Endless complex, gloriously varied, and possessed of a soul that honestly does seem to leap out of the glass, gesticulating wildly whilst fretting over the fortunes of their local team in the scudetta.
As an aside; how do you stop an Italian from talking? Tie their hands behind their back....
Interestingly the Italians have been enthusiastic adopters of the minimal interventionalist movement, I guess that there's something about the devil may care attitude and snubbing of convention that appeals. None the less, there are a huge number of Italian natural wines making their way to our shores, many of the growers (actually lots of them) are going to be at RAW fairin May.
'If I was Prosecco, I'd be cool and art deco, you could drink me in the penthouse you could drink me in the ghetto' so went the short bit of verse an Oddbins colleague of mine penned many years ago for some competition or other. At that time we saw Prosecco as a frothy, simplistic sort of drink, ideal for folk who didn't really understand why Champagne was better. God we were snobby in our ignorance. Still, I like to think that I've moved on somewhat, now I only look down on the people who unthinkingly drink Prosecco, not the drink itself, an important distinction (I keep telling myself). Any way, the real excitement in Prosecco is all about the words 'Col Fondo' directly translating as 'with the bottom' while actually meaning bottle with the lees. Opaque, enervating, gloriously moreish, this is Prosecco that seems to birth vitality.
Malibra, Sottoriva (Col Fondo, 2011), coming from a tiny 7ha vineyard this seemed to me like a grown up lemon barley water, delicately sparkling with subtle fruit notes and an invigorating minerality.
Tuscany, the Chiantishire of so many idyllic new Labour retreats. Sangiovese the blood that runs through the valleys, Malvasia and Trebbiano the Lymphatic to the better known reds. Columbaia Bianco 2011, from just outside of Siena, a blend of the two white varieties. Somewhat spiritually cleansing, tart peach floral notes, just a touch of fatness from its time on lees, the chalky clay soils coming through in the persistant minerally finish. Pacina, Il Secondo 2010, like the Columbaia this was a steel tank job, the inert vessel maintaining a lot of the freshness and aromatics of the Sangiovese, all dark cherries, black tea and primal meatiness. Some very chewy tannins suggest that this was a wine that really wanted to be sidling up to something with a healthy whack of meat fat. Nothing bad with that though.
Not strictly Italian, but given its proximity to the border I'm letting the Vipava valley in Slovenia slip into my Italocentric round up. Mlecnik (if anyone can help me out with the short cut for the little v on top of the c I'd be most grateful) Chardonnay 07. Three weeks on skins puts this wine firmly in the orange category, however it's still recognisably Chardonnay, and a surprisingly youthful one at that, its six years of age merely contributing a nice earthy creaminess, ripe apple and peach contributed the fruit notes while the measured tannin extraction made for a most satisfying body.
Wrapping up our little tour of Italian staples was La Biancara, Recioto Garganega 2007 from the Veneto. Half of the crop dried in a traditional passito fashion, the other half given extended skin contact, this seemed to me to sum up why natural wines can be so much fun. All sorts of naughty volatility on the nose, but I didn't really care, figs, prunes, toffee glazed walnuts, rich, sweet and lovely. The kind of wine that makes me want to just ditch the hassle of making a tart tatin, far too much going on to dick about with a pudding..
Links on the wine names take you to the suppliers.