Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
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Tuesday 28 September 2004

Wine tasting season gets off to a good start

One of my passions is wine. My knowledge is moderately good, I like to think, but there is still a great deal more for me (and my palate) to learn. For the past seven or so years, a few years after I came back to live in the UK permanently, I have been a member of the Inverness Wine Appreciation Society (IWAS). IWAS holds monthly wine tastings from September until May, with a few other supplementary events on top.

Yesterday evening we had our first tasting of the season, this time devoted to the wines of the Campania region of Italy. Campania includes the cities of Naples, Salerno and Sorrento. The wines we tasted came mainly from the Benevento and Avelino areas, which are located inland, east of Naples and north east of Salerno. We tasted four whites and two reds. First up was:

- Falanghina - Cantina del Taburno DOC 2003 13% about GBP9.99, white; this was really quite good, with a citrus nose, and a fruity taste (specifically pineapple and ripe pears)

followed by:

- Greco - Cantina del Taburno DOC 2002 12.5% about GBP10.95, white; this had a good finish and improves in the mouth. The nose was honeyed (I detected peach and pears with a touch of sea air), and in the mouth it was packed with peachy fruit, with a touch of flint and a very light 'spritz'. Really not bad.

- Greco di Tufo - Feudi di San Gregorio DOCG 2003 12.5% about GBP12.99, white; rather nice, but a little 'odd', not really my thing. The nose was intriguing and attractive, very sweetly fruity with a 'bubblegum' and honey aroma, and the taste was fruit with very light notes of resin. Rather overpriced, in my humble opinion.

- Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio - Mastroberardino DOC 2003 12% about GBP9.99, white; a delicate honey and fruit nose, with an agreeable and delicate fruity and honeyed taste. A delicate and nice wine and good value.

- Lacryma del Christi del Vesuvio Rosso - Mastroberardino DOC 2003 12% about GBP11.45, red; a bright ruby red wine, similar to 'Beaujolais Nouveau', the nose of shoe leather and very little else. In the mouth there is a lot of tannin, with notes of white pepper, but apart from that very little body, which makes me wonder whether even the necessary ageing (to mellow the tannins) would result in a much better wine. Certainly at this stage it was in need of a few more years to mature, but I doubt I'd waste my money at this or even a much lower price in the hope it might eventually come good.

- Taurasi - Feudi di San Gregorio DOCG 1998 13.5% about GBP21.95, red; a deep purple red colour, with a lovely nose hinting of tannin, oak and chestnut. In the mouth there is some tannin and loads of fruit. It needs at least three more years and probably a few more in addition. This is a really very fine wine and if anyone wants to gift me a case I'd really be very content.

So, this time our wines ranged from around GBP10 to GBP22 (USD17 to USD37), retail, although in a restaurant they'd probably be 50% to 100% more. Case purchasers could probably get a better deal from wine merchants other than the somewhat pricey outfit most of these wines were sourced from, perhaps 15 or 20% lower than the retail prices I mention. I regard tasting wines as a learning experience and it is not necessary for all the wines to be 'good' for them to be worthwhile; some of the most valuable lessons come from tasting less-than-good wines and at least I will know not to buy one of those we tasted last night for my own consumption. Usually we have around 30 to 35 members in attendance, although last night (probably because it was the first of the season) we had somewhat fewer, but as the speaker was good and the commentary lively, it was still a very interesting evening, followed by a very enjoyable salmon-based meal.

The reputation of Campania has been growing in recent years, probably because more care is being taken by the winemakers, thus giving them access to higher price-brackets.

Next month is probably going to be a tasting of wines from the French Provence region.

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