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elwood tasting event : Hidden treasures from Southern Italy

September 26, 2013

As part of the Brighton Food Festival this year, elwood hosted a wine tasting on Monday 9th September in support of Brighton & Hove Hospitals.  The theme for this tasting was to look at wines from southern Italy – a source of many great wines that can fall below the radar of wine buyers, largely because they tend to be from lesser known regions.  Italy is perhaps one of the most complicated wine producing countries to get to know, but there are so many hidden treasures here that it was a pleasure to introduce some of the wines we sell to a new audience.  The focus was on Puglia and Sicily and the six wines we tasted were certainly worthy of the attention.

The tasting took place in the atmospheric Cellar Rooms under The Old Ship Hotel and proved to be just the tonic for an autumnal Brighton that evening.  Here is a run down of the wines we tasted, but you can click here for some fabulous photos of the event, which were taken by Julia Claxton Photography – they sum up the evening rather well!

Our guests were greeted with a glass of the Carta d’Oro Catarrato 2012 from Cantine Rallo in Sicily.  This indigenous white varietal from Sicily is a great alternative to a Sauvignon Blanc, not as pungent as a Kiwi version, but more along the lines of a Sancerre for example.  This was followed by the rather obscure white varietal, Fiano, from Masseria Altemura in Puglia.  This wine comes from vineyards in the Salento Penninsular, where the rather unique influence of two coastal oceans moderates the Mediterranean summer heat, a climate that is not generally ideal for dry white wines.  The grapes were harvested when fully ripe and there are notes of ripe peaches and apricots and even a hint of a salty-tang – could this be the oceans influence?  The producer behind this wine has great ambitions for the Fiano grape and having rescued it from obscurity, it is hard not to see its potential.  According to ancient records, Charles I of Anjou was rather fond of this varietal – back in the 13th century – so time for a revival perhaps?!

We then moved on to the reds.  Kicking off with two signature red varietals from Sicily, Nero d’Avola, we saw not only a modern example of the drink-ability of this grape, but also the future of its potential.  The first example was the Il Principe 2012 from the Cantine Rallo stable again – vibrant red and dark berry fruits and very laid back charm.  The second Nero d’Avola was from one of the most dynamic producers in Italy – Vito Catania who produces wine under the label Gulfi, which he established 10 years ago.  Vito Catania has rapidly become one of Italy’s most celebrated winemakers and last year Gulfi was voted Winery of the Year by Gambero Rosso, the guide to the best Italian wines.  If you’re a fan of a good Châteaneuf du Pape or Barossa Valley Shiraz, then the wines from this producer are certainly worth the detour.  And so too were the last two reds from the renowned producer in Puglia, Apollonio,  that provided the finale to our tasting.   Our attention now switched to two local varieties for fine reds from Puglia, Primitivo and Negroamaro.  Both wines were produced from vineyards located in the Salento Penninsular and as already stated, the unique climate and terroir here is producing world-class red wines.    The Valle Cupa 2007, a 50/50 blend of Primitivo and Negroamaro was very much in the vein of a richly endowed Chateauneuf du Pape with its spice and hedonistic fruit profile.  Whereas the Primitivo Terragnolo 2007 has the sweet aromatic spice and silkiness of a Rioja Reserva, with the peppery-kick of a Syrah from the northern-Rhone.

If this has whetted your appetite and you would like to read more about the wines mentioned here, then follow this link.

So what were the most popular – in other words what did people buy?  There were three clear favourites (and the prices):

Fiano Salento 2012, Masseria Altemura @ £14.75 per bottle
Salento Rosso 2007 Valle Cupe, Apollonio @£16.50 per bottle
Nero d’Avola Nerojbleo 2009, Gulfi @£17.50 per bottle

For details on the rest of the wines we tasted, click here.

The Cellar Room under the Old Ship Hotel proved the perfect venue again and we  look forward to our next outing here on the 17th October – Burgundy tasting and dinner, featuring the wines from Domaine Chanson.

If you’re interested in attending any of our further tasting events for 2013, then BOOK HERE.

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