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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Italy is top of the crops for grapes

Last week, I was talking about Italy and over the weeks it is likely that I will spend a bit more time on this fascinating country.

Italy produces more wine by volume than any other country in the world.

Spain grows more grapes by area, but I expect more go into dessert grapes for eating and making things other than wine.

Italy uses more than 600 different grape varieties and this is where things start to get complicated.

Speaking of complicated, the Italian rules governing the production of wine are almost impossible to understand.

With all these factors, there is little wonder the Italian wine industry is such a massive subject.

Italy is a country of contrasts, high mountains and cold valleys in the north and super hot areas such as Sicily and Puglia in the south.

Huge factory-style wine makers and tiny village growers are all part of the story.

Last week I mentioned I was lucky enough, with a group of other wine retailers, to be entertained in the grandeur of the Allegrini family’s 15th century villa with Sylvia Allegrini herself.

This was an astounding experience. The next day, we spent two hours in our air-conditioned coach on the way to a small wine company called Specogna in the Friuli region.

This was so different. The coach pulled into a real farmyard with tractors in sheds and dogs running out to greet us.

We got out in to balmy midday sunshine and were greeted by smiling faces, staccato Italian voices, and handshakes – lots of handshakes.

Two young guys in their late 20s welcomed us in perfect English, the sons of the Specogna family.

They pointed at the beautiful vineyards in the distance, showed us with pride the buildings where the winemaking is done and led us straight to an old oak door – the tasting room!

I’ve seen a lot of vineyards and a good few fermentation vessels in my time, so this was looking very good. We were ushered in and there was a large oak table with even larger glasses and bottles in ice buckets – better than good!

We tasted wine made from Friulano, Picolit, Refosco and Pignolo, all grapes that you don't see a lot of here, and some Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Type www.specogna.it into an internet search engine and you will get a feel of the place. It is fabulous; amazing welcome and lots of passion.

We keep their Pinot Grigio, but it is a little different to the norm.

Pinot Grigio grapes when ripe have a copper coloured skin, and when fermented with the skins they make a wine that is pink in colour.

It is called Ramatto and is very different to the cheap Pinot Grigio in the supermarkets. It is £17.99 a bottle but amazing for that special occasion.

I had to buy the Friulano as well – slightly appley, fresh with zippy acidity, brilliantly defined (£16.99).

Okay, they are not cheap but this is where quality really shines through!
 

By Nick Shill
Published: February 6, 2012

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