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‘Heroic’ Vineyards

If you were thinking of setting up a vineyard, you probably wouldn’t be looking at slopes of more than 30%, or places more than 500 metres above sea level, or somewhere you couldn’t take a tractor to collect the grapes at harvest. You certainly wouldn’t look at an area so dry and windy that you have to prune the vines so they’re almost as low to the ground as cabbages. 

Yet, all over Italy, ...

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Sunshine and Friends: Italian White Wines

With summer just around the corner and lockdown easing, finally allowing us to get out and meet friends for an al fresco drink or meal, our thoughts naturally turn to white wine. Italian whites are designed for hot summers and outdoor eating – but they’re good round a driftwood fire on the beach if the weather’s chilly, too.

The supermarkets sell vast lakes of Pinot Grigio and Soave, mostly rather dull. If that’s been your ...

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Rosso Conero: Wine of the Adriatic Riviera

Rosso Conero comes from the Marche region on Italy’s Adriatic coast: the “calf” of the Italian boot. The area is as famous for its beautiful beaches as for its wines, both red and white, but the natural feature that gives Rosso Conero its character (and its name) is Mount Conero, which juts into the sea just south of the port of Ancona. 

Many of the producers are in the Natural Park surrounding the mountain itself, others ...

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Bordeaux and Bolgheri

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot: they’re not the first Italian varieties you think of, are they? They made their name in Bordeaux, of course, but then, because they produce some very fine wines even in that marginal grape-growing climate, everyone wanted to try them in warmer spots and see if they still produced the quality. Now they’re thriving in California, Chile, Australia, China and everywhere in between. 

Including, of course, Italy. The first people ...

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Piemonte Reds: Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo

Three varieties, all from the same region, all red, and all very different: Dolcetto, the “little sweet one”, underdog Barbera, and lordly Nebbiolo, king of Italian grapes.

Dolcetto gets its name from its lower-than-most-Italian-wines acidity, not because the wines it produces are actually sweet; it’s not particularly “little”, either – in fact, it has the firm tannins and often very dark colour of a quite big wine. It’s also grown as an eating ...

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Ancient New Wines

We’re very excited to announce that we recently took delivery of a range of wines from Fontanavecchia, in the Sannio region of Campania, north-east of Naples, on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mount Taburno. 

Many of the vine varieties grown here are ancient, as in ancient Greek and Roman; sip a glass of Falanghina or Greco and you’re sharing an experience with Pliny the Elder and Virgil. Think about that for a moment...

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Meditation Wines

There are many different ways of making sweet wine: you can pick the grapes frozen, as they do in Germany and Canada for Eiswein; you can stop the fermentation by adding distilled alcohol, as they do in Port, or by using yeasts that can’t cope with all the sugar in the grapes, as happens all over the world; you can pick the grapes later than normal, when they are super-mature; you can wait for noble rot (a form of Botrytis cinerea) to shrivel the ...

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Bubble and Fizz

How many ways are there to make a wine fizzy? At least three, plus variations, is the possibly unexpected answer.

The oldest way is to leave the wines fermenting in a cold cellar. When it’s cold enough, fermentation stops; when the weather warms up, the yeasts start working again and the wine becomes slightly fizzy. The wine is bottled with the yeasts and the unfermented sugar, so it’s slightly sweet and quality can be variable.

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Wines for Christmas


Sorry to mention the C-word before November is out: I know most people don’t start to plan their Christmas food and wine this early. But if you want to get ahead of the pack, it makes sense to order early and avoid any out-of-stocks later on. Besides, ticking at least one thing off your to-do list gives you that nice warm glow of efficiency! 

So here are some suggestions to make December ...

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Arneis, Erbaluce, Nascetta and Timorasso: Four Piedmontese Survivors.

Today we’re looking at four native varieties brought back from oblivion, all white and all from Piedmont. And all hard to grow and hard to make good wine from. When you open a bottle of one, you’re drinking the dedication of a handful of people.

Let’s start with Arneis. It’s been around since the mid-1400s but the difficulty of growing it meant it lost popularity until the 1980s. It’s disease-prone ...

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One of Italy’s great glories, the Nebbiolo variety has been around since Roman days – Pliny may even have invented the name, which most people say comes from “nebbia”, the Italian word for “fog”. Nebbiolo ripens late and Italy’s north-western corner (Nebbiolo’s heartland) lies just south of the Alps, so fog is common during harvest. Others will tell you that the name comes from the amount of “bloom” on the grape skins, which looks ...

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Green Wine

This month, we’re celebrating Organic September, an organic food and drink promotion across Britain. So what does “organic” mean when it comes to wine? 

Like any other organic farming, organic viticulture follows strict rules about what you can and can’t put on the soil or the plants, or into the finished product: no synthetic herbicides or pesticides (though copper sulphate is allowed in the vineyard to combat the worst types of mould) and no ...

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Sangiovese: a Very Varied Variety

Sangiovese is, as I’m sure you know, the main grape variety of Chianti (minimum 80%) and several other Tuscan wines. It also produces single-varietal wines in Emilia-Romagna, Corsica, California and several other places.

But it’s not always called Sangiovese. In fact, it goes under several pseudonyms, even in the same vineyard region, just to be confusing. The best known are Sangioveto, Brunello, Sangiovese Grosso, Prugnolo Gentile, Morellino, Sangiovese Romagnolo, Nielluccio and Ciliegiolo. (Except that Ciliegiolo is now proved ...

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Does Low Sulphite Wine Prevent a Hangover?

Imagine being able to indulge in your favourite Chianti all evening and wake up the next morning feeling fantastic. A far-fetched concept indeed, as enjoying a good bottle of wine is rarely a consequence-free affair. 

But to what extent does the quality of the wine affect the seemingly inevitable after effects?  Could it be that lowering the sulphites in your wine you could be in for a ...

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The Secrets of Good Wine

Here’s a question – why is it that some wines are considered to be so much better than others?  More specifically, what are the secrets behind the most enjoyable, delicious and downright decadent wines money can buy?

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t actually any specific ‘secret’ to good wine. Instead, it’s a case of several critical contributory factors determining the quality of the final product. The ‘Four Pillars’ of ...

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How is Organic Wine Made?

So many of us are now turning to organic products for reasons of ethics, nutritional value, and of course, taste. And organic wine is becoming ever more popular among those who wish to enjoy a high quality wine which is more naturally produced. 

Many of those who abstain from organic do so due to cost concerns, though the vast majority of those who sample high-end organic produce admit there’s really no comparison.

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