Travels in Wine - Giro d'Italia: Part I

Background to our travels

Buyer Sebastian Payne MW explains why we travel so many miles each year to search out the best wines to offer to members and the key findings from our trip

Sebastian Payne MW in Italy Sebastian Payne MW in Italy

At The Wine Society we believe it is important to get out and meet the people that make our wines. There is only so much information that can be gained from phone calls and e-mails, and tasting wines in our tasting room in Stevenage is a vital part of the job, but there is no substitute for seeing, in situ, the people behind our wines and finding out their news.

Primarily our trip in March was to taste the new 2015 vintage and other new releases, many of which are not yet in bottle so are tasted in tank, and to meet and talk to the people who make the wines. 2015 is exciting, because many of the wines have lovely healthy fruit and 'bloom,' but as with every vintage there are considerable variations in quality.

2014 was much more difficult, because of the weather, but the whites were often excellent and we found some delicious reds in a lighter style from growers who looked after their vineyards scrupulously. In 2015 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo reds look top value.

Along the way we visited two great Prosecco producers. Prosecco's runaway success has led to a vast expansion of the permitted growing region to meet demand and a lot of very ordinary, inferior wines. Primo Franco and Riva dei Frati, however, make the real thing from the heart of the best vineyards of Valdobbiadene.

The pointy hills of Valdobbiadene DOCG where good Prosecco is made The pointy hills of Valdobbiadene DOCG where good Prosecco is made

On our last day we sampled a large range of familiar and unfamiliar Chianti estates to sort out the sheep from the goats at the Chianti Classico consorzio. We went to see our lovely Montefalco producer in Umbria, (a great place for a holiday) and saw how well the extraordinary wines made from the sagrantino grape can age.

Wine samples at the Chianti Classico consorzio Wine samples at the Chianti Classico consorzio

Alberto Coffele happy in his vineyards Alberto Coffele happy in his vineyards

Coffele in Soave and Barberani in Orvieto show just how good the wines from these much abused regions can be in the hands of great growers with good vineyards. We visited several growers in the Rufina Valley of Chianti. Enrico and Elisa Lippi right at the top of the valley make delicious wines from organically grown fruit.

Every time you visit the region you learn new things and understand what makes the best producers tick.

In this first report we start in Prosecco and end up further down the Adriatic coast at Abruzzo. The second leg of the journey, into Umbria and Tuscany will follow soon.

Sebastian Payne MW


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