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SWA 2011: REST OF ITALY - WHITE

Rest of Italy: White
Some good, food-friendly wines in here but very few, surprisingly, that were amazing value for money

This is one of the largest categories, attracting almost as many entries as the House Wines whites. You might think that the majority of these entries would be cheap and cheerful, battling it out for that classic just-above-entry-level slot. But you’d be wrong.

While there were a decent number of submissions in the £5–8 area, an awful lot more were going with the pricey-but-classy shtick. And, like last year, most of the sub-£10 wines ended up as Silver or Bronze medals rather than on the Gold List.

The majority of wines entered came from the North-East (Veneto, Alto Adige, Friuli…), the part of Italy that has tended to do the best in this competition down the years. And while the tasters weren’t that impressed with the wines at the lower end, they soon perked up when the prices hit double figures, which provided a strong backbone of mid- to upper-priced whites right the way through the medals.

‘We got off to a shaky start but then the flight turned out to be wonderful – the wines around £12 were very good indeed,’ said Nigel Lister.

Central Italy – a big disappointment last year – saw a good spread of well-priced entries in 2011, predominantly Verdicchio, and the tasters enjoyed the flight’s strong individual character, minerally structure and balance. The only problem in fact, was that few, if any, of the wines would sell off the list on their own, which is probably why more of them didn’t join Poggio al Tesoro’s Vermentino on the Gold List.

Not that Olivier Marie was worried by the strong character of the wines. ‘With a lot of individual and expressive character, I could certainly sell some of these – I wouldn’t have any difficulty selling on quality alone,’ he said.

The North-West continued its perennial journey of disappointment (Araldica’s Gavi an honourable exception). So with the rest of Italy struggling to provide wines at affordable prices, it was left to the South to do the honours. And it did. Sort of.

You might expect cheapness to be a given from Italy’s shin downwards, but in fact
it’s often done rather better in the SWAs at the higher price points and only one of the sub-£8 wines sent in (the Pala Vermentino) did it for the judges this year.

Still, five out of the eight Golds went to the South, which is a huge step up for the region. Not an easy sell, necessarily, but ‘crowd-pleasing wines’, as one judge put it, and worth the effort. Not least because you genuinely get more for your money as you move upmarket.

But if it’s strict value, as opposed to value for money, that you’re looking for, you’ll need to check out the Silvers and Bronzes.

“The Central Italian whites were an interesting selection of wines and styles. These were good food wines, although they would be a hand-sell.”  Irina Atanasova, Les Deux Salons


“There was quite a bit of minerality and nice acidity in most of the Southern Italian whites. Overall they were lovely. ” Sergio Benito, Bistro du Vin

GOLD LIST

Pala Vermentino I Fiori 2010, Sardinia, Italy
£7.23 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
SWA 2011 Gold List Lychee and mango aromas mingle with intense apple and charming floral notes while the well-balanced palate shows zesty flavours of apple, good acidity, some minerality and a lengthy finish. ‘Beautiful chalky texture,’ said Kelvin McCabe. ‘Intense and long finish,’ said Roberto della Pietra.

Tasca d’Almerita Leone d’Almerita 2009, Sicily, Italy
£9.63 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
SWA 2011 Gold List With oak hints coming through on the peach-driven nose, the palate has brisk citrus notes, herbaceous hints, lovely refreshing acidity and a long, mineral finish. ‘Quite elegant and precise,’ said Natasha Hughes. ‘Round, rich and full,’ said Angela Reddin.

Poggio al Tesoro Solosole Vermentino 2009, Tuscany, Italy
£10.78 @ Liberty Wines

SWA 2011 Gold List The hit of the flight, everyone appreciated the delightful complexity, racy acidity and chalky minerality of this wine. Angelica notes, apple and aristocratic sherbet flavours, and a whiff of smokiness completed the picture. ‘Textured oak with a marzipan and almond finish,’ said Kelvin McCabe. ‘Fab!’ said Angela Reddin.

Argiolas Iselis White 2009, Sardinia, Italy
£11.02 @ Eurowines
SWA 2011 Gold List A powerful, alluring wine with good minerality on the nose alongside rich, fleshy stone fruit and herbal notes. ‘Very well balanced on the palate with lovely acidity,’ said Sergio Benito. ‘The oak is wonderfully displayed. Very discreet,’ said Angela Reddin.

Maso Toresella Cuvee 2008, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
£12.09 @ Boutinot
SWA 2011 Gold List Rose petals on the nose lead to an expressive flourish of exotic grapefruit, tangerine, pear and white peach flavours sitting happily alongside a crisp finish. ‘Creamy and complex,’ said Martin Lam. ‘Very good despite the heavyweight bottle. Luscious.’

Planeta Cometa 2008, Sicily, Italy
£15.40 @ Enotria
  Wonderfully complex and intriguing on the nose, with quince, honey, candied fruit, even a hint of butterscotch. The palate has good fruit, hints of smoke and mouthwatering acidity. ‘Pigeon, light game, foie gras…’ Roberto della Pietra was getting carried away.

Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer 2009, Alto Adige, Italy
£16.47 @ Hallgarten Druitt
SWA 2011 Gold List Plenty of exotic tropical fruit, wth lychee, grapefruit and passion fruit flavours and a dash of smokiness. ‘The palate is lively, rich and textured,’ said Jamie Goode. ‘It is intensely aromatic but not overwhelming,’ said Maria Rodriguez. ‘Elegant.’

Mandrarossa Viognier 2009, Sicily, Italy
£32.76 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List A difficult call due to the price, but the superb flavours, power and complexity won every judge over. There are intense aromas of herbs alongside quince, grapefruit, tropical and dried fruit just for starters. The dry, rich palate has basil and yellow apple, with good acidity, balanced oak notes and a long finish. ‘Try with poached white fish,’ said Kelvin McCabe.

SILVER

Coste del Molino Verdicchio 2009, Marche, Italy
£5.34 @ Boutinot
Dry and crisp with fine stone fruit flavours, this light wine has a ripe citrus aspect on the palate. Roberto della Pietra found a toasted almondy character and a little roasted nuts on the finish. ‘Good value,’ added Irina Atanasova.

Araldica Gavi La Battistina 2010, Piedmont, Italy
£5.84 @ Boutinot
Well balanced and very versatile, this has gentle fruit, a hint of minerality and a crisp, clean finish. ‘Juicy with quite open floral fruit,’ said Martin Lam.

Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Riserva 2009, Trentino, Italy
£7.08 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
With a fresh pear fruit nose, the light citrus palate shows hints of gala melon and a richness
that is really nicely matched by its acidity. ‘With a ripe, generous finish, this is quite charming,’ said Team Leader, Sarah McCleery.

Le Vaglie Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2009, Marche, Italy
£8.72 @ Vinum
Aromatic and light in texture, this has toasted notes alongside the peach stone and baked
fruits nose. A creamy textured palate shows flavours of lemons, peach, apricot, hazelnuts and orange peel, along with well-balanced acidity.

Salmagina Verdicchio Classico Superiore 2009, Marche, Italy
£9.04 @ Enotria
Fresh and complex mix of fruits, with pineapple, peach and guava complementing each
other alongside apple and orange peel. ‘Good minerality and well-integrated acidity,’
commented Irina Atanasova.

Is Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna 2010, Sardinia, Italy
£9.77 @ Eurowines
Universally popular, with its beautiful nose of acacia and summer garden flowers alongside pear and white peach notes. Stone fruit again on the palate, with hints of vanilla and a good, clean mineral finish. ‘Elegant and poised,’ said Team Leader, Susanna Forbes.

Cantina Mesa Giunco 2010, Sardinia, Italy
£10.17 @ Liberty Wines
Fresh peach, melon and citrus aromas mix happily with mineral notes, while the balanced, zesty palate sports a crisp, herbaceous minerality. ‘Good structure means this has food potential,’ said Philippe Loiseau. ‘Try duck,’ suggested Igor Sotric, China Tang.

Vallagarina Bianco Chardonnay 2008, Trentino, Italy
£11.58 @ Alivini
An elegant nose of honeysuckle and white peach with some nutty, honeyed notes gives way
to a fresh, citrusy palate with lively pear fruit and some vanilla notes. ‘Satisfying and rich,’
said Team Leader, Jamie Goode.

Donnachiara Fiano di Avellino 2009, Campania, Italy
£12 @ Sommelier’s Friend
A pleasingly complex palate, with nuts as well as tangy warm citrus and stone fruit, alongside baked apple flavours. ‘Savoury notes and an umami finish,’ noted Roberto della Pietra. Good
food potential.

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Collio Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Collio, Italy
£13.60 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Clean and bright, with a complex nose of minerals and stone fruit. ‘Very attractive, with crisp citrusy fruit and a subtle pithiness,’ said Jamie Goode. ‘Nice purity of fruit.’

BRONZE  

Pra Soave Classico 2009, Veneto, Italy
£7.59 @ Boutinot
Citrusy, waxy and herby with lemon curd hints and grassy notes. This sports a lively, taut palate with a touch of minerality and some nutty, apple notes.

Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio/Verduzzo 2010, Veneto, Italy
£7.73 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Citrus, peach and light pear flavours dominate this well-textured white, with balanced acidity and a long finish.

Oro Gavi 2010, Piedmont, Italy
£7.88 @ Eurowines
Aromatic on the nose, this is creamy and textured with quite straightforward fruit.

Camesiri Roero Arneis 2010, Piedmont, Italy
£8.94 @ Winetraders UK Limited
Dry and slightly leesy with lots of apple and apricot flavours, and a nice complex richness.
‘A straight-up Italian white, with white citrus and fresh almond flavours,’ said Mark Deamer.
‘Well balanced.’

Solarco Collio Bianco 2009, Lombardy, Italy
£12.30 @ Eurowines
Elegance and depth in this delightfully complex white with its fresh lemony acidity, lush, spicy notes and subtle herbiness. ‘Honeyed, grassy, waxy, floral, precise and finely chiselled,’ said Olivier Gasselin, Marc Restaurants.

Bellavista Uccellanda Terre di Franciacorta Bianco 2007, Lombardy, Italy
£23.04 @ Alivini
Pronounced citrus fruit and lightly nutty on the nose, with good concentration, fine minerality and good acidity to balance the palate. Unfortunately the price counted against this one.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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