As with the Italian white wines at Waitrose Spring Tasting 2011, the red wines are judged on my working idea of bella figura. Nearly all the wines at Waitrose are technically good, but what Italian reds can you find here that transcend the mundane and show individual style and a little extra flourish?
5. Recchia 2010 Bardolino, Veneto, Italy £5.99 Even lighter than Valpolicella, this is like a fresh cotton floral print dress that comes out at the first hint of Summer. Hooray! A crystal ruby colour with fresh raspberries, a slight liquer tang to keep it interesting but with a pillowy softness. Lovely chilled. 12.4% alcohol.
4. Moncaro 2010 Rosso Picenco Superiore, Marche, £4.99 Another good value wine from Moncaro (see the white). Sweet fruit smart enough to get out of the sun just before it baked. Great weight and drinkability at this price, with a spicy finish. Put in a carafe for easy style on a budget (not many will pick the difference).
3. Paolo Leo Primitivo di Manduria 2009 Puglia £9.99 From the “heel of the boot” of Italy, this is 100% Primitivo grape (related to Zinfandel, with similarly high alcohol levels of 14.5%) this is dark purple with black glints, sweet fruit and balsamic notes. If you like rich Shiraz, you will like this.
2. Inycon Nero d’Avola/Frappato 2010 Sicily, £6.69 From the premium region of Menfi (where Planeta and Settisoli are based) this is a classic Sicilian blend that really works now. It is a good balance of big Nero d’Avola with the freshness of Frappato and moves expertly between aperitif to main meal. Excellent structure, great fruit and an interesting herbal edge to finish. The best value buy. Available at 239 branches. Only 12.8% alcohol.
1. Alois Lageder Krafuss Pinot Noir 2007 Alto Adige, Italy £27.99 Here you’ll find one of the world’s most seductive flavour matches according to author Nikki Segnit (Flavour Thesaurus): strawberry and cinnamon. Pale orange-brown colour which tastes very soft and very pretty but with the “seedy fug of the fairground”. This is a delicate and elegant wine from the Alps in the far north of Italy.
Other Italian Reds tasted in the Spring Collection (*worth noting):
* Cantina del Pino 2007 Barbaresco, Piedmont £26.99 This is an acceptable Barbaresco for the price with delicate rose and cherry perfume leading to licorice sweet fruit on the palate and a regulation dry finish. Perhaps it was the sample, but it tasted a little young (had not come together) even though it is made in the drink now style. If you want to know more about Barbaresco and Barolo then this would not be a bad introduction to this fascinating, and expensive, world of wine.
* Sicilian Wild Cat Nero d’Avola 2009 Sicily, £6.49 Wild Cat? Good description, this is a difficult wine. Some people love cats, some do not. From an altitude of 250-400m, it has nice attack, with a freshness but a slightly bitter, yet clean, edge.
Trinacria Rosso 2010 Sicily, Italy £3.99 No.
Vignale 2010 Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy £4.99 On the one hand, people are starting to understand Valpolicella is a soft, versatile, easy-drinking red. On the other, this is not it. It is the beautiful man who opens his mouth to say something mean; both tart and light-on at the same time. Enjoyable in small doses but wears thin.
Saluti Vino Rosso NV Vino da Tavola, Italy, £5.99 A blend of 70% Nero d’Avola from Sicily and 30% Sangiovese from Emilia Romagna. Very dark ruby garnet, not much length to it. Go with the Moncaro for same price.
Vinchio-Vaglio I Tre Vescovi 2009 Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont £8.99 Why it is so hard to get Barbera right at this level? Of course, it is only frustration speaking here, because this wine is not bad – minimal french oak, old vines, stainless steel. I just want more exciting everyday wine from Piedmont.
Canaletto 2010 Chianti, Tuscany £6.99 If you like more “resistance” in your Chianti, you may fall asleep on the softer-than-normal-Chianti tannins. But if you want a soft red, this is not bad.
Poggiotondo Cerro del Masso 2008 Chianti, Tuscany £8.99 There is so much competition with Chianti in the supermarkets. Good tannins and lavish fruit but in the modern style. If you prefer the more traditional taste, head over to Marks and Spencer for 2007 Castello della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva £12.99.
Image: Vogue Italia, December 1979