A short trip into Italy's wine-producing country hot on the heels of Vinitaly, Italy's International Wine and Spirits Exhibition. As the Italians say...salute!
What are the best Italian wines? We asked three wine experts: Roberto Messini, a wine writer and Italian wine columnist for the international magazine "Vinum", as well a consultant for some of Italy's most important wineries; Giancarlo Moretto, a wine retailer; and Massimo Pastura Barbero, the owner of the "Cascina La Ghersa" winery in Piedmont, Northern Italy.
IP: White wines seem to be increasing in popularity again. What would you say?
Roberto Messini: It's too soon to talk about a revival. I do think that white wines will become fashionable again as people have started looking for cool, refreshing drinks. However red wine is much more in demand than white.
Giancarlo Moretto: I don't agree, at least I haven't noticed any change. Reds are still more popular than whites.
Massimo Pastura Barbero: I believe that this supposed boom in white wines is a media invention. 80% of the demand I receive is for red wine - this speaks for itself, doesn't it?
IP: What wine would you recommend?
Roberto Messini: The Brunello di Montalcino from the Casanova di Neri estate in Tuscany is exceptional.
Giancarlo Moretto: The white wines from the Planeta winery in Sicily.
Massimo Pastura Barbero: The wines from the San Michele Appiano estate in Trentino. Look out for anything from 1999, a particularly good year.
IP: Any particular trends
Roberto Messini: In the last few years the quality of wine has gone up considerably. There are a lot of good reds on the market and much less plonk. There's also a high level of competition between wineries and wines from Southern Italy have begun to be appreciated in the own right rather than being considered as wines for blending. Now big names such as Antinori and Mezzocorona are investing in South Italian estates, drawn by the sun and the real possibility of producing good wines at a relatively low cost.
Giancarlo Moretto: Wines from Southern Italy have become increasingly popular. They're good value and very drinkable, plus there are a wide choice of good single estate wines which the market currently favours. Try anything from the Planeta estate, Cirò or Funtanaliras from Calabria and Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia.
Massimo Pastura Barbero: From a sales point of view the export market is holding its own: just think, I export some 60% of my wines, mostly to Switzland and Germany. The average tippler is upper-middle class and in his/her thirties or forties.
Another flourishing sector well worth a mention is that of wine tourism and travel. Heady figures speak of 11 million Italians who, according to a recent survey carried out by Censis Veronafiere (the statistics service sponsored by Verona trade show), plan their holidays around their favourite wines. This boom is reflected in the number of Wine Ways which many regions have mapped allowing tourists to explore the countryside while learning more about the grape of their choice. But before you head off on a vineyard crawl take time to check out some of wonderful wine guides available on the Net such as Slow Food, Tigulliovino or Velier, the Genoa-based company which can organise tours of your favourite winery- the last two are in Italian only. Wine heaven is just a click away.