Country Focus: Italy
A few years ago it seemed that the only white wine anyone was drinking was Chardonnay. With the name of the grape being so easily recognized and pronounced, continued success seemed assured. However, it’s fashionability perhaps became its undoing, with a great many wine drinkers adopting the mantra of ‘A-B-C’ – Anything But Chardonnay!
Today within the trade, there is a feeling that a similar scenario is happening within the Italian wine market – with Prosecco and Pinot Grigio dominating the listings. Indeed, for many on trade wine merchants the two ‘P’s’ currently make up nearly 90% of Italian wine sales. Now, whilst these wines have undoubted qualities, Italy has a great wine making heritage and there are many others that deserve to appear on your wine lists. Take Stock recently discussed the situation with John Mansfield of The Society of Vintners. Here are his thoughts and recommendations.
It is true to say that Prosecco and Pinot Grigio have been huge successes within the on trade, and I don’t see that situation changing overnight. However, there are factors that will affect the market that operators should be aware of. Firstly, with Prosecco, the sheer volume being consumed in traditional markets – and increasing demand in the USA and Far East – is putting supply under strain, leading to rising prices and some decline in quality. The authorities have increased regulations surrounding pure Prosecco, but at the same time they have had to allow increased proportions of other grapes, simply to meet demand.
Secondly, customer awareness of Pinot Grigio and keen supermarket prices results in a good return in the on trade becoming increasingly difficult. Additionally, the perpetual drive towards lower prices inevitably impacts on quality – cheaper bottles will lose the typical bright, lively, fresh acidity with flavours of nuts, pears and melon of a classic Pinot Grigio. The result? Consumers find themselves less than satisfied. Italy is the home of some great wines and what is good, is that consumers are aware of that. The trick for outlets is to capitalise on that awareness.
My recommendation is that operators should offer really good examples of the two ‘P’s’, backed up by a wider range of Italian wines. Here are some examples:
Entry – Nua Prosecco
Unique presentation, with classic Prosecco notes – however, not in a bottle you’ll see in supermarkets.
Upsell – Famiglia Pasqua Treviso Prosecco
Extra dry (even dryer than Brut) – which gives the extra flavours in this wine the chance to develop.
Entry – Cortestrada Pinot Grigio
A blend – like many Pinot Grigio’s on the market – which is reflected in the wholesale price. However, unlike many, this combination of Pinot Grigio and Garganega really works. It tastes great.
San Georgio Pinot Grigio
It is important to have a Pinot Grigio on your list, however go for a quality 100% Pinot Grigio. The difference at trade cost should be around 50p more than a less expensive ‘blend’, but the depth and intensity of flavour will mean your customers get much more from their wine – and if eating, the meal it’s accompanying.
Upsell – Famiglia Pasqua Passimento
A wine made from the traditional Valpolicella method, where the grapes are partially dried before fermentation. That drying period – of around 30 days – leads to about 30% water loss from the grapes, giving the wine a particular concentration and intensity. There’s a Passimento red from the same house, too.
Medium bodied with lots of black cherries, bramble fruits, herbs and violets. Easy drinking, round and soft, and goes beautifully with burgers or lasagne. Or, for lighter foods like charcuterie and salads: Cortestrada Sangiovese. A deservedly popular, commercial level red. Lighter bodied with a pale colour, this wine offers herbs with notes of cherry skins, baked raspberry and pomegranate.
Upsell – A Valpolicella Ripasso is a great choice. However, for the Mansfield household, we look no further than a Valpolicella Amarone. A big, serious wine for fillet steak or game. The grapes
of this wine are harvested in the first two weeks of October and are traditionally dried on straw mats (though nowadays more technical processes are employed to minimize risks of ruining
the wine), before being pressed. The water loss really intensifies flavours and results in a wine that’s often over 15%, with a legal minimum of 14%. This is a ripe, raisiny, full-bodied wine that’s
usually not released until at least five years after harvest. Absolutely glorious!