Around the World in 80 Wines Part 11: Italy (the Reds)

After the exquisite tour of this beautiful country by the inimitable Joe Fattorini on ITV’s The Wine Show I was inspired to make Italy the next stop on my own particular vinous jaunt. Bellissimo!

Although I love The Wine Show I was a little disappointed to see that, although many of the wines were very interesting and probably delicious (those clever folks at Amazon have provided you with an area where you can by all the wines from the show here), they rather neglected the big juicy reds from the South of the country.

Well I am here to redress the balance so hold on to your stylish but astoundingly expensive hats while we explore the reds of Italy with more than a nod to those flavoursome fruit bombs from Sicily and the South.

Pillastro Primitivo (Laithwaites £8.99)

What a way to start! I’ve recently tried a few big, plush reds from Laithwaites and although they’re not all winners this one from Puglia (the heel of Italy) knocked my socks off. It has a soft velvety texture but don’t let that make you think this lacks power. There’s bags of ripe black cherry fruit coursing through this wine but it’s so easy drinking you’ll be reaching for the second bottle in no time.

I enjoyed this with friends in my lounge on a characteristically wet July evening but it would also be a great match for a pepperoni pizza or a plate of pasta covered in a rich beef ragu.

Tesco Finest Nero d’Avola (Tesco £6)

Thank goodness this bargain priced gem survived the recent cull of Tesco’s more interesting wines from its Finest range. It would’ve been tragic to de-list something of such pure drinking pleasure at a ridiculously low £6.

This time hailing from Sicily, here’s a wine which is packed with dark plum, blackcurrant and cherry fruit and is excellent with all manner of barbecued meats. Perfect for large gatherings as you can be the top host getting all the approving nods for opening something with flavour and class, safe in the knowledge that it cost the same as the aisle end crap most other people serve at parties.

Caruso e Minini Perricone (M&S £8.50)

Aaah, an altogether more elegant affair but no less delicious for that. This is another wine from the wonderful winemaking region of Sicily. I still haven’t visited this region yet so if any generous Sicilian wine makers wish to whisk me and Mrs Rebel over to extol your virtues further, you know where I am. And if you don’t, I’m @thewinerebel. Shameless attempt at getting a free holiday over, it’s on to the wine.

This time the prominent flavours are of red berries with red cherries and raspberries all wrapped up in cinnamon spice. A fabulous drop and superb, funnily enough, with all the foods mentioned against the last two wines.

La Altalena Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Aldi £5.99)

Authentic Italian Marguerita pizza float your boat? Then get your laughing gear round this sumptuous, velveteen drop of plum and cherry awesomeness.

The price is astonishing for a wine of such quality. Along with the chunky fruit flavours there’s a nice underlying acidity which makes you yearn for another sip whilst cutting through the delicious cheesy richness of the mozzarella and matching the acidity in the tomato sauce. I know it’s a cliché but this really is a match made in heaven – you can keep your foie gras and Sauternes, here’s where tastebud heaven really lives. Lush.

Wine Atlas Frappato (Asda £4.97)

Another winner from the adventurous, and consistently excellent new Asda ‘Wine Atlas’ range. The wines in this series are a great way of trying new wines at such low prices you really can’t go wrong and this Frappato is a delicious case in point.

A light and juicy red berry filled little number, this was made for al fresco sipping on the lawn while you nibble on an antipasti of cured meats, fresh young cheeses and sun blush tomatoes. Failing that, take it, lightly chilled, on a picnic or simply enjoy whilst you wait for the barbecue coals to whiten and move on to the Primitivo and Nero d’Avola at the top of this list.

Montevasco di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico (Averys £13.99)

Let’s finish off with a copper bottomed classic of Italy. For me, Chianti has to be Classico and here is a wine that’s worth spending a few more pennies on when you really want to treat yourself to a top notch taste of Italy.

From the brilliant Avery’s of Bristol, this is a gorgeous fruit driven wine with all the panache and bold berry and cherry flavour you’d expect but there’s more. As you savour the impressive length you can also pick out smoky spice notes from the oak ageing and enjoy the mineral acidity on the finish which brings you back in for more. Superb with a big Ossobucco, this could be the highlight of your month if not year.