Many who enjoy their wine simply ignore Italy; ‘it’s too complicated’, ‘too many unpronounceable names’, ‘too many unfamiliar grape varieties’ are just a few of the comments I’m familiar with – and those are from consumers who have actually thought about Italian wines. Sadly, many don’t even get that far. And those that do, usually look to the famous names like Chianti and Barolo, where prices reflect familiarity (and dare I say it, not always quality).
But look further afield and Italy is an excellent source of good value and very drinkable wines. The South (especially Puglia and the hills above Naples) and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia are particularly worth considering – see some of my earlier blogs for recommendations – but, perhaps even less well-known are the regions overlooking the Adriatic coast.
Marche is home to delicious dry, herby whites made from the local Verdicchio grape as well as attractive fruity reds labelled Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno. You should find reasonable bottles of any of these in good supermarkets for less than £10. Marche’s neighbour to the south is Abruzzo, which, to my mind, produces one of the most reliable easy-quaffing reds that I know – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the grape variety and it looks like a mouthful to pronounce but is actually very easy: Monty – pull – chee – arno with the stress on the ‘arno’.
The Wine Society list offers an example from Contesa Vigna Corvino, a deeply coloured red with intense aromas and flavours of damsons and blackberries, soft tannins and fair length. It’s fresh and fruity enough to drink on its own or pair it with grilled lamb chops or Spaghetti Bolognese. The wine is not especially complex, but very drinkable and a bargain at £8.50. Look in your local supermarket and you may find a bottle of another producer’s ‘Monty’ for even less money.
And, if you hear someone say that Italian wine is just too complicated, lead them to the nearest wine shop (after getting them to read this blog, of course!)