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Magnificent Spread of Italian Red Wines

Italian Red Wines from the slopes of Mt Etna

The first tasting of the year, hosted at No.8 Northumberland Ave, between Trafalgar Square and the river. Good venue, with lots of space in which to get a big swirl going. And lots of fabulous wines to swirl. The exhibitor was a single merchant: one of the UK's larger importers showing their range, majoring on Italian wine.

And I tasted a great many Italian red wines from producers more or less celebrated. Here's a smattering of the best and most interesting (including that aforementioned beauty from Mount Etna):

Italian red wines - 2014 Perlato del Bosco Tua Rita
2014 Perlato del Bosco, Tua Rita, Bolgheri
£96 in bond per 6     
Drink 2018-24

This is such a famous estate and I was very excited to taste their latest releases. One wine, however, really stood out. It wasn't the most expensive (that accolade goes to the 2014 Redigaffi at £100+ a bottle), but this wine, which I thought communicated by far the greatest sense of place of any of the wines. The nose has a floral (geranium?) note punctuating the red fruits and the aromas are altogether pure. I finally discovered something a touch citrus, like fresh orange juice attending the red cherry and plum fruit. Just mid-weight, this and it offers fine, upright tannins and rising grip and incisiveness. Long and a touch backward, this, and the haunting floral note returns mid-palate. Long and quite delicious.

Italian red wines - 2015 Guidalberto Tenuta San Guido

2015 Guidalberto, Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri
£147 in bond per 6  
  Drink 2018-25

This is the estate at which is produced the mighty Sassicaia. And whilst the wine above is 100% Sangiovese - that king of all Italian varieties - this is a very French sounding blend of Cabernet and Merlot. These grapes have, in fact, been cultivated in this part of Italy for a very long time and respond extremely well to both climate and soil. The nose is fascinating: a rather high-toned thing showing liquorice and dark, slightly cake-y dense fruit aromas. Aromas are a touch herbal, too. Palate is cool and medium weight, showing fresh, mineral-dense grip and integrated, quite crystalline-mineral tannin. Long and lasting grip here to a really fabulous, busy and dense death. M
ost rewarding.

Italian red wines - 2015 Guidalberto Tenuta San Guido2014 Chianti Classico, Querciabella
£102 in bond per 6    
Drink 2019-29

Chianti now comes in such a variety of styles that it is becoming hard to put one's finger on exactly what Chianti really is. But I immediately latched onto this wine as it came across as so honest, incisive and extremely age-worthy. Nose here is also a mite high-toned, but there's wonderfully clearly expressed red, domestic fruit aromas connected to a great deal of spice. And there's a distinct scent of freshly squeezed orange juice here as well: all very fascinating. The palate gives instant tang. This is a wonderfully fresh and linear wine. Fruit is crisp, red and pure and waiting to unfurl with time in bottle. The tannins really are a wonderful thing to behold: rich, ripe and assertive. This really is backward for the time being: deffo one for the cellar. Complete wine and a very good one. 

Italian red wines - 2013 Morellino di Scansano Riserva Poggio Valente Le Pupille

2013 Morellino di Scansano Riserva Poggio Valente, Le Pupille
£132 in bond per 6   
 Drink 2018-28

Just a stunning nose that invites one closer: lovely chocolate-dark fruit that urges one to take a sip.
That sip is met by a plush and rich palate that quickly takes on fabulous rich, fine tannin. A long wine of fresh and incisive minerality held within that dark and chocolaty fruit. A really long and really busy wine that Monica Larner (Italian correspondent for Robert Parker's Wine Advocate) was driven to anoint with 95+ of her points. On the modern side but still utterly wonderful wine of enormous energy. 

Italian red wines - 2014 Etna Rosso Vigna Barbagalli Pietradolce
2014 Etna Rosso Vigna Barbagalli, Pietradolce
£336 in bond per 6    
Drink 2018-35

How to make someone pay what is, let's face it, a lot of money for a relatively unknown wine. Hmm. Even a score of 97/100 from Monica Larner might not do it, so I will just tell you about the wine and what I tasted and you can make up your own minds...
This is the product of a 90-year old vineyard 900 metres up Mount Etna. It is made from 100% Nerello Mascalese, that Pinot-like Sicilian at home on this volcano's slopes. Unlike its younger sibling, which is showing a hint of brett, this is clean as a whistle. That's not to say that this isn't magnificently characterful and complex, however. I found aromas of almonds and orange, along with salted raspberries. The aromas manage to be elegant, complex and mineral at the same time. The palate is cool with a fabulous swathe of significant tannins that are just now becoming integrated with the fruit. A long wine, very freshly mineral. This grips well and simply pushes on to the far distance. There are floral nuances to the dark fruit. The whole impression is one of a grand cru burgundy that's gone on hols to see its country cousins in the Med. Just a stunning thing…at a stunning price, admittedly. 

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