Wine Ratings: southern Italy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 10:24am

Some of the best loved Italian dishes trace their origins back to southern Italy. But the wines from the region have not benefited from the globalisation of the region's cuisine and remain relatively unknown.

With its warm Mediterranean climate, the area is a treasure trove for indigenous red grape varieties that are full bodied and powerful.

The south has a very long winemaking history. Wines have been traditionally used in blends to add body and colour to northern wines during poor vintages. But the wines were destined to become bulk or cooking wines.

This has changed, as international winemakers have discovered the potential of this region. It has become known as the New World of Italy. Grapes can be grown cheaply to provide the volumes needed for supermarkets. New plantings of international varieties such as chardonnay, merlot and syrah have grown rapidly.

Indigenous varieties have not been forgotten. Innovation has produced modern wines, which still retain their Italian identity.

Piano del Cerro, Aglianico del Vulture Riserva Basilicata 2006 

HK$230. The aglianico grape is grown in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. The grape was originally transplanted from Greece.

The wines are known for their dense colour, high acidity and firm tannins. Flavours can be quite complex with dark fruit and mineral notes. The Aglianico del Vulture zone produces some of the best.

Vines are grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Vulture, which reach an altitude of 800 metres. The relative height means cooler temperatures, allowing a longer ripening period for the grapes.

Plum, black cherry, a touch of herbs, with liquorice and chocolate. Full bodied with good fruit intensity, framed by ripe tannins. A well-structured, rich wine.

Principi di Butera, Nero d'Avola Sicilia, 2010 HK$168 Nero d'Avola is Sicily's most important grape variety. Nero means black, while Avola is a small town in southeast Sicily. Previously obscure, but now made with modern techniques, the grape produces good quality reds with plummy fruit, and soft tannins.

The variety has often been compared to syrah, another increasingly popular variety found on the island.

Fresh strawberry, cherry aromatics. Medium body with good fruit intensity, high acid and soft tannins. Approachable wine that will be a crowd pleaser. Sessantanni, Primitivo di Manduria, Puglia 2008 HK$298 Primitivo has been receiving international recognition over the past decade.

Research has revealed that this is the same variety as zinfandel from California, and is also related to the plavac mali from Croatia.

Black fruit, spicy, savoury notes. Powerful and bold with firm tannins and crisp acidity. Higher alcohol levels.

A food wine that will go well with rich braised meat dishes.

Wines from Valdivia.


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