Before we begin what is sure to be one of the most engaging wine blogs you have ever read, we must warn you, there is going to be some football references early on. Don’t worry, this is just a framing device to begin a discussion about Chilean and Italian wine, so if you’re not interested in the approaching World Cup, feel free to sing Red, Red Wine for the next few lines and by sentence 6 we’ll probably be back on track (Oddbins – Popping bottles and breaking fourth walls since 1963).
You may be aware the Russian World Cup starts in a month and with it false hope, fleeting patriotism and over 8 million tabloid headlines that read “From Russia with Love,” que photo of Harry Kane kissing the England badge, after scoring in a 1-0 victory over Panama. When contemplating the approaching summer of sport, we thought, what about all the footballers who aren’t going to the World Cup, what are their lives like? Perhaps, Alexis will spend much of June holding back tears while he picnics in the park with his dogs, sipping on a Chilean Carménère. Maybe Buffon will holiday on an isolated island, where football conversation is punishable by exile, via an 18 – 30s club cruise.
These harrowing vignettes prompted us to focus on wine that won’t be going to the World Cup and the people who have far better things to do than watch Gareth Southgate manage to miss another World Cup penalty (we have no idea why the manager will be required to take a penalty but there is literally no way that isn’t happening). Thus, this month let’s all ignore any kick ball build up by going to the beach, complaining when it’s unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold, feeling a bit sad for Buffon and learning all about Chile & Italian wine (and of course sampling a few bottles).
Chile is maybe the most perfect country in the world for making wine in. There’s lots of space, a great diversity of geography and climate, an abundance of sunshine, relatively cheap labour, low rainfall and the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains, which stop it getting too hot and seem to keep the pests and bugs away. Renowned for great value wines, your Pesos go further when you’re buying Chilean wine. That’s not all they’re known for however, Chile have a rapidly increasing reputation for high quality wines from classic grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and particularly Carménère.
Italy’s not the easiest country to get your head round; there’s 20 regions and over 2500 indigenous grapes. Yeah right, good luck learning all their names! It does mean, however, it’s rather hard to run out of wonderful new wines to try. Pinot Grigio and Prosecco will ease you in with the country’s characteristic friendly warmth. Looking to explore something a little more complex? The likes of Gavi and Sicilian Nero d’Avola will take you gently by the hand, as you foray a little further.
Want to go for the top-end, old-school, age-worthy big boys? Pick up a Barolo or a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and gawp in wonderment like a tourist in the Sistine Chapel. There are so many weird and wonderful grape varieties and regions, that there is always something new to discover.
But, just because they have it all, the Italians are no strangers to innovation. They are constantly promoting lesser-known grapes, like Nero Mascalese grown on Mount Etna in Sicily, (one delicious example of which is the Tenuta delle Terre Nerrelo Mascalese - coming soon) and are also having fun with the ‘noble’ grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay et al.)