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Column: Two reds and a white from the land of wine

Wine recommendations from northern Italy
Italian wines Two Reds & a White from the Land of Wine
Three Italian wines to explore: a white from Veneto and two reds from Tuscany and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Two Reds and a White From the Land of Wine

Today we travel to Enotria, the Land of Wine: Italy. Italy is the 2nd largest wine producer, just trailing France. And what’s fascinating about Italy is they have so many delicious wines, including a great number of indigenous varieties not planted anywhere else.

For a delicious dry white, I highly recommend the 2018 Monte del Fra Custoza Superiore DOC ($21.99; 93 points). A family winery in the heart of Custoza and Della Valpolicella in northern Italy, its name (Monte del Fra) means land of the monks where a monastery was built on the land in the 15th Century. Unlike most white wines, it has five varieties of grapes in it: Garganega, Trebbianno Toscano, Trebbianello, Cortese, and Incrocio Manzoni.

The Monte del Fra displays a medium lemon colour and releases a complex aroma of wild white flowers, golden delicious apples, and vanilla. There are layers of flavour with ripe quince, pear, earthiness, spice and lip-smacking tang with a long dry finish of juicy tree fruit and orange zest. It’s one of my favourite white Italian wines. Great as a sipper and it pairs well with oysters, sashimi, and whitefish.

Italy is renowned for its red wines and an excellent one to try is the Villa Antinori 2018 Toscana IGT ($27.00; 92 points). The Antinori family has been making wine for over six centuries and is known for making innovative decisions while upholding respect for traditions. They produce Chianti Classico wines under the Marchese Antinori and Peppoli Estate labels. Tignanello was their innovative wine released in the early 1970s. It was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques and the first contemporary red wine blended with untraditional Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The Toscana is an elegant medium-bodied blend of Sangiovese with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Its IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) designation allows foreign grape varieties to be added.

A bright red, the Toscana reveals a delightful floral aroma of violets with lots of ripe black fruit and hints of earth. On the palate, there’s black plums and cherries, leather and licorice, with traces of tobacco, barbecued meat plus spice. The tannins are smooth and the wine is drinking well now. I enjoyed it with grilled hanger steak on pappardelle with Arrabiata Sauce.

Here’s a dark brooding red that will require several hours if not overnight of breathing. It’s the Tiberio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($25.99; 89 points).

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can be inexpensive wines that sell for $12 a litre! Tiberio is in a different league. It’s a relatively young winery whose founder discovered an ancient vineyard of indigenous grapes in this mountainous region between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea.

It’s bold and structured with a very dark inky-purple colour with a ruby rim. At first it had a delicate aroma of red and dark fruit with hints of flint and smoke. After a day of being decanted the aroma revealed ripe plum. There’s plenty of tasty flavour as soon as it is opened, with red cherry, pomegranate, tar and a chilli finish. It has a medium-heavy body with grippy tannins. Cellaring for three or four more years would soften these as would enjoying them with protein like a hearty beef stew or a meaty pizza.

Cristiana and Antonio Tiberio run the estate founded by their father Riccardo. The Montepulciano is from 55-year-old vines and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Eric Asimov, wine critic of the New York Times says the Tiberio is a good simple wine, everyday wine, “the kind that can be opened without ceremony or permission, hold an exalted place in my heart. These are the bottles most cherished by wine lovers.”

Asimov is careful to define simple. Its not “unthinking” or “mundane” He uses simple in terms of farming and production. “The simpler the processes, most of the time, the better the wine.”

All three of today’s picks are available at BCL Stores.