Six Italian wines from the Co-op (and one Trophy winner!)

THE Co-op white wine Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014 has picked up the Great Value White under £7 trophy from the International Wine Challenge.  I spent an afternoon with the man who brought the wine to the shelves,  the Co-op’s Italian wines buyer,  Ben Cahill.

First, I asked Ben what he would say to people who don’t buy Italian wines.

He said: “Italy is not renowned for its wines – people think cheap gluggable whites or chianti – but the quality has improved immeasurably. There’s been a renaissance; over the last 30 years Italy has enjoyed an absolute revolution.”

He said: “Now’s the time to try Italian wines if you haven’t already. If I had less than a tenner to spend on a bottle and I wanted something exciting then Italy is the first country I’d make a beeline for.

“The majority of reds  are  food friendly and the quality of whites has gone through the roof.”

Ben Cahill Co-op wine buyer
Ben Cahill

Italian wines: Here’s three whites and three reds from the Co-op’s range

The Co-operative Orvieto Classico (£5.49) This is definitely an alternative to pinot grigio as it’s just a bit more interesting (well, most things are). It is crisp, clean, revitalising, with more body, and  more rounded than pinot grigio, slightly  honeyed, almondy with a good balance between acidity and fruit.  If you like a PG and fancy a change, but not too much of a change, go for it.

Gavi La Luciani (£7.49)  This is very pretty and feminine, with a contrast between floral notes and stony minerality. A touch of lime lingers at the back of the mouth after you swallow, giving both an extra bite and a mouth-watering moreishness. It’s a wine to have in the fridge ready to chink chink on a sunny day.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano (£6.99) Golden in colour, quite rich, with aromas which hopscotch between citrus, herbs, and flowers. I’d recently cooked a risotto with this (I drank some too!) and it was interesting to see how the same vintage – 2014 – had developed. It has more weight than the gavi and the orvieto, and felt  comfortable in its soul.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Barbera d’Asti (£6.99)  This has a fair amount of tannin and structure but wasn’t mouth drying. It had a slight smokiness, with aromas of cherries, bramble fruit, wild blackberries, dried leaves and a hint of savoury. So much going on!  

Bibbiano Chianti Classico (£9.99) Ben has brought this wine exclusively to the Co-op. Bibbiano supplies top-notch restaurants and he explored further and developed a partnership which has seen a slight tweak on the blend, but with the same winemaking expertise behind it.  It is a great  example of its type for less than £10. It would be fantastic with tomato-lashed spaghetti.

Villa Annaberta Amarone della Valpolicella (£17.99) I love the story of amarone wine. Time and skill is invested in making it, hence the price tag, but it’s worth it. Grapes are dried on racks before being fermented and the result is a wine that is very rich, almost a port, with  a slightly unctuous weight in the mouth. Enjoy with cheese instead of port – or simply sit in a comfy chair in front of a fire and wallow in selfish tranquility.

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First published in the saturday extra magazine February 2016

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