Wine Tasting: A Selection of Italian Fine Wines (11th Sep 2000)

My first tasting in a while and my first since moving to Italy. I presented these wines to a lively, informed group of Swedish nurses (no, really!) who kept me on my toes with a series of questions (hence the sparse notes). Good fun and good wines, although like most high end Italian wines, they really needed food.

1. Banfi Tener Sauvignon Chardonnay Brut NV

11th Sep 2000 ITL12500 Tuscany Sparkling White

An unusual fizz in that Banfi are using international varieties but have decided to use their own method of bubble production in tank - most wines at this level would automatically be made by the Champagne method. Straight forward and pleasant, with a very fine mousse (more frizzante or petillant than fully sparkling). A little neutral on the nose but clean fresh varietal flavours, good acidity and a soft citrussy finish. Good value but nothing spectacular.

2. 1998 Mastroberardino Falanghina Beneventano 'Sireum'

11th Sep 2000 ITL13000 Italy Table White

Very pale gold, bright. Floral, honeyed nose. Delicate with touches of orange peel and a salty tang. Good acidity and nice balance over a nutty finish. Drink now as an aperitivo.

3. 1998 Schiopetto Collio Pinot Bianco

11th Sep 2000 ITL25000 Italy Table White

Pale gold, bright. A slightly neutral sugar-water nose leads surprisingly into a juicy, fat, oily citrus/melon mouthful. Hefty stuff at 13% abv but nicely balanced with a tangy, juicy finish.

4. 1997 Tiefenbrunner Alto Adige Pinot Nero

11th Sep 2000 ITL16000 Trentino - Alto Adige Table Red

Quite pale and clear with a light touch of game and mushrooms on the nose - promising! A bit thin and dry on the palate with high acidity - may improve over the next few years or may just need food. Good value but not earth-shattering.

5. 1997 Speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore Sant'Urbano

11th Sep 2000 ITL20000 Veneto Table Red

Bright even ruby in colour. Lovely, complex nose of manure and liquorice - this could have been the Pinot! Quite light on the palate, with plenty of acidity and a tang of bitter almonds on a lengthy finish. Good stuff but drink with food. Try it with a very light chill.

7. 1997 Prunotto Barbera d'Asti Costamiole

11th Sep 2000 ITL56000 Piedmont Table Red

Deep, dark ruby. Intense, inky, plum jam nose with a bit of green mint. Intense fruit flavours with rasping acidity, firm tannins and a lengthy, berry fruit finish. Very, very good but needs a large steak and/or five to ten years.

8. 1997 Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano Granato

11th Sep 2000 ITL53000 Trentino - Alto Adige Table Red

Another dark red wine with intense aromas and flavours of black fruits and bitter oak. Not as thick as the Barbera but it still needs time or food. Dry on the finish, with a dash of quinine.

9. 1995 Prunotto Barolo

11th Sep 2000 ITL45000 Piedmont Table Red

Even garnet red. Nicely balanced but intense nose of new leather. Intense and long, this is amazingly forward and drinkable with lots of new oak coming through. Best left for another three to five years I think, but good now.

10. 1995 Antinori Brunello di Montalcino 'Pian delle Vigne'

11th Sep 2000 ITL55000 Tuscany Table Red

All the pointers were good - one of Italy's top producers, a DOCG wine and 'the miracle vintage' of 1995 - but the wine didn't quite stand up to the hype. Dark, nearly opaque, with juicy, forward aromas and flavours. Firm and dry with crisp, berry fruit flavours and a tang of wood. Very good stuff but needs another 5 or so years.

11. 1995 Speri Recioto della Valpolicella 'I Comunai'

11th Sep 2000 ITL53000 Veneto Dessert Red

One of Italy's classic wines - made from selected grapes which have been semi-dried on grass mats, it is the sweet sister to Amarone. Deep, dark ruby - almost opaque. Concentrated nose of candied fruits, raisins and straw. Full bodied and packed with black grape flavours, with a juicy, balancing acidity that sweeps through to a long finish. Will it keep? - who cares, drink it NOW!