Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bryn reveals his number two...

Our soon to be departing wine advisor Bryn carries on his countdown of his top 6 wines from Averys. At number two...

Todays discussion is ‘what annoys you about world wine labels?’ Please feel free to comment at the bottom!
Wine Labels 101
I have always had a love/hate relationship with Italian wine. Back when I was starting out in the wine industry, I rarely delved into the Italian collections for my own cellar as I always found Italian (and German) wine labels so damn difficult to navigate. Add this to the fact that there are over 2000 grape varieties planted in Italy, and its soon clear that you could spend the rest of your life learning about Italian wine and all the subtle differences and nuances contained therein. Looking at this from the point of view of a pretty timid 24 year old new to the industry, and you quickly see my fear! However after a few years of learning all about the rest of the world, I quickly got to a point where I could no longer ignore Italy, after all, they are the largest producer of wine in the world (just… France are not far behind at all). Instead of sitting with book in hand reading about the wine laws that govern regions and such like, I decided that a scattergun tasting approach would be the best (and most fun) way of trying to understand Italian wine. So I set about a long and very painful process (I even had to take my work home with me on occasion) of tasting a huge amount of Italian wine whenever I could and discovered… even more problems!

Lets take Soave as an example. You can buy Soave in most shops now for less than a fiver and the quality ranges from utterly awful to pretty damn good. I remember only recently tasting one of our soon to be in wines, the Pieropan Soave (possibly one of the most delightful summer whites I have had the fortune to taste. It will be around £11). I was so enthused by this tasting that I went out that evening in search of a bottle of Soave to enjoy that Friday evening. I went into a shop in search of a Soave I had not tasted before and spent around £8 on a bottle, and found it to be so completely dull. No fruit, no character, just an acidic mix of tasteless ingredients in a glass, and it wasn’t the only rubbish offering I drank over the next few weeks. I went to our Italian buyer Liz field looking for some clarification on my findings. It turns out that the Pieropan is technically a Soave Classico (the next quality level up) but due to the fact that the winemaker wanted to bottle it under screwcap, it could not be ranked as such. Confusing? I thought so. Surely it has everything to do with the quality in the bottle as to what rank a wine should be? But apparently in Italy, it doesn’t. This isn’t an isolated problem. Until the mid 1980’s the most expensive and sought after wine in Italy, Sassicaia was labelled as a table wine! Super tuscan wines came from the winemakers realising the could make a better quality wine if they weren’t restricted by the DOC Chianti laws. So now, the most sought after wines in Italy are labelled IGT, the Italian equivalent of the French Vin de Pays.

So my findings so far in this scattergun approach in the last two years are as follows:

  1. Italy can produce some of the worst, tasteless, fruitless concoctions in the world, no matter how they are labelled. Fact!
  2. Italy can produce some of the finest, most flavoursome, beguiling wines in the world no matter how they are labelled. Fact!
  3. Italy really need to sort out their labelling!

I don’t know what to conclude from my research really. My recommendation would be to take my approach and keep trying Italian wines until you find the ones you like. After all, without this approach that I took, I would not have found my second favourite wine from Averys!

Podere Capaccia Querciagrande 2005 IGT - £31.99 per bottle

This tiny little estate is based in the hills around Radda in Chianti, about an hour south of Florence, and it is truly ‘bite the back of your-hand’ beautiful. The history of the estate goes all the way back to the mid 12th century where the whole village and land surrounding were shared and farmed by the locals. This ‘sharecropping’ scheme was abandoned in the early twentieth century as urbanisation and industry tempted people away from the country with the promise of riches in the cities! The estate remained empty and run down until the 1970’s when the Prato family bought the estate with the idea of making superb wine and olive oil. They quickly began a programme of replanting and renovation, building a new cellar and restoring a family house. Over the next 20 years, quality went from strength to strength. In 2000, the Prato family decided to sell up after having done so much loving work to the estate. It was bought by Joseph and Alison King. They have continued the great work done by the Prato family, and are in the middle of a massive project to modernise the winery and restore all of the out buildings as tourist houses. I cannot overstate how beautiful this place is and it should be open to the public in a year or two.

The Querciagrande is 100% Sangiovese made from their best part of the estate. It spends 14 months in French oak and 12 in bottle before being released onto the market. Due to the current renovation at the winery, this is the last parcel we will be getting for a while!

Beautiful dark red in the glass with a slight tawny rim. Wonderful nose of dark cherry fruit, crushed strawberry, tobacco leaf, herbs like rosemary, and a slight note of sweet vine tomato. It bellows out of the glass like dry ice would, going up and down the sides, and filling every part of your glass and your nostrils. The palate adds a little cassis and sour cherry onto the table. This is a wine that doesn’t flirt or dance, it’s a passionate caress of your palate, like getting a pillow soft hug on your tongue. Velvety smooth tannin and a wonderful acidic zip on the finish. This is an Italian woman wrapped up in a bottle. Passion, anger and love at the same time. Its simply an bewitching, sensational wine. Push the boat out for this one and you will not be disappointed. I drank this wonderful nectar with a hearty mixed game tomato ragu. The acidity and weight of this wine make it very food friendly, but keep Italian with tomato based sauces for best effect! It is worth decanting this for a few hours before drinking too…

As I said this will be the last of this for a while and at current count we have about 36 bottles in stock. If you would like to have any for your cellar, please don’t hesitate to give one of the wine advisors a call on 01275 812207 or visit

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