Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I'll Drink to la Dolce Vita; ON WINE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I'll Drink to la Dolce Vita; ON WINE

Article excerpt

Byline: andrew campbell

ITALY produces a vast amount of wine - from the country's mountainous north to its sun-baked south jutting into the Mediterranean.

In fact, according to United Nations stats, it produced nearly a quarter of the world's wine in 2010 and nearly a third more than its nearest rival, France.

The overall quality of Italian wine has increased dramatically in recent years - despite the country's association with the fashionable but frequently bland pinot grigio.

Yet two Italian regions remain head and shoulders above the rest in terms of reputation, quality and price. They are Tuscany, with its chiantis, super-Tuscans and Brunellos, and Piedmont in Italy's north west.

Known locally as Piemonte, it's to the picturesque, historic and hilly wine cauldron south of Turin and flanked by the Alps to the west and the Med to the south that I take you first...via the shelves of Asda.

Piedmont boasts the famous reds made from dolcetto and barbera grapes, the whites of Gavi and the sweet sparklers of Asti.

Jacob's Chardonnay. But the region's crowning glory is the nebbiolo grape used to create the worldfamous reds of Barolo and Barbaresco. While some top Barolos are deliciously accessible, others are less 'user friendly' and are an acquired taste.

'What?', I hear Barolo devotees scream, and it is of course a matter of taste. Yet Barolo can be highly tannic and acidic particularly when young. However, if your wallet will allow, bear with it because at its best it's sublime and many makers are now producing wines designed for earlier drinking.

Enter the International Wine Challenge (IWC) bronze medal Asda Extra Special Barolo 2010, made by large-scale Piemontese co-operative Araldica.

Reduced from PS15 to PS12 until April 28, it's more expensive than many wines yet modestly priced by Barolo standards.

Be warned, it's not easy drinking, but leave it for a few hours or even a day and it improves dramatically to reveal fresh cherry aromas mixed with smoked oak, liquorice and an earthy complexity.

The taste is tantalising and intriguing with sour cherry fruit flavours backed by truffle, leather and herbs and plenty of mouth-drying tannin. …

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