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Two grape varietals Four Italian classics

As a wine merchant for many years, I would love a pound for every time I am asked which are my favourite wines – as though I have the secret to eternal wine-drinking happiness! My response is generally disappointing as I explain that it all depends on the mood, the food, the occasion, the company and wherever I happen to be at the time. As we move into the shorter days, darker evenings and more intimate social surroundings I am happy now to unveil the secret to my favourite red wine this season.

With over 800 grape varieties, 20 designated wine growing regions & centuries of winemaking history, Italy’s wine scene is a glorious adventure from grape to glass. Tuscany and Piedmont represent Italy’s premium regions for recognised classics and production.

The two top reds from Piedmont, situated in the north-west on the borders of Switzerland and France, are Barolo and Barbaresco.

Barolo typically is a dry, full-bodied, magisterial wine made from Nebbiolo grapes in the Barolo area of Piedmont. It has complex aromas and flavours of strawberries, tar, herbs, and earth, as well as a firm, tannic structure. The wines of Barolo are aged for a minimum of 18 months in barrel and released after 3 years. Riservas are aged for a minimum of 5 years. I would recommend this wine as a perfect partner with roasted partridge, pheasant and grouse.

Barbaresco is similar to Barolo, from the same grape in a nearby area, but generally lighter in body and slightly more approachable. Barbaresco is less tannic due to the climatic and terroir differences which mean the grapes ripen sooner and have thinner skins. The typical style of Barbaresco has a bouquet of roses or violets with flavours of cherry with notes of truffles and fennel. I would recommend this wine to enjoy with venison, duck breast and guineafowl.

Tuscany is beautiful and interesting and is located on the Italian north-western coast. My personal favourites are Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.

” Tuscany and Piedmont represent Italy’s premium regions for recognised classics and production. “

Chianti is made mainly from Sangiovese grapes grown in the region and Classico is often the best with Riserva being more concentrated in style and pricier. Expect this wine to be very dry, medium-bodied, moderately tannic with a lovely tart cherry flavour. This wine is perfect with pasta dishes with tomato sauce, ossobuco, leg of lamb and pizza – of course!

Brunello di Montalcino is also made from Sangiovese grapes solely grown in the Montalcino region and really is the pinnacle of Sangiovese. Full-bodied, intense and concentrated you can expect a complexity of preserved sour cherry, dried oregano, aged balsamic, fig, tobacco and leather. This my friends, is my favourite red wine in the world! Perfect with fine roast leg of lamb with rosemary, pot roast pheasant, or the local bistecca alla Fiorentina. Equally lovely with Pecorino or Parmesan if you need an excuse to open the bottle!

Wendy Lee-Jones – [email protected]