Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG

illuminati-pieluniGranted DOCG status: 2003

Production Area: Colline Teramane is a designated area in the north-west of Abruzzo close to the border with Le Marche, around twenty miles inland from the Adriatic. The grapes used to produce this wine must come from specified plots on the Colline Hills close to Teramo at an altitude of no more than 550 meters above sea level.

Minimum Age before release: 2 years ageing is required before the standard bottling can be released with a minimum of 1 year in oak. For the Riserva wines, 3 years ageing is required with the same amount of minimum oak.

Permitted Grapes: Wines must contain a minimum 90% Montepulciano grapes grown from within the permitted DOCG region but producers are permitted to blend with a maximum of 10% Sangiovese, also grown within the DOCG, if desired.

Other restrictions: Minimum alcohol of 12.5%

Profile: Back in 2003, some questioned whether the region’s wines were distinct enough to qualify for an upgrade to DOCG status. If they didn’t warrant the classification in 2003, by 2013 the producers have stepped up to the DOCG mark. Instead of the quality warranting the classification, the bestowing of the DOCG has improved the quality of wine production and helped to give this wine a unique character.

Wines from Colline Teramane tend to load even more dark fruit than generic MdA DOCs, they are richer and more generous of fruit, bolder in colour with greater depth and concentration and many possess the structure needed for the ability to age. The wines are muscular yet smooth and caressing.

Food Pairings: These rich, fruit forward wines with their bold acidity pair well with a variety of dishes including spaghetti and ragu, lamb and duck and, for something special and uniquely Italian; Ossobuco alla Milanese. Unsurprisingly, the wine also pairs well with Pecorino cheese.

In 2013: Ten years after Abruzzo received its first, and at the time of writing, only DOCG classification, the wines have matured into their status marvellously. In 2003, many eyebrows were raised when the hills of Teramane were designated officially the very best place to grow the Montepulciano grape in Abruzzo. It was suggested that the upgrade from DOC to DOCG was awarded less for quality earned than the hope that the producers of the region would step up to the mark and pound this wine into DOCG shape.

Since going DOCG, the wines from Colline Teramane are undeniably better than the wines from pre-2003 and it’s not just the Nicodemi, Farnese and Illuminatis of this world producing quality wines and enjoying the benefit of the upgrade. With the incentives of potentially elevated prices and the challenge of producing DOCG quality wines several other estates are turning out top quality Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines that are, as yet,undiscovered and therefore relatively cheap.

The History of the Hills

montepulcianoPolibio, the Greco-Roman historian of antiquity informs us that the great Hannibal and his army rested upon the hills near Teramo, looking toward the Adriatic, rested, then fortified themselves with the local wine of the area. Hannibal had been doing pretty well up until that point, so we won’t pass comment on whether this little anecdote is supposed to point to the quality of the wine  though it does enlighten the reader to the fact that wine has been produced on this spot for millenia, and, if you do anything for millenia, chances are you’re going to get pretty good at it.

It’s no coincidence that good wines often come from the oldest vineyard sites, they are naturally predisposed to productivity though not exclusively to excellence. The techniques a wine maker can rely on today to get through a difficult vintage did not exist in Roman times. (Probably, we think, though they had under floor heating and I don’t.)

So, a DOCG wine by design rather than fate (no matter what Hannibal did next), nevertheless today these wines offer some of the best value in Italian wine. Particularly loved for their bold, muscular/finesse and fruit forward style, it is the structure within these DOCG wines that set them apart from some other fat MdAs. Colline Teramane wines, in a good vintage, in careful hands, proffer a sure finesse; a signature of a fine wine.

The Wine Makers of the Colline Teramane

There are over 60 estates producing Colline Teramane DOCG wines, the best come annually from the same three producers, Nicodemi, Illuminati and Farnese. However, recent gate crashers have been scooping up some impressive awards and vying with the established triumvirate adding a little competition and helping to push the quality skyward.

This rise in quality hasn’t yet been followed with a deserved rise in prices, so a bargain or two is in the offing. Look out for wines around the £7-£12 mark from San Lorenzo, Monti, Cerulli Irelli Spinozzi and Montori Camillo in the UK. Please feel free to add any other great finds to the comments.

The Best Wines of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG

These are some of my favourite wines of Colline Teramane. With prices ranging from £10 for an everyday drinking wine and solid example of a Colline Teramane to the really very special Illuminati Pieluni, which, at £25 is undervalued and on occassion a truly top class (94 Point) wine.

