New Finds from Italy (in time for Thanksgiving)

A recent article on the consumption of Italian wine pointed out that, for the first time, the value of Italian wines exported was greater than the value of that consumed by Italians at home.

In 2010, Italy exported 3.93 billion euros ($5.3 billion in Canadian dollars) worth of wine, while spending 3.89 billion euros ($5.25 billion Canadian) on Italian wines at home. So just over half of all Italian wine is now exported.

The article went on to say that purchase of Italian wines around the world climbed 12 per cent from 2009 to 2010, while consumption of Italian wines in Italy dropped by 4.8 per cent.

In fact, Italians now spend half again as much on bottled water as they do on wine.

In my view, importers and consumers of Italian wines are the big winners, as there is an increasing abundance of excellent Italian wines to try.

The Brunello di Montalcino wines of Tuscany and the dry, sparkling Proseccos of the area around Venice would be my first choices if I were stuck on a desert island.

But even the basic Nero D’Avolo wines of Sicily, or the Sangiovese reds and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo wines of Tuscany are taste treats that Italians of those regions have enjoyed for centuries.

As I continue to explore good value wines during my money diet, I tasted two very tasty examples from Farnese Vini.

Farnese Wines is based in the seaport town of Ortona, on the east coast of Italy, northeast of Rome, in the province of Abruzon.

It turns out a well-heeled Austrian princess married a local in 1582, bought the town of Ortona for 52,000 ducats and helped build a reputation for the wines amongst the European noble classes.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Farnese Wines bought and restored part of the local castle to use as its offices and headquarters.

I tried a red and a white of theirs that are both available at the Yukon Liquor Corp. The white is Farnese’s Trebbiano D’Abruzzo ($10.60), which is a very drinkable choice that you might consider to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey.

It has a pleasant yellow straw colour and is fruity but not too sweet, with just a hint of peach flavourings.

As with most European whites, Farnese doesn’t go overboard with oak barrel aging, the way the Australians and Californians tend to. The result is an honest white wine that goes well with poultry and should also work with seafood and milder cheeses, such as a brie or gruyere.

The red I tried was Farnese’s Sangiovese ($10.55), which I am going to be drinking on a more regular basis!

As my regular readers will know, I have a fondness for Chianti wines from Tuscany. Chiantis are a blend of various grapes from the Tuscany region, but the primary one that gives Chianti its characteristic flavour is Sangiovese.

Although the Farnese Sangiovese is from grapes grown in and around Ortona rather than Tuscany, it has that same characteristic taste I look for in Chiantis.

In fact, I intend to pick up a Tuscan Chianti and do a taste-off with the Farnese Sangiovese, as I think that it might be a very good substitute to serve with pizza or pasta and a red sauce, especially at $4 – 7 less than I’d pay for a Chianti at the YLC.

The Farnese Sangiovese has a dark red colour, suggestions of cherry in the bouquet and taste, and an agreeable amount of oak to round it out.

Like all the Sangioveses I have tried, it is a superb food wine, matching well with everything from parmesan cheese, to barbequed steaks and roasts, to pasta with red sauce and pizza.

This wine is definitely a find at the price, and I am excited to have added it to my list of wines that I’ll share with friends.

One other note: The 20th annual Rotary Club Wine Event is coming up October 20 at the Convention Centre at the High Country Inn. It’s a great chance to try a variety of wines not currently offered in the Yukon, to talk with knowledgeable wine merchants, and have a great evening among friends.

It sold out last year, so I encourage you to get your tickets early if you plan to attend. Tickets are available at Coffee Tea & Spice and M&M Meats.

If you do attend, think of arranging for a ride home, then have a great time tasting whatever strikes your fancy.


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