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Simply Italian Great Wines showcases Italy’s hidden treasures

This year’s edition of Simply Italian Great Wines in London offered attendees an insight into Italian producers and regions that are off the beaten track.

The event saw producers from across Italy gather in the grand surroundings of One Great George Street on Monday to showcase the diversity, quality and surprises of Italian wine.

The day was also marked by two masterclasses: one in the morning on Discovering Umbria, by Italian wine expert Walter Speller, and the other, in the afternoon, looked at Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: The History Teller, and was presented by Peter McCombie MW and chaired by the drinks business‘ Patrick Schmitt MW.

The former class offered an overview of the wines of the “underestimated”, to quote Speller, central Italian region of Umbria, with wines from the growing regions of Orvieto, Montefalco, Trasimeno and Torgiano.

“Umbria is the new Tuscany,” Speller suggested. “This would make a great soundbite for Instagram!…It’s more isolated, and less run over – Umbria is less geared towards global tourism.”

Among the wines Speller had chosen for the class were the confusingly named Trasimeno DOC Gamay (Coldibetto Etrusco 2021) and Gamay Riserva (Madrevite C’osa 2020). Despite sharing a name with the grape variety responsible for Beaujolais, these are in fact made from Gamay del Trasimeno AKA Grenache. One theory for why it was named as such was that it was trained by the alberello/bush system, not the traditional Etruscan technique of the vines being grown on trees (known as ‘vite maritata’ – or ‘married vines’), however, Speller suggested that this is “a long shot.”

Less confusing but no less interesting is Umbria’s Sangiovese, represented in the class by two Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG expressions: Lungarotti Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio 2018 and Fattoria Mani di Luna La Cupa 2016.

“It comes in its own style,” Speller explained. “It doesn’t remind me of Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino or Romagna Sangiovese…It is minerally, savoury, salty, and with a chocolate undertone.”

The class concluded with a botrytised surprise in the form of an Orvieto DOC Classico Muffa Nobile 2020, made from 60% Grechetto and Procanico, and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, which proved to

“Umbria is overlooked, but now you can see the intensity of flavours it can bring. Small is beautiful,” Speller said.

Speller presenting on Umbria.

There was plenty to discover during the walk-around tasting too, with many of the exhibitors seeking UK importers.

One such company was Prosecco DOC producer Zaga. Representing the brand, Aldo De Fiorido said: “It is difficult for us to enter the UK market because we cannot compete with the big guys when it comes to quantity.”

However, De Fiorido argued that Simply Italian Great Wines presented the 6 hectare estate with the opportunity to find an importer “that doesn’t look only at the price of the bottle, but also at the quality of what’s inside.”

Likewise, the representative for Tuscany’s Menicucci 1689 shared that the company has attended Simply Italian Great Wine events across the world since 2016: “I always get good results.”

There was also the chance to taste wines that are already popular in the UK market, such as Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, and those that are seeing a steady rise in popularity, like Collio-based producer Sturm’s Ribolla Gialla.

Additionally, the tasting offered a sense of which Italian regions are up and coming.

Alessandro Rovati is owner and winemaker of Zerbosco, situated in Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese, where leading wine producer Masi Agricola S.p.A. recently invested. The owners of Franciacorta producer Guido Berlucchi also recently took over a winery in the area.

“They are investing because it is very famous for Pinot Noir,” Rovati revealed.

He also suggested that it being sandwiched between the fine wine paradise of Piemonte and the gastronomic centre that is Emilia-Romagna is also another draw. Oltrepò Pavese could well be one to watch in years to come.

To discover more about Simply Italian Great Wines’ global events, click here.

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