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Wine notes: Top Italian wines you can pick up from as little as £6

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This week, wine columnist John Kelman of Rutabaga reveals the wines the Mediterranean country of Italy has to offer…

We’re heading to Italy on our next stopover to uncover the wonderful wines this old world region has to offer during our global wine travels.

And it’s not just Pinot Grigio we’ll be discovering through this journey into the Mediterranean, but there’s a mix of larger than life fruit-forward wines and big hitting super and baby Tuscan styles, too.

When we look to Italian wines DOC/ DOCG  is a sign of quality standards and regionality within the country.

For grape varieties, there are a few popular ones including the Gavi- Cortese grape variety, with its lime and melon notes which are generally present in this North West Italian style.

The Sangiovese variety lies within the “super Tuscans” – these can be enjoyed young or aged in oak to create future big, bold wines.

As for Primitivo (Zinfandel), it is packed with cherry-like flavours, featuring lots of blackcurrant and it also enjoys oak ageing, too.

You will see that orange, organic and biodynamic wines pop into our mix this week as we begin to explore these styles of winemaking further. You can expect to see them again in our forthcoming column.

John Kelman of Rutabaga

When looking to Italian wines there are plenty of options in local supermarkets and expert online wine retailer, however, we turned to Sainsbury’s, WoodWinters, Fountainhall Wines (Stonehaven), Low Intervention and Rutabaga for our delicious, well-priced selection this week.

Boating decades of experience with food and drink in and around Aberdeen and Scotland, as always, you’ll find some perfect pairings for you to try with these styles, too.

Serre Alte, Nebbiolo, Barolo Riserva, Piedmont, Italy, 2012, DOCG, Vegan – 14% alc./vol. (red)

A big wine with robust tannins this one is a rich and giving wine. Spending three years in oak with a classic vanilla background, it is best enjoyed on its own or with some 40-day plus dry-aged rib on the bone. Bone marrow butter would also be a fantastic. addition.

£22.00 for a 750ml bottle from Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy, 2019 – 12% alc./vol. (white)

The minerality and nature of the volcanic soil with this grape variety combines to produce a fresh and vibrant wine. Some citrus flavours with background peachy notes are very noticeable, meaning it would go well with some local monkfish, roasted having been wrapped in Parma ham and balsamic roasted vine tomatoes. A go-to classic perfect pairing!

£8.00 for a 750ml bottle from Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Primitivo, Salento, Italy, 2019 – 13.5% alc./vol. (red)

Reaching out to this wine, we see great value. Soft, sweet and featuring succulent berry flavours. For a Wednesday night treat, some simple pasta with a rich tomato sauce, basil and pecorino cheese is a great dish to have with this wine. Pasta and wine – what’s not to love?

£6.00 for a 750ml bottle from Sainsbury’s

4. Sensi, Sangiovese/Nero d’Avola, Tuscany, Italy, 2018 Organic, Vegan DOCG – 13.5% alc./vol. (red)

A certified organic Chianti, this wine has the feelgood factor as it is rich and has well-rounded flavours. With no oak ageing, the savoury notes do not overwhelm. Support Scottish game by pairing with braised venison or seasonal grouse roasted with some quince which is also just in season.

£10.99 for a 750ml bottle from Fountainhall Wines (Stonehaven)

Castello di Tassarolo, Cortese, Gavi, Piemonte, Italy, 2018 Organic, Biodynamic, Vegan, DOCG – 13% alc./vol. (white)

This grape variety is full of lime and citrus on the nose. Floral and fresh, this crisp chilled Gavi (not too cold) would be well paired with late season tomatoes and handfuls of fresh garden herbs with a splash of good extra virgin olive oil or local rapeseed oil. The season to slurp, make sure you’re wine isn’t too cold – just a little cool – so you can enjoy it in its full glory.

£11.99 for a 750ml bottle from Fountainhall Wines (Stonehaven)

Monteforche, Garganega, Veneto, Italy 2018, Orange, Vegan – 12% alc./vol. (white)

An orange wine, it offers up umami flavours from the extended skin contact time and fermentation. A little smokiness on the finish, dusted sprats or whitebait with a lemon mayonnaise would be great. Add some deep fried kale as garnish to finish off beautifully.

£19.50 for a 750ml bottle from Low Intervention

Alacre, Nero d’Avola/ Syrah, Sicily, Italy, 2014, Organic, Vegan, Biodynamic – 14.5% alc./vol. (red)

This wine, of which only 550 cases have been produced, screams out with pepper spiced blackberries. The Southern climate ripens the full fruits of this wine. We are still just able to cook some outdoor pizza with this late burst of summer so bake it thin and add a little tomato sauce and mozzarella (vegan versions available), and enjoy!

£16.00 for a 750ml bottle from WoodWinters

Solerte, Muscat, Sicily, Italy, 2018, Organic, Vegan, Biodynamic – 11% alc./vol. (white)

Fermented with wild yeast which delivers that piquant note you would expect with this wine, serve with a selection of cured Italian meats and antipasti. How about adding some prosciutto, coppa and bresaola into the mix – mmm!

£16.00 for a 750ml bottle from WoodWinters

Castel San Mauro Winorang, Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia, Italy, 2017, Orange, Organic, Biodynamic – 13.5% alc./vol. (white)

A white wine that has been left to macerate with the skins on, you end up with this delicious warm hue. Notes of Belgian beer springs to mind, but don’t be scared of it, just pair it with some grilled mussels, looking to Shetland or the Outer Hebrides as your source, for a fusion pairing.

£24.00 for a 750ml bottle from WoodWinters

La Farfalla, Bella Modella, Pinot