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Lea & Sandeman’s Italian tasting: classics back and re-invented

Lea & Sandeman’s Italian tasting: classics back and re-invented

Franciacorta, Pinot Grigio and Lambrusco are back in vogue but being re-invented by canny Italian winemakers. For blogger and wine importer Mike Turner, attending Lea & Sandeman’s Italian wine tasting, it bore a striking resemblance to how another Italian classic managed to save itself by looking to the future and re-inventing itself.

Mike Turner
17th March 2017by Mike Turner
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

Three suggestions of mid-priced Italian classics that go to the next level from the Lea & Sandeman Italian wine tasting.

A Little Story About The Fiat 500…

Back when I had a proper job, as one of those banker types, I was trading the autos sector and Fiat was one of the companies I had in my book.

Fiat was, for much of the 90s and early 2000s, a bit of dog’s dinner of a company. The cars were OK, but so what? Outside of Italy they were struggling to shift units, the profitability was tanking, and things were looking pretty bleak.

Then up stepped Senore Sergio Marchionne, the first true visionary leader they’d had in years, and hot off the production lines came the brand new (at the time) Fiat 500!

Why am I banging on about a little car that clogs up the streets of our cities?

So Fiat managed to sell a few cars? Big deal! Well actually yeah, it was a bloody big deal. It saved this company from the brink, and they did it by going back to their roots and reinvented and repackaging an absolute Italian classic.

It’s something that the winemakers of Italy have clearly started to understand.

Italian wines have always had a very strong presence in the on-trade.

Almost every town in every country in the world has a Pizzeria Mamma Mia, or a Casa Italia, pumping out decent pizza and piping hot lasagna al forno. And all of these restaurants need a decent list of Chianti, Montepulciano, and our old favourite Pinot Grigio.

It’s guaranteed sales, but some of those wines, or their reputations at the very least, have become increasingly tired in recent years.

But that’s not to say the good producers haven’t always been there, just sometimes a bit difficult to find.

Well on the back of an afternoon with Lea & Sandeman a couple of weeks back, some pretty special stuff is being uncovered for not very much, and is ready to transform a wine list near you!

It was their annual Italian tasting and a collection of winemakers bundled themselves over from all corners of The Boot to show off what’s exciting these days.

I made a conscious choice not to make a bee-line straight for the Barolo stand. It’s pretty damn good stuff, but I know it is, so not sure what the point of me waffling on to you about “oh make sure you’ve got a Barolo on the list”.

What you might not have on the list, but what will really transform it, are the mid range wines that take the old classics to the next level.

The guys and girls from Corteaura in Franciacorta were over, cementing the increasing reputation of this glorious little amphitheatre of sunshine just outside the city of Milan. With RRPs of £20 a bottle, there or thereabouts, it’s pretty damn good value and a very different and premium set of bubbles than the Proseccos (different method I know) doing the rounds.

Next up was across to Friuli and a set of stunning whites by Visintini. The Pinot Grigio, the much maligned grape that it is, blew me away! 80 hours on the skins, pale salmon colour, and this gorgeous cherry blossom and red apple sniff to it. It was probably up there as one of the best Pinot Grigios, of the Italian style, that I’d ever tasted.

I could go on and on with mini tours of Toscana, Collio, Campania, as well as more stunning Lambrusco for sub £15 a bottle (oi oi the Lambrusco comeback), but it’d probably be labouring the point.

That point is that there’s no excuse to have boring wines on your Italian section at all. The Italian classics are back!

Not convinced? Just think about that next time you’re staring at all the Fiat 500s in Notting Hill High Street!