A cheap Italian red is to my kitchen what a good pair of jeans is to other people’s wardrobes: the bottle I reach for time and again because it just works and is so comfortable. With takeaway pizza. With veal escalopes drizzled with marsala from a deglazed pan, and lamb’s lettuce salad. With fat Italian sausages and lentils. All those easy suppers. Once I find one I tend to stick to it like glue – until, as with a pair of old jeans, you suddenly realise it feels tired and uninspired (or in the case of the wine the vintage changes and the new one just doesn’t have the magic).
Now, suddenly, M&S has several and they are all GREAT. Seriously. Their new winemaker, New Zealander Jeneve Williams, has added loads of wines, from Sicilian frappato to curiosities like Lacrima di Morro d’Alba (a bit of an acquired taste, this one, it’s very musky), most of them at an affordable everyday price. If your wine budget is £5-8 a bottle then grabbing Italian reds from M&S and whites (and rose) from Aldi (see previous post) is a great strategy this summer.
Here they are:
Frappato 2012 Sicily (12.5%, M&S, £7.99) Sicily can be so hot, and the sun so bright, that the freshness of its reds is often a surprise. Try this slightly chilled. It’s light, scented, scrumptious, frankly, smells of cranberries, cherry lips and Victoria Plums and is very refreshing.
Toscana Rosso 2012 (13%, M&S, £5.99) Made mostly from sangiovese, the Chianti grape, bolstered with a bit of merlot and cabernet sauvignon. A handy little wine that sorts the need for good pasta plonk.
Aglianico 2012 Italy (12.5%, M&S, £6.49) This grape from the hinterland of Naples can taste very savage, reminiscent of dark granite and the wolves that used to roam these wild hillsides. This version is quite tame, but it does still taste of aglianico, sturdy and savoury.
Dolcetto d’Asti 2012 Italy (13%, M&S, £6.99) Fragrant and uplifting. Tastes of cherries. If cherubs with golden trumpets were allowed a glass of wine, I think they may go for the pure joy of a dolcetto.