From Etna to the Dolomites
It’s officially summer and whilst the sun is out and the temperature rises our attention inevitably turns towards a selection of drinks that will make our dinner party and barbecues special, refreshing and exciting. And what better way than matching your tasty culinary efforts with an intriguing pick of artisanal Italian wines? Wines that are light, easy drinking, yet with personality: exactly what I call “beach wines”.
Over the last few weeks I was able inspire my clients by organising several “summer tastings” where I would specifically showcase the light side of Italian wines. On the basis of their feedback, I have selected a couple wines that were instantly able to make people feel like they were in the middle of summer.
Of course we could not get the party started without a bottle of fizz! In the Veneto region, more precisely just off the city of Verona there is a semi-mountainous area called Lessona which gives birth to one the most undiscovered and fascinating sparkling wines around: Durello. Made with Durella grape, history goes that the ethimology of the word comes from the word dura (hard) as this grape originally was challenging to work with often resulting rather sharp wines. Thankfully, over the last few years, producers have been able to realise the potential and “manage” the key characteristics of the grape varietal to their favour crafting delicate, persistent and salty sparkling wines that really make it a fantastic alternative to the neighbour Prosecco.
For our second wine we fly all the way down to the southern east part of Sicily, in the magical Syracuse area. Here, other than the impressive historic and artistic heritage there is a wine that screams “the sound of the sea”: Grillo.
Made from Grillo grape, this white wine will be your perfect companion at any Sicilian seafood feast. Gentle and delicate, low in alcohol and with light floral and citrusy nuances, Grillo has a slight almond finish to it, ideal while admiring the sun setting over the picturesque village of Ortigia. Of course if for any reason you happened not to be in this beautiful part of the world, this wine will be just as great with a selection of zingy salads and fresh mezes, even if it is at the back of your garden!
It would not be a real summer without a Rose’. The wine that I am going to talk about, although it is technically a Rose, it’s probably unlike anything you have had before. Called Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo, this wine comes from the Montepulciano grape found in the Abruzzo region in central Italy, which typically gives rich and robust wines. In this case it is vinified “in white” and the result is nothing short of excellence. A wine that is able to develop incredible complexity and length with impressive smoky, fruity and stony nuances: such a fascinating beauty. It will age magnificently and pair equally well with seafood, cheese or white meets. So please do me a favour, don’t put ice in it like you do with most of your Roses, play some respect to this majestic wine and be a little more patient… in fact this Rose’ should not be served ice cold but rather slightly chilled to reveal it wonderful aromas.
For our last wine, back we fly again to the north, and this time is relatively close to the border with Austria. Approximately 45 minutes north from Lake Garda, there is an area of the Italian Dolomites which is home to one of Italy’s most underrated red wines: Schiava. The Grape here just like for Grillo has the same name as the wine. Considered as the wine that locals drink as an everyday wine, it has a lot of resemblance with Merlot due to its fruitiness and slight earthiness.
In the stunning wine route which connects lake Garda with the Dolomites, I have had the change of visiting and tasting several Schiava wines from various producers and the verdict was always incredibly positive making come to the conclusion that it has to be one of my favourite easy drinking light bodied reds. Because of the high altitude and the type of grape, Schiava is characterised by relatively low alcohol, smooth yet with great brightness. Smelling and tasting this wine feels like being in the middle of an Alpine wood with wild reds fruits and fresh herbs filling your nostrils with a natural sense of wellbeing. Again, a selection of cold cuts or some great pork sausages at the table will also do the trick.
I could go on forever about wines, their characteristics and how they would best pair with food. But at the end of the day, a great talk with friends and some quality time with your family at a barbecue or dinner party is probably what will realistically make that day ultimately special. I just thought that sharing with you undiscovered wines that deserve a lot more visibility would make those hot summer days more enjoyable, entertaining and surprisingly bearable!