Well, I’m back after a summer break, almost a month of which was spent in Italy! So, for the first blog back, a few musings on Italian wine…in Italy!
1. Wine is cheaper in Italy
No doubt about it – Italian wine is cheaper in Italy! Whether a glass of cold Rose at a restaurant (2 – 3 euros!) or a very nice Brunello or Barbaresco (either in a restaurant or a store), the price is definitely right! And it wasn’t just the currency difference, particularly in restaurants. They just seem to have a different attitude — and tax system — in Italy for their own wine.
2. Very good to great wine is cheaper as well!
I was amazed to be drinking Brunellos, Barbarescos and Vino Nobiles for 40 and 50 euros…wines that would cost well over $100 in Canadian restaurants!
3. Italian restaurants have wine figured out
It wasn’t just the price in restaurants. It was the selection — lots of Brunello in Montalcino, Vino Nobile in Montepulciano, Barolo/Barbaresco in Piedmont. And the wine by the glass selection was often incredible! Some restaurants offered all the wines by the glass!
4. “Regular” wines are often better than the Riservas in Tuscany
I tasted regular Brunellos and Vino Nobiles vs their Riserva versions and almost always liked the former best. It seemed like “Riserva” mean more oak (as well as more $$$), and that meant more tannin as well.
5. You have to reserve in advance at wineries
This was a surprise! Having been to many wine areas in North America — where you mostly just “walk in”, I was disappointed that you had to almost always reserve in advance to go to wineries all through Italy. It wasn’t hard to do (even with not speaking Italian), and they treated you well, but you also had to pay (staring at about 10 euros and up). So beware if you go!
6. Don’t expect to just “follow the signs” to get to wineries!
Another big difference from California, Oregon and here in BC was signage. Or, the lack of it! It was hard to find many wineries in both Tuscany and Piedmont, even for our GPS. So don’t expect to just follow the signs!
7. There are some amazing restaurants in “wine towns”!
While we ate very well in major cities like Florence and Siena, some of our best meals were in places like the village of Barbaresco (Restaurant Antica). I know it sounds so logical, but they have figured it out there – great wine all around, so why not add great, unpretentious, fairly priced food as well? Amazing!
8. Try the local wines even if you haven’t heard of them
We went to Cortona, as my wife wanted to see the place where “Under the Tuscan Sun” was written. We went for lunch, and I noticed wines from Cortona on the list…a Merlot and an Syrah. We tried by the glass, and I was blown away, especially by the Syrah. So take the chance!
9. Even in the heat of summer, you can drink “big” red wine.
Many of the restaurants didn’t have air conditioning or we were eating outside. But I was amazed how a glass and/or bottle of Brunello or Vino Nobile was still great even in 35 degree weather.
10. Wine and food, food and wine.
The food and the wine just went so well together…I was so impressed. You must go and try it!