Italian plonk

Six litres DOC for NZD $19! (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

I write this in the north of Italy where we are basking in 30ºC+ temps and cloudless skies. I arrived about a week ago, landing in Bologna before driving down to Sienna where we enjoyed four days of birthday celebrations with Kim and Jeanette Goldwater and more than 50 other guests (more on this later).

Our first port of call was a large Sienna supermarket. Naturally, I headed for the wine section, which was extensively stocked with wine from all the major regions. Wines with three-figure price tags were locked in glass cabinets while the cheap and cheerful were dump-stacked or sported eye-catching discount tags.

The shelves included many DOCG, DOC and IGT wines at “how do they do it?” prices. Cheapest single wine purchase was a DOC Vermentino (250ml with screwcap) offering acceptable quality at the humble price of NZD $3. The most expensive purchase was a Grillo Viognier blend from Sicily IGT (plastic stopper) – clean, quite rich with moderate varietal character and offering pretty good value for NZD $9.60. A Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2016 (sealed with a pretty crappy cork) was even better at the slightly lower price of NZD $6.90.

I had high hopes for a slightly fizzy Pinot Rosé from Veneto, despite its price of NZD $5. The wine was initially quite pleasing with delicate crushed strawberry and watermelon flavours, but a touch of sweetness didn’t quite mask a hard malic acid that bothered me for an hour after I’d sipped it. I think I paid NZD $8 for a bottle of Pasqua 2016 Chardonnay IGT Delle Venezia but it was pretty hard and unappealing.

I had even more success with beer purchases at the same supermarket. An absolutely delicious three-pack of Belgian ‘Blond’ beer (250ml) cost NZD $6 while a six-pack of 500ml Peroni cans was discounted by 50% to NZD $7.98.

Next, I will lead a tour of Kiwis around the vineyards of Emilia-Romagna and plan to offer several regional tastings of classic wines from Piemonte, Tuscany, Friuli and Puglia. I purchased the wines from an Enoteca (serious wine shop) yesterday. They have an average price of around NZD $40 a bottle. It will be interesting to see just how much better they are than my supermarket bargains.

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