Game, Set and Match - Italian Wine
Todd Martin. You must remember Todd Martin? He was one of my favourite tennis players back in the early 90's. On those occasions when I would drag my father down to that ivy-clad utopia of SW19 you may know as "Wimbledon", we would shout for "Old Todd" at the top of our lungs. Fans who were stood around the court (out on court 14 as it was then) imagined we were related to Todd Martin, why else would Yorkshire folk pump and cheer for Old Todd?
Well, there is no reason. Other than that old British tradition of picking a foreign player at random and supporting them just because we wanted to know what victory might feel like. We wanted to support an underdog but better an underdog that may actually win something. And Goran Ivanisevic must have gone out early!
Yet this isn't my hung portrait of Todd Martin. I wish. No, this photograph takes pride of place at the rather swish and too often overlooked Queens Club, just a short skip from my flat in London, W14. Todd won here and many other places so it's a little unfair to rank him alongside the Tim and Gregs of this world and even more unfair to call him "old" but still, it was a term of endearment we felt.
This is a wine blog, right?
I was invited to the Queens Club yesterday by Antonio Tomassini of Wine and Food promotions, a company committed to helping Italian wine producers get a foot in the door of the UK market. No easy task. If you're unwilling or unable to hand over your Primitivo or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo to Tesco or Asda for €1.40 a bottle or less then you have to go the long way round. The long way round could certainly be worse than the President's Room of Queens Club... talking to the likes of me.
In amongst all this tennis memorabilia and excitement the job at hand was to try Italian wines and of the 50 or so wines available to taste from roughly 12 wineries, these wines proved one thing to me, which I actually already know; that Italian wine is a bargain and the good stuff is not in Asda or Tesco. Are you shocked? I can tell you are. However, there were 87-88 point wines here that retail in Italy for between £2-3, wines with typicity, wines with verve even wines with structure and it makes me want to go home! Oh, sorry, I forgot I was British again for a moment.
So which wines stood out?
Two wines, the only two wines they produce, from Vivi, were both really very good for their €. Classic and simple examples of Falanghina and Primitivo both would make excellent food wines, a perfect wine for restaurants like Zizzi with a simple and modern branding. The Falanghina was crisp and fresh with good fruit and a fine streak of acidity, the Primitivo was classic dark fruit, blackberries with some extra, stand out notes you wouldn't expect from the price point with a bit of mocha thrown in, a touch green on the finish but not unforgiving. Watch out for Vivi at a Pizza Express or similar near you.
Then there were the wines showcased by the very knowledgeable and super-affable Maurizio Fava of Topwine. Maurizio was representing several wineries each offering something different, some lovely sweet wines, aromatic wines and crazily low priced Dolcetto and Barbera wines. The best of which were "Ray", "Aive", "Colle Manora' Minosa" (Sauvignon Blanc from the Piedmont) and the Tre Bicchieri "Pomodolce Grue". Have you heard of any of these? I bet not, and they're gorgeous wines. What doesn't make it 'ere is truly a tragedy.
The rest of the wines at the event lacked only the promotional clout that may be necessary to break the UK, there was no problem with flavour or value anywhere, but there was a lot of Montepulciano at this event and we are already awash with very cleverly branded Montepulciano. Many unknown varietals/docs were also present but I'm not sure the UK market are open to embracing even more Italian grapes/appellations. We need a push for education on Italian wine here in the UK, maybe then Albarossa (right), Schioppettino and the 20 gazillion others will get a chance. We're not great at holding lots of foreign grapes/appellations in our collective consciousness. Unless these terms are continually flashed before our eyes, we easily forget or our brains become tired. Even a most enthusiast wine promoter like Maurizio Fava can only list so many Dolcetto docs before my eyes get that slight glaze. And that's me. And I love Dolcetto!
Where can I buy these wines?
Go to Easyjet or Ryanair, pick a flight to Rome, Florence, Pisa or even Perugia, hop off, go to the enoteca or trattoria, buy them, accidentally miss the return flight. Live happily ever after.
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Am I unfair? Can us British really remember more Italian DOC/Grapes than we do, is it our brains or is it their promotion, is it a lack of quality? Why didn't Tim win Wimbledon? Will Andy?
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