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A Vinous tour through Italy’s Rugby Heartland.

A Vinous tour through Italy’s Rugby Heartland.


 I’m sure, like me, many of you will be cheering on the Irish team as they take to field in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico this weekend to take on the Azzurri.

And although the trip to Rome represents the longest journey in any Irish six nations campaign, it is also a bit of a stretch to consider this a home tie for most of the Italian side, as with their clubs they will be based at least 400 km (as the Crow flies) to the North.

Of course, as well as being the Country’s traditional Rugby Heartland, Northern Italy is home to some of its most-delicious wines.

The examples I have picked out below cover four Provinces stretching from West to East, and I think perfectly display the excellent quality and value available.

Fazzoletto's Barbera grapes undergoing the 'Passito' drying process.

Starting in the Western Province of Piedmont, Fazzoletto Barbera Passito (€10.95 down from €14.95) is made using the ‘Passito’ method, whereby some of the Barbera grapes are partially dried, resulting in a wine with a great concentration of dark cherry fruit. It’s super-smooth too thanks to six months ageing in oak.

Moving Eastward, we come to Lombardy, home to Pino Pino Fizzante (€9.95), made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, this refreshing sparkler has delicious pear & citrus fruit along with some light peach notes and a crisp clean finish.

The next stop on our whistle-stop tour is the winemaking powerhouse that is the Veneto. As the biggest producer of D.O.C. wine, accounting for more than 20% of the nation’s total D.O.C. output, I thought we should look at two wines from the region. First up is another fizz;

The Guerrieri Rizzardi family enjoying a glass of Prosecco (the Rosé version) in the grounds of their historic Veneto estate.

Rizzardi Spumante (€17.95 down from €20.95), is an extremely-refined, fully-sparkling & extra-dry Prosecco which shows the perfect balance of white peach and ripe pear fruit with a fine crisp backbone.

Next, we have the most-popular style of red wine from the Veneto, Porta Nova (€14.95 down from €17.95) is a big, bold, chunky Ripasso, with loads of sweet, ripe, dark fruit, good oak and that distinct ‘sour cherry’ Amarone tang.

Puiattino's Pinot Grigio vines grow on the rolling hills of the Collio region, in the Province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

We finish our Journey on Italy’s eastern boundary, in the Province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, home to the country’s finest Pinot Grigios; Puiattino (€17.95) is pale in colour, with fresh grassy notes and hints of green apples. The palate has a touch of honeyed richness but is fresh and steely, making it a wonderful aperitif.

So, if you are settling to watch the match this Saturday afternoon, or even better if you are looking to celebrate a four-try bonus-point win on Saturday night, why not choose one of the wines above, as unlike the Rugby result, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed!

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