these stood out for me.
  • Gewürtztraminer Trentino DOC 2012

This is a lovely expression of the Gewürztraminer grape variety. Delicate rose petal aromas carry on to the beautifully balanced palate of lychees, Turkish Delight and violets. The finish is clean, with a hint of citrus and none of the flavours are out of balance.

  • Pinot Nero Trentino DOC 2011

Raspberries and cherries on the nose with a hint of spice lead on to a fruity palate with notes of cherries, soft tannins and good acidity.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

  • Castello di Spessa’s DOC Collio wines come from 25 hectares of vineyards near the Slovenian border. With a long tradition of winemaking, dating back to the 1550s, they produce a range of red and white wines from several grape varieties.
    • Torriani Merlot Riserva DOC Collio 2005

This superb wine has rich, concentrated aromas and flavours. The nose has notes of plums and gentle spice with a hint of eucalyptus, while on the palate, plums, berries, spice and herbal/nutty characteristics combine superbly. This would be a good match for roast shoulder of lamb.

Basilicata

  • Elena Fucci is a young family-owned company, currently producing one wine only from the renowned Aglianico grape variety. The vineyard is located by an extinct volcano, Monte Vulture, in the south of the country, which benefits from a unique terroir with lava-based soils, plenty of sunshine during the day and cool temperatures at night.
    • Titolo Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2011

On the nose, notes of red fruits, flowers, spice and nuts are followed by a fruity,

well-rounded and full-bodied palate with a variety of developing flavours. The

tannins require time to integrate, but this is definitely a wine with great promise

and a winery to watch.

Sicilia

  • Cottanera is another company influenced heavily by terroir. With 65 hectares of vineyards growing around Mount Etna, the wines have their own distinctive style, flavour and freshness.
    • Barbazzale Rosso Etna DOC 2012

This is a light, crisp and fruity wine with a mineral edge, made from two

indigenous grape varieties, Nerello Mascalese (80% ) and Nerello Cappuccio

(20%). The freshness really comes through with notes of wild berries and flowers

plus good acidity.

  • Etnarosso Cottanera DOC 2009

This is a more elegant, rich wine made from a different blend of the same grapes - Nerello Mascalese (90% ) and Nerello Cappuccio (10%). The result is floral and fruity with notes of plum, berries, chocolate, coffee and well-structured tannins.

Marchesi di Barolo
Marchesi di Barolo

Piemonte

  • The world-famous Gaja Winery has 250 acres of vineyards in the Piemonte region, known for some of Italy’s most renowned wine styles. The company had three wines represented at the show, which are available in the UK from Vinum or Armit Wines.
    • Sito Moresco Langhe DOC 2011

This wine is made from 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, blackberries, cherries and spice are evident, while further black fruit notes plus pepper spice and silky tannins characterise the palate.

  • Pievi Di Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008

Made from 100% Sangiovese, this has deep notes of plums, cherries, herbs and spice with a hint of chocolate and a persistent finish.

  • Rennina Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008

Made from grapes grown on a single vineyard, this is fruity, floral, delicately spicy and supremely elegant with hints of plums and cherries plus a little smokiness.

  • Award-winning Marchesi di Barolo presented one white wine and four reds at the show.
    • Langhe Arneis DOC 2012

Arneis is a white grape variety which is not well-known in the UK. It has perhaps suffered from a poor reputation due to inferior wines made with it, which have fairly neutral flavours. Although difficult to grow, it has the ability to produce very interesting, aromatic wines. This elegant example has a delicate bouquet with crisp, fresh citrus and herbal notes plus a refined minerality and would be a good match for a variety of fish and white meat dishes, including veal, rabbit and tuna.

  • Barbaresco Tradizione DOCG 2010

This 100% Nebbiolo wine spent 18 months in 40-50 year-old oak barrels. The aromatic nose is fruity and spicy with hints of mint, while the smooth cherry-like palate has gentle tannins.

  • Barolo Tradizione DOCG 2008

Barbaresco’s famous big brother is, of course, Barolo. Made from 100% Nebbiolo, this example displays intense and complex, fruity and spicy characteristics on the nose and palate. Good acidity and a smoothing hint of coffee on the finish leave a well-rounded feel in the mouth.

  • Canubi Barolo DOCG 2009

This single-vineyard Barolo also shows complexity with floral, fruity and woody notes, complemented by elegant spice plus a herbal tang on the end-palate.

Volpaia Chianti Classico
Volpaia Chianti Classico

Toscana

  • Mastrojanni are an award-winning producer of Brunello di Montalcino, whose wines are available in the UK from FortyFive 10° Ltd..
    • Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2011

Starting with a lighter and fresher expression of the Sangiovese grape, this has a delightfully aromatic nose of ripe cherries and dark berries, while the palate is characterised by cherry, blueberry and dark chocolate.

  • Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008

With notes of cherries, plums, spice, hazelnut, chocolate and vanilla, this could be a great accompaniment to venison.

  • Vigna Loreto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2007

This is the first vintage from a new vineyard planted in 1999. Fruity, flowery and spicy, the wine has a more earthy quality than the above Brunello with firmer tannins too.

  • Casanova Di Neri brought along three examples of Brunello di Montalcino, available in the UK from Eurowines. All were good, but my favourite was the last of the ones I tried.
    • Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2007

Already packed full of dark fruit aromas and flavours with notes of coffee, spice and tobacco plus liquorice on the finish, this should develop beautifully over time.

  • Castello Di Volpaia produces Sangiovese-based wines with good ageing potential. Grapes are harvested by hand and are used to produce a mixture of traditional and more modern styles of Chianti Classico.
    • Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2010

Made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot/Syrah, this wine spent 14 months in Slavonian oak barrels and demonstrates notes of cherries and spice.

  • Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009

Made from 100% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot/Syrah, this wine was aged for two years in Slavonian oak barrels and French barriques. The nose is elegant with cherry, spice and vanilla notes. On the palate, the fruity quality is enhanced by the vanilla, with gentle hints of chocolate and toast.

  • Coltassala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009

Made from Sangioveto and 5-10% Mammolo, this wine was aged for 18 months

in Allier oak barriques. The nose displays cherry intensity, while the palate has

notes of green peppercorns and a savoury/gamey quality underpinning the fruity character.

  • Balifico Rosso Toscana IGT 2009
Sassicaia
Sassicaia

Made from Sangioveto di Volpaia and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was also aged for 18 months in Allier oak barriques. The result is an elegant wine with notes of cherries, wild berries and a hint of chocolate.

  • Perhaps the most famous Italian wine is Sassicaia, the legendary "Supertuscan" from Tenuta San Guido. Fortunately, for the attendees at the tasting, Armit Wines brought along not only this classic, but one of the other delicious reds from the same winery.
    • Guidalberto Toscana IGT 2011

Bolgheri is Tuscany’s great coastal wine region and 2011 is considered to be one of the area’s top vintages of recent years. This wine, comprising 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, is full of dark fruit character with touches of herbs, violets, liquorice and spice plus a hint of tobacco and creamy chocolate from the 15 months’ ageing in primarily French oak barriques. Although made so that it could be drunk at a relatively young age, compared to Sassicaia, a couple of further years in bottle might bring out a softer and more rounded fruit profile.

  • Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC 2010

Unsurprisingly, this is a richer and more complex wine. Made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, with 24 months ageing in French oak barriques, the intense nose of ripe red and black fruits is followed by a similarly juicy palate, complemented by gentle spice, hints of coffee and liquorice.