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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Friday, February 24, 2012

Italian Wines in NZ

For all its distance - the wine, food and culture of Italy seem to have an endless fascination for Aucklanders.  And not unlike the rest of the world, we have been eager to embrace panini, espresso, cappuccino, pasta, pizza, Chianti, Prada, and a whole bunch of other stuff ending in a, e, i and o.

Having said that, Italian wines tend to be a bit of a mixed bag.  Even the quality control system is fairly random; with the DOC (Denominazione de Origine Controllata) appellation not much of an indication of how good the wine is.  It just says ‘the name of the area where these grapes were grown is controlled.’   DOCG is a bit better: (Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita) - ‘the name of the area where these grapes were grown is controlled and we guarantee that’s where they came from.’

Italy has for many years been predominantly a bulk wine producer (second only in global output to France), pumping out gazillions of litres of fairly mediocre wines into Europe and beyond. 
As a general rule, any wine produced south of Rome is probably not going to be of very high quality.  Regions like Puglia and Sicily are hugely productive hot climate areas producing the bulk of Italy’s easy drinking lightweight wines – often simply called ‘Vino di Tavola’ – table wine, made from blended varieties.  These wines are generally pretty good value, but nothing remarkable.

Having said that, there are some interesting wines worth seeking out in NZ.  Here are a few I randomly sourced locally:

San Crispino Chianti 2002 $21.95
Sourced from the Auckland Fish Market’s wine ‘Cellar’. This one was a gamble – being ten years old, despite its DOCG label.  Realistically, it’s pretty well over the hill age-wise but carries echoes of nice Chianti which should have been at its peak about 5 years ago.  Has some nice raisiny and Sherry characters with medium tannins.

Farnese Montepulciano D’abruzzo  (Docg) 2010  $17.00
The Abruzzo region of Italy is synonymous with the Montepulciano grape variety – and this wine is a very good example.  Soft, extremely ripe and fruity – this is a great value wine which delivers the goods.  Black currant, prunes and dark cherry flavours and spice with silky tannins.

San Marzano Primitivo Puglia 2010  $18.00
Primitivo is a robust wine which grows well in southern Italy. It is rumoured to be the same grape variety as Zinfandel – the mainstay of California’s  blockbuster reds.  Similarly, this is a big wine with fairly assertive tannins but it is very ripe and drinkable, with cherry, spice and toasty vanilla oak influence.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

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