On the day we ordinarily congregate to celebrate the foiling of Guy Fawkes’ infamous gunpowder plot, we will instead be locked inside wondering how our government has Fawked things up so much.
Referring to himself by Italian version of his name, Guido, Fawkes was inspired by his tour of the continent and indeed Italy. How could he not have been enamoured with a country that’s home to more than 2,000 indigenous grape varieties?
As we prepare for lockdown on bonfire night, I have chosen four Italian wines that will set off fireworks in your house, minus the gunpowder.
An Everyday Red
Gone are the days when you could find a decent bottle in the supermarket for less than £10. For a £5 bottle of wine, once all costs are considered (duty, vat, packaging, transport, retail margin) the amount left for the actual liquid is just 31p. Increase the buying price to £10 and the liquid is worth £2.70 – more than eight times the wine value for just twice the cost. For this reason, I would always spend the extra few pounds and drink less.
When looking for bang for buck with Italian wine there are many areas to explore but the grape that always delivers for me is Sangiovese. It is used both in mass-produced table wine as well as some of the finest wines available in Europe. Sangiovese’s happiest home is in Tuscany, where the sub-regions Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano form some of Italy’s most favoured wines.
The Antinori family have been making wines in Tuscany for over 600 years, long before Guy Fawkes began plotting, and they are responsible for one of Italy’s greatest wines, the original ‘Supertuscan’ Tignanello. Now one of the world’s most successful wine families, their flagship bottle Villa Antinori, which has been produced by the family since 1927, is a true Italian wine for all occasions. Primarily Sangiovese, it is also blended with small amounts of Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
Italy gets a bad rep for its white wines, with vast amounts of entry-level examples exported annually. If you look in the right places, however, Italian wines often over deliver.
Gavi di Gavi is one of the most renowned whites in Italy. Hailing from the Piedmont region, it is made exclusively with the Cortese grape, which creates an incredibly versatile wine, with a herbaceous and aromatic profile balanced with a zesty lemon finish that makes it both a delightful aperitif and a perfect partner for fish, pasta and even some light meats.
Nicola Bergaglio is one of my favourite producers and this wine was ever-present in my house during the first lockdown.
Just because you can’t leave the house, you should not forgo the odd celebration – just getting through another week is worthy of a full-scale carnival in my house. At moments like these I always have a bottle of my favourite sparkling wine from Ferrari.
The producer is much older than the more commonly known car company, having been founded in Trento in Northern Italy in 1902 by a man named Giulio Ferrari. Using the same vines and methods as the Champagne region, only situated at the foothills of the Dolomites, the wines display a wonderful crisp minerality and a silky smooth finish.
The whole range is exceptional but I find their vintage offering ‘Perlé’ to be the best value. Owned for the past three generations by the Lunelli family, the house has rightly been awarded the world’s best sparkling wine producer three times in the last decade.
A Sunday Treat
For a special treat when you realise how much money you have saved by not leaving the house, there are plenty of Italian wines to splash out on. The top Italian wines have rocketed in value over the past decades and are now considered investment grade. But investing in wine is no fun, especially in lockdown, so when I want a treat I look to Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2016.
This wine is Vietti’s entry level Barolo but given the near perfect vintage and the winemaker’s sublime craftsmanship, it tastes anything but entry level. Ordinarily you would not expect to drink Nebbiolo (Barolo’s only grape variety) so young but this one is deceptively powerful, with dark cherry notes complimented by a hint of tobacco and held together with perfectly formed tannins. It is also quite punchy at 14.5% ABV.
• Dom Jacobs is Wine Director at The Fitzdares Club