  • Illuminati Pieluni – £25
  • Illuminati Zanna  – £15
  • Farnese Opi  – £15
  • Villa Medoro Adrana  – £20
  • San Lorenzo Escol  – £17
  • Antonio & Elio Monti Pignotto – £12
  • Cerulli Spinozzi Torre Migliori  – £11
  • Gran Sasso Alta Quota  – £10

Tignanello 2010 Antinori

Tignanello 2010

Tignanello 2010There’s no question about it, Tignanello gets me excited and Tignanello 2010 gets me really excited. Every year I look forward to tasting the new Tignanello vintage, not just because I know I’ll be tasting a bold, fruity and balanced wine, but because it was one of the very first wines to spark my passion for Italian wine. It’s my special occasion wine of choice and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy this wine in some of the most romantic and beautiful cities of Italy, from Trastevere in Rome to Piazza Bra in Verona. So, maybe you can tell, I’m quite fond of Tignanello.

However, like a mother’s love for their first child, if he dare to disappoint me, and some 00 vintages have fallen short of the mark, then criticism will pour forth… like bad wine in fact! Luckily, Tignanello 2010, not only fails to disappoint, I regard the 2010 Tignanello as the best vintage I’ve ever tasted. And I’m saying that from my tasting spot, just inside the M25 on a dismal October day, right after a 9.2% gas price increase.

The 2010 Tignanello comprises an 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc blend of grapes from the Tignanello vineyards in the Bolgheri DOC, 400 meters above sea level. The 2010 vintage was far from perfect with a cool growing period and heavy intermittent rains requiring particularly careful selection of the grapes. Tignanello is a remarkably consistent wine, but with the obstacles of the vintage Antinori have to be commended on the creation of such a quality wine against all odds.

For those looking for a fine wine investment, you could do far worse than put your money in Tignanello. Every year I make this recommendation and every year the price of past vintages keeps on growing. The 04 I recommended in 2007 was on sale in the UK for £36.50, today, that price has increased to £158.90 per bottle. Looks worth a punt?

However, the real joy in Tignanello, like any great wine, is to drink it, in great company, on a special occasion or even better, to make an occasion special. I don’t recommend a tartan blanket and a bag of chips as an official accompaniment to this wine but if anyone offers, snatch their hand off.

Tignanello 2010 – Antinori – BUY – £70

Antinori’s 2010 Tignanello has incredible poise and structure yet is so incredibly alive with fruit and drinkability that I have to class this as the best Tignanello for a generation. Opening quite typically with dark cherries, chocolate and ripe plums, the spicey sweetness then takes over with cloves and herbs joining the chorus. This nose really does reveal itself to you in layers and it’s a fascinating wine experience. The palate is a surprise, you’re expecting a sucker punch of extracted flavours and heavy mouth-feel from the aromas that have gone before but instead the palate is much finer, the dark fruit and chocolate flavours are detectable but joined by minerality and sleek perfectly ripe fruit. Rich and persistent, nothing interrupts the pleasure, the tannins and alcohol are all in check and the long, clean finish adds the final note to this superb aria. Stonking. 96 Points


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Best bottle of wine you’ve had in the unlikeliest of places? Bottle and place please?

Win the Italian Discovery Case worth £159

What is the UK’s favourite Italian Wine?

Italian Discovery Case want to know and they’re giving you the chance to win their Discovery Case, worth £159, just for telling them. The winner will be drawn at random on the 20th of October 2013 and even if you don’t win this time, all entrants will get an £80 wine voucher. COMPETITION CLOSED.


Wines included in the Italian Discovery Case:

COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED: The lucky winner was chosen on the 20th of October 2013 – Mrs Lawson from London was the lucky winner, all other entries will soon be receiving a discount voucher on the pack.

Official Rules:

1) The promotion is only open to UK residents aged 18 years and over.

2) One winner will be drawn at random from all the entries. The winner will get the VinItalyClub Italian Discovery Case outlined above.

3) The promotion will run from the 18th September 2013 until the 20th October 2013.

4) The winner will need to provide a UK shipping address and proof of age will be requested.

Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG

Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG

Lungarotti Rubesco RiservaGranted DOCG status: 1990

Production Area: Grapes must come from 500 acres of land within the Torgiano DOC excluding the alluvial soil along the two rivers, Tiber and Chiascio, the valley floor or the ditches on the north side of the Brufa hills.

Minimum Age before release: 3 years.

Permitted Grapes: 50-70% Sangiovese, 15-30% Canaiolo, no more than 10% mix of Trebbiano, Ciliegiolo and Montepulciano.

Other restrictions: Minimum alcohol of 12.5%

Profile: Bright ruby red colour. A delicate nose with intense and persistent aromas of dark fruit, notably, blackberries and cherries, with chocolate, vanilla and coffee usually present.  A dry, soft, full-bodied, yet tannic mouthfeel on a young wine with medium alcohol. Even 10 years after release Lungarotti’s Monticchio will continue to evolve and take on characteristics of aged Sangiovese.

Food Pairings: Game (of course Cinghiale), sharp aged cheeses.

In 2013: It’s rare for one wine to dominate a classification so completely, and although Terre Margaritelli and Antigniano both produce very respectable Riserva wines, Lungarotti’s Rubesco Riserva della Vigna Monticchio is the undisputed champion of the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG classification in terms of quality and quantity with 50,000 bottles produced annually. Lungarotti’s DOCG is a 70/30 blend of Sangiovese & Canaiolo from the highest vineyard in the designation, Monticchio, and whilst other producers experiment with the blend, some using 100% Sangiovese grapes, it could be that they simply lack the height to ever wrest any international attention from Lungarotti.

Torgiano – The wine town of Italy

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that the Wine90 blog has benefited from a new design and format recently as well as a highly ambitious set of drop down menus that will contain, eventually, stacks of information on the regions, producers, wines and grapes of Italy. When faced with such a monumental task you generally have two choices, work from the outside in (usually the more sensible) or the inside out (which I’ve chosen). The hidden third option of not even trying may seem appealing sometime around Christmas 2013!

So, from “the inside out” it is. And you couldn’t get more inside than Umbria, the only Italian county to be surrounded entirely by Italy (all the rest have a border with either the sea or another country). There’s also a second reason for choosing Umbria as my starting point.  My family home is in Umbria, between Perugia & Todi, close to the River Tiber. Both Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOC and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG are located within 12 miles of my bell tower and occupy a special little place in my heart. This wouldn’t be an Italian wine blog without showing a little campanilismo!

Why you should know Torgiano

The town produces top class wines, can boast one of Italy’s most famous & prolific producers, has its own DOCG and is home to the Museo del Vino! Pick it up and drop it on the other side of Perugia in Tuscany and we’d have a sensation on our hands. But what allows for such a glut of good value wines to come out of Torgiano? The mighty Tiber, and its convergence with the smaller Umbrian Chiascio river, permits wine production to thrive in and around the town of Torgiano. Although Torgiano may be famous for the Rosso Riserva DOCG and the wines of Lungarotti, there’s much more wine to this town including white and red blends, as well as individual varietal wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay falling under Torgiano DOC.

Museo del VinoTorgiano is also home to the Museo del Vino, founded by Lungarotti in the 1970s and still run by the foundation today. This museum, 100% dedicated to the history of wine and olive oil in Umbria, Italy and beyond has catapulted Torgiano to the forefront of wine tourism in Umbria and is an essential stop on the Strada del Vino Cantico.

The official stamp on this town’s wine heritage can be found on her crest. The famous tower, Torre di Giano, which gives the town its name (say it really fast!) and vines containing ripe bunches of grapes combine for one very dandy coat of arms and illustrates in no uncertain terms that Torgiano is one of the most important wine towns of Italy.

Tasting Notes

Lungarotti, Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio 2006

Clear & intense ruby red. Sweet vanilla oak with bags of cherries, kirsch & blackcurrant as well as a touch of meat/earth. A complete wine, more elegant than the 05, very fruit driven. Dry, tannic and dusty, a 10 year wait for perfection, but one of the best vintages of the decade. 93 Points

Lungarotti, Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio 2005
Bright & Garnet. Sweet oak but clear fruit including blackcurrant & dark cherries. Very Sangio. Full bodied. Fresh entry, ripe fruit, touch too tannic but with a decent finish, mimics Medoc but could be richer on the palate. Sound structure, a wine for the future, still a puppy but delightful as is. 91 Points

Next week I’m back home and will update this post with more recent vintages of Monticchio as well as Antigniano’s Santa Caterina and Terre Margaritelli’s, Freccia degli Scacchi.

Sainsbury’s SO Organic Wine Range

Whilst frantically rummaging around my person, then the car interior and finally accosting a stranger for that elusive pound for the shopping trolley it finally hit me, I am now officially a resident of the UK, once again.

For someone who has spent the last 12 months strolling to and from La Boqueria market wheeling a faded green old lady shopping trolley, the rigmarole of the weekly shop, with its toxic car parks, queueing etiquette and row upon row of ready meals left me in no doubt that I was finally home.

Sainsburys Organic Wine

The Pinot Grigio 2012: Best of the So Organic range

Whilst a trip to Sainsbury’s isn’t quite as evocative or romantic as a stroll around La Boqueria, when it comes to wine and choice, Sainsbury’s wins hands down. Like most supermarkets in the UK, Sainsbury’s stock a range of wines from many countries in every possible style and recently they asked me to review their organic quartet, the So Organic Soave (Italy), Pinot Grigio (Italy), Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa) and Syrah (France).

As two of the four SO Organic wines are Italian, and with relatively few organic Italian wines readily available in the UK, I was excited to see what Sainsbury’s had achieved with these four price sensitive wines (the most expensive is only £6.99).

A quick history lesson in the rise of Organic:

Remember Edwina and the eggs? Remember when the French wouldn’t touch our beef with a bargepole? Back in the mid nineties, the lack of confidence in our food was seriously hurting the supermarkets and something had to be done. Sainsbury’s were at the forefront of the organic charge and today their SO range of organic produce is one of the best known in the UK. Turning a crisis into an opportunity, the net winner from the nineties food crisis was Sainsbury’s who, with the SO range, cemented their position in the UK supermarket wars, whilst Tesco went value, Sainsbury’s went muesli and sandals.

But what about wine? In this case, organic wine means wine with no added sulphites, chemical free viticulture that allows those who have a problem with SO2, notably some asthmatics, to enjoy wine without becoming unwell. Good work!

One thing is very important to stress, it is incredibly difficult to create wines without adding sulphur dioxide, that Sainsbury’s have done this, made them readily available in the majority of stores and all four are between £5.69 and £6.99 is to be commended.

Sainsbury’s SO Organic Pinot Grigio 2012£6.99 – BUY
Produced by the Nardi family, third-generation winemakers from Northern Italy’s Veneto region. Sitting a clear light yellow, the wine offers generous notes of lemon and pear and a slight sweetness, to my nose the wine was distinctly pear drop in character. The dry, clean palate was refreshing and notes of pear continued with a touch of almond on the finish. A really pleasant, well made and consistent Pinot Grigio and the star buy of the bunch. 88 Points


Sainsbury’s SO Organic Soave 2012£5.69 – BUY
Another easy drinking and pleasant Italian white – happily and clearly Garganega. A pale lemon green with a zesty lemon fruit profile on the nose, firm acidity on the palate with a grassy/nettle note on the finish. 86 Points


Sainsbury’s SO Organic Shiraz 2012£5.99 – BUY
This Syrah is produced by Jacques Frelin, one of France’s leading organic winemakers. Deep ruby red with plenty of dark fruit character including raspberry and blackberry, another in the range to possess a hint of sweetness on the nose. Big beefy flavours, this wine also offers a consistent experience from nose to finish and would be perfect for a Sunday Barbeque. 85 Points


Sainsbury’s SO Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2012£5.99 – PASS
Produced by Origin Wine, the largest producer and exporter of organic wine in South Africa. Despite the size of the outfit, perhaps economics fail this wine, from South Africa and organic and £5.99, I’d be far happier to see this wine with a couple of quid hooked on and the quality shoot up. Starts well with pleasant aromas of dark cherry and vanilla, on the palate this wine actually tastes like dirt, things that have fallen on the floor over the autumn. Thin, bitter, perhaps some raisins, not faulty, just unpleasant to my palate. 81 Points


In Conclusion

+ A reliable range of Organic wines at a remarkable price point with 3 of the 4 wines terrific value. I am really pleased to see Sainsbury’s not charging a premium for these wines as often happens with organic products.

Thumbs pointing kinda sideways

+ For many, healthy eating and environmental responsibility go hand in hand, organic wine from South Africa may present an ethical dilemma for some.

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Do you drink organic wines? Can you recommend some? Do you drink Sainsbury’s organic wines? Agree or disagree with these reviews?

VinItaly launches UK Club – Exclusive £80 discount voucher for first wave customers

VinItaly launches UK Club – Rewards first customers with £80 discount voucher

Imagine you could create the perfect case of Italian wine. Something with serious reds from Tuscany and the Piedmont, fruity and refreshing whites from Friuli and the Alto Adige, perhaps some Prosecco bubbles from a celebrated producer. Then imagine you had the gravitas of a name like VinItaly, so mostly any wine would be available to you. Then slash the price by 50%. 

You’d get this. The Italian Wine Discovery case, a case I’m proud to have helped create and pleased to be able to offer to friends, family, blog readers and Twitter followers with a very special £80 discount voucher attached. This 12 bottle case offers a wide range of high quality wines from throughout Italy and provides a fitting introduction to Italian Wine and to the range at VinItalyClub.

You can claim your £80 voucher (called a Premium Card) by going to and following the steps online. The voucher code is w9033, this entitles you to £80 off this case of Italian wine and is valid until the 31st of December 2013. So, what’s in the box? Show us what you got…

Originally priced at £159.00, the new price is £79.00 (& £7.90 delivery to UK addresses) for this you receive 12 bottles including very special wines that retail close to £20 including wines already big in the UK from Felsina, Adami, Poggio Argentiera, Librandi, Damilano and others.

Of course I think it’s a bargain, I helped put it together and I’d really love to see what everyone else thinks – so if you try the case please do come back to me via comments here or Twitter and let me know whether you agree with me about the value & quality of this case.

Lastly, VinItalyClub, is a club. The final advice I gave to VinItaly, apart from, blow their socks off with the intro case, was to let customers skip cases, cancel at any time (there is no minimum subscription time) and be transparent about the fact this is a club. That’s exactly how it stands. 

VinItaly’s aim with the club is to showcase the very best of established and new wine producers from all regions of Italy and allow easy access to those great wines to all of us here in the UK, and at the best prices possible. Sounds like pretty good news for any of us Italian wine fans here in the UK!

Italian Wine Blog – Wine90

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference White Wine – Albarino & Muscadet

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference White Wine – Albarino & Muscadet

Wine TowerI’m knackered! Moving countries is a lot less glamorous and a lot more tiring than it sounds. I’ve lived in Rome, Venice, Barcelona and Perugia and whilst it may sound exciting, and is certainly advantageous for trying a broad range of wines, carting all your belongings around Europe is both tiresome and expensive!
So I was mightily relieved to make it back from my year in Barcelona to a sodden Stansted on Friday and, as a treat booked into the wonderful, friendly and brilliant Radisson Blu Stansted. That may seem an excitable way to talk about a hotel, but how many hotels have got this… A Wine Tower!

Perfect for sadistic wine fans. Just sit comfortably at the bar, order a few glasses and watch the waiters scale up and down the wine tower just so you can whet your whistle. If you’re booked on a torturous early morning RyanAir flight, delay the misery with a glass or two of wine here. Dinner and a Show!

Sainsburys AlbarinoSainsburys Taste the Difference Albarino – £7.99
Back on topic, I’m now living in London once more where my nearest supermarket, happily, is Sainsbury’s. I’ve read many good things about their Taste the Difference white wine range while in Barcelona and so decided to pick up their Albarino to see how that compares to the range of Rias Biaxes wines I’ve enjoyed whilst living in Spain and travelling through Galicia.

Realistically, at £7.99 (equivalent to about €10 and the same price for Martin Codax standard Albarino in Spain) this Albarino would be very hard pushed to be of equal quality to its Spanish supermarket equivalent. However, at this price in the UK, it represents good value for money.

Albarino has been on popularity overdrive for the last 5-10 years, many of my university chums from 10 years ago have ditched their NZ Sauvignon Blanc & New World Chards in favour of this, refreshing, zesty white from NW Spain, not only for fashion but also for the environment (that’s their story and they’re sticking to it). This Taste the Difference Albarino delivers the key characteristics we’re looking for: Refreshing, Aromatic, some good depth of fruit and if you’re looking for an inexpensive hit of Albarino or wish to recreate your Santiago de Compostella city break in Southwark; it’s a pass. 84 Points

Sainsburys MuscadetSainsburys Taste the Difference Muscadet – £6.99

And from an uber fashionable wine, to one that fell out of fashion around the same time as Spandau Ballet, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Muscadet has been recommended several times by different friends and was also recommended by Decanter Magazine in August. High expectations indeed for a bottle of wine that costs £6.99, consider the government takes around half of that before the wine hits the shelves.

With that fact in mind; the rumours are true. This Muscadet offers good value for money and better than this, tastes great and even retains a sense of place and grape. Pair this up with moules mariniere and you’ve just recreated an 80s dinner party. Cool Beans!


Fresh, Fruity and with a salty tang on the finish, this is a dangerous wine indeed as that salty twist on the end has you reaching for your glass once more. Now, it’s not like saltwater, that would be gross, the wine has flashy acidity and apple/lemon fruit flavours.We’re also in Sur Lie territory which will beef up the flavours and weight of the wine. Underpriced. 87 Points.

Recently I’ve also been recommended to try the Gavi from Sainsbury’s. Any other wines I should be trying now Sainsbury’s is my local?

Italian Wine Blog – Wine90