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Wines of Italy with Lee Isaacs

Thursday 9.2.17

Presented by Lee Isaacs

The Oxford Wine Company, 167 Botley Road, Oxford, OX2 0PB

We kicked off 2017 by welcoming record numbers to Botley to take an irreverent trip around Italy in six delicious wines. We learnt some dodgy translations, lamented the lack of a decent map of Italian wine regions, and were warned of the dangers of indulging in too much Wild Boar. Oh, and tasted some wines of course!

Our Aperitivo was the Salidini Pilastri Falerio 2015, a blend of Italy's most planted white grape variety Trebbiano, together with a portion of barrel-fermented Chardonnay and a dash of Pecorino (the grape, not the cheese!). A welcome departure from the watered down Supermarket style Italian white wines that flood the market these days - and none of the dreaded Pinot Grigio in sight!

Moving onwards and upwards to the mountains of Sudtirol brought us to the Castel Juval Müller Thurgau 2014. We learnt that Muller Thurgau is a relatively new grape variety, having been created at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in 1882 by crossing Riesling and Madeleine Royale. What Lee accidentally-on-purpose forgot to mention is that Muller Thurgau is used in the production of - wait for it - Liebfraumilch!

We learnt that there are 333 DOC regions in Italy (DOC meaning Denominazione d'Origine Controllata) - with the DOCG sitting one level above. Our resident Italian translator kindly pointed out that the 'G' of DOCG translates roughly as 'Possibly better quality; definitely more expensive'. As if that wasn't enough to remember, with the newer category of IGT (or Indicazione Geografica Tipica), that makes 520 wine regions in Italy! It's enough to drive you to drink!

One clear example of the symbiotic relationship between Italian wines and Italian food came from the Salidini Pilastri Rosso Piceno 2015. I had high hopes for this wine, having tasted it myself alongside a fantastic rabbit Tagliatelle some months back. However, with the humble pairing of breadsticks we found it slightly lacking. The moral of the story? Try to talk a chef into coming along to cook for us all next time!

From the Amalfi coast we tried the Vigne Verginianae Aglianico 2013 - a weighty red made by one of two warring brothers. Made from grapes picked at the end of October, this wine still had a great freshness - a result, we learnt, of its favourable positioning near the coast, and elevation of 4-500 metres above sea level. With a good tannic grip and some complexity, we agreed this was one to age. A great match for Italian game, cheeses and sausages.

The Chianti Classico we tasted from Castello di Bossi was widely acknowledged to be the wine of the night - and not a fiasco in sight! Was it worth Marco Bacci's time to personally select each stave of wood for the barrels that mature his wine? The jury is still out on that one! We also heard a cautionary tale of the dangers of gluttony when it comes to Tuscan Wild Boar...

Moving on to our final wine of the night, we learnt that the word 'Piemonte' roughly translates as 'Awesome', but got something very different to the usual Barolo. I noticed some puzzled faces as I poured what appeared to be a red wine into peoples glasses, but which gave a gentle fizz. The Parzialamente Fermentato Mosto or 'Birbet' was fresh and fruity - as I write this at the desk on a snowy February morning, I am hatching a plan to squirrel away a bottle, which will be poured alongside a fruit salad on the first day it's warm enough to sit outside without a jumper on. Good things come to those who wait and all that!

Overall a fabulous tasting to begin our tasting calendar for 2017 - thank you to everyone who attended, and of course to Lee for his impressive knowledge, delicious wines, and comic observations!

PS - If anyone wants to invest in my new business producing maps of the wine regions of Italy, please get in touch!

Emily Silva - Oxford Shop Manager