By Jim Boyce | Newish Italian wine bar Vesuvio, just above restaurant Bottega in Beijing, recently held a tasting and I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Attendees paid rmb138 to sample twelve wines, one each from a dozen Italian regions, handled by importers China Wines & Spirits, East Meets West, Mercuris and Sarment.
On one hand, I was attracted to this event by an invite that featured a map of Italy and its wine regions and IÂ hoped to explore those systematically. On the other hand, we were given a sheet, without a map, that listed the wines, without the grape names, and I was not alone in asking for more info as we tried the wines in no particular order.
On one hand, it was nice to see good Italian wines on offer and the people serving them able to giveÂ lots of background info. On the other, the retail prices seem very high, even by China standards, although the event provided a one-day respite in the form of a half-price deal.
Then there was the modestly sizedÂ barÂ itself: the crush of people made it difficult to move or to get pours. On the other hand, and this is crucial, anything creating that much interest in wines from Italy, which needs all the help it can get in China, deserves kudos. That’s what ultimately made the event a winner: Vesuvio had people tasting nice Italian wines and they seemed not only the type whoÂ would gladly buy a bottle in a restaurant or a shop but also seemed to be enjoying themselves.
As an aside, I know that many in the trade feel Italian wine isÂ hard for consumers to understand because there are so many grape varieties, so many unfamiliar names, and so on, butÂ I think it’s good to give those consumers the benefit of the doubt and provide more info, like grape names, and let the reader decide ifÂ it’s usefulÂ or not.
Anyway, here were three wines I enjoyed:
Podernuovo a PalazzoneÂ Therra 2012, the flagship labelÂ from aÂ Tuscan winery owned by Giovanni Bulgari of the well-known jewelry family. Quite theÂ diverse blend, withÂ Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, plus a bit of Petit Verdot and Malbec. The nose has lotsÂ of dark fruit like plums and blackberries along with powdered chocolate and smoky meaty aromas Expect loads of ample but tight fruit, and plenty of tannins, in this very dry wine. That blend of fruit, complexity and intensity makes it something I’d drink withÂ friends on a Friday night to seriously shift into weekend mode. (rmb598)
Feudi di San GregorioÂ TaurasiÂ 2008 from Campania. Named after the town Taurasi, this wine is made with Aglianico, one of my favorite grape varieties. The noseÂ includes fresh berries, especially blackberry, and mild touches of smoked meat and black olives. This full juicy wine bursts with black fruit, has a touch of earthiness and oak, and leaves your mouthÂ tingling. Anyone from beginner to lifelong aficionado can appreciate this one and it should work equally well with or without food. (rmb628)
Planeta Dorilli Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2013 from Sicily. This one is 70 percent Nero dâ€™Avola, Sicily’s flagship grape, and 30 percent Frappato. The fragrant nose includes vibrant red fruit and floral sells. It has lots of red fruit flavors and is a bit “chewy”. Easy to drink. Dorilli is the name of a river near the estate.Â (rmb600)
There are others I liked, such as theÂ Cordero di Montezemolo Barbera d’Alba Superiore Funtani 2013 from Piedmont, which has violet, cassis, blackberry and smoky smells, and theÂ Umami Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013, from central Italy, with a vanilla, nutty and tangy cherry nose and delicious red fruit. It just goes to show the diversity of Italian wines and that we need more such tastings!
Some pics from the tasting and of the wine bar, courtesy of Vesuvio.
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