Italy. Oh, Italy. We go back a long way, don’t we? As anyone with even a passing knowledge of Australian history knows, Italy’s contribution to our gastronomic culture dates back to the first waves of immigration in the 1950s and ‘60s. Without that? Well, it’s hard to contemplate life without parmigiano-reggiano.
Or for that matter, sangiovese and nebbiolo.
Which brings us to coronavirus, and the nightly news reports of the devastation afflicting Italy. You don’t have to be an Italian wine expert to know that the region hit hardest by the pandemic – the north - is also home to some of that nation’s greatest wines: sangiovese in Tuscany (Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, IGTs et al) and the sublime nebbiolos, the red wine grape variety native to Piedmont (Barolo and Barbaresco).
For so many reasons – in support, in solidarity, in gratitude – I’m choosing to drink Italian right now; and I hope you will too. The following wines are all reds of individuality, quality and molto brio. So why not #stayhome, order in from your favourite Italian restaurant, and raise a toast to our special friends, the Italians. Salute!
2016 Antinori 'Tenuta Tignanello' Chianti Classico Riserva - RRP $75
Headquartered in Florence, the name Antinori has over 600 years of winemaking history. It is a wine titan, with total annual production in excess of 20 million bottles across more than 150 different labels. This extraordinary success is thanks to Pierro Antinori, who ran the business with sustained passion and success for some 50 years, before handing over day-to-day control in 2016 to his three daughters Albiera, Allegra and Alessia, and Renzo Cotarella, his CEO, chief winemaker and trusted friend. The following wine is their flagship Chianti, the Tenute Marchese Classico Riserva.
I very much enjoyed this wine. The bouquet is truly alluring with complex notes of ripe red fruits, touch of anise, balsam and tobacco. The palate is equally seductive with those bright fruits showing superb vigour on entry, and then continue to impress the palate with complex bitter chocolate fruit characters which mingle with savoury herbs flavours. The long and aromatic finish is buttressed with perfectly integrated and rounded tannins. Superbly shaped. Such a good drink.
Available at fine wine merchants or online at The Wine Emporium ($78)
2016 Albino Rocco Barbaresco - RRP $90
Established in 1955, with the first estate bottlings in 1960, it was not until 1986 that the entire production of the vineyards were bottled under the house’s eponymous label. This wine from the superb 2016 vintage shows that this renowned house is at the top of their game.
100% Nebbiolo grapes aged for a minimum of two years prior to release -- as required by the Barbaresco "DOC" -- in this case in Stockinger (Austrian) botti, a traditional Italian alternative to oak barrels. The wine has a brilliant medium to dark red appearance and aromatic notes of rose, anise, and sun on warm soil. Really racy red berry and anise flavours saturate the lissome palate with great intensity and vigour. It's beautifully shaped and proportioned, with a long finish and a persistent aftertaste of bitter dark chocolate.
2015 Massolino Barolo Serralunga d’Alba RRP – $99
First produced in 1911, this Massolino Barolo is from five different parts of the Serralunga vineyards, with vine age ranging from 10 to 55 years. Aged for 24+ months in large Slovenian oak casks . Year in, year out, Massolino produce some of Piedmont’s finest Barolo’s.This is their “entry-level” wine and what a delicious example it is.
2015 = great Barolo vintage, and this is an approachable examples of this classic year. Super bouquet of rose, hint of orange rind, and back notes of tobacco and anise. The palate surprises with a burst of bright small red berry fruits on entry, with those berry flavours continuing throughout the well-weighted, shapely palate and which expand as they move across the long firm finish. The Barolo tannins feature and are generously coated with a licorice twist. While many Barolo from 2015 will require extended cellaring to reveal their charms, no such need with this baby which is ready to please right now.