ITALIAN WINES by Zoom – April 2021

In IWFS London Blog by ashepherdiwfs


Our latest foray by Zoom was to taste contrasting Italian wines:

  • A white from a native grape grown in North West Italy
  • Wine from a native red grape grown in Sicily
  • A red wine from North East Italy, made by the ‘ripasso’ technique.

We sourced the wines from our local Majestic branch. Prices may vary.

Gavi DOCG, Piedmont: Cortese grape

Our first wine was made from the Cortese grape, in the fortress town of Gavi and the hills around, in Piedmont, North East Italy, where the climate is mild and warm.

Gavi wine has high acidity with relatively low alcohol, refreshing for drinking young. Its aromas are delicately scented, floral, herbal or grassy; the palate is crisp and dry with a mineral flintiness.

Most of us found that it compared favourably with white Burgundies of the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. However, some people, including one or two of our participants, do find Cortese an overrated grape.

Both examples we tasted had been made with care:

La Toledana Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2018/2019 £12.99

La Raia ‘Il Borgo’ Gavi 2019 £9.99
This wine is made on biodynamic principles, without fertilisers or synthetic chemicals. 

Nero d’Avola, Sicily: Nero Oro Riserva DOC 2017 £11.99

The second wine was from Nero d’Avola. This grape is grown successfully in the south east of Sicily, where temperatures often exceed 40º, and not really anywhere else. But the heat does not mean that the wines are rich and heavy. Fruity aromas with underlying spices, and flavours of red fruits, dry with spicy notes, are backed up by acidity enlivening the finish. The tannins are high but soft.

The Wine and Spirit Educational Trust calls the grape a “viticultural superhero”, within the canon of great Italian reds. It is Sicily’s flagship red – its most important and widely planted red wine grape variety. It’s good value.

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso: Corvina grape

Finally we looked at a Valpolicella wine from Veneto, Italy’s largest wine producing region. The Corvina grape produces light wines with low tannin levels. Other local grape varieties may be blended in small proportions.

Valpolicella wine is usually bright-red, ruby-red or cherry. The bouquet has a sweetish smell. There may be hints of cherry and rose, and bitter almond. The palate will be fresh, soft and dry, slightly tannic and bitter, with flavours of cherry, strawberry or raspberry.

“Ripasso” is made by repassing the Valpolicella Superiore blend in a second fermentation, with the partially dried pressed grape skins and solids left over after being used for Amarone, or occasionally Recioto (sweeter). Both these are unique full-bodied rich wines made from dried grapes which have been harvested late, with alcohol levels of 15-16%.

The ripasso process strengthens the fresh fruitiness of Valpolicella, adding depth, richness, complexity, and a longer finish. The wine is cheaper than Amarone, and has lighter alcohol, normally 13% or 13.5%.

Two Ripasso wines had been suggested for this tasting:

Villa Borghetti Valpolicella Ripasso 2018 £10.99

Domini Veneti ‘La Casetta’ Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2017 £14.99

The leftover skins added for this wine are from Recioto, giving a further dimension of flavour and some sweetness.

At this tasting we enjoyed three wines from different native grapes and from different regions, illustrating the amazing variety of Italian viticulture.

Rachel Burnett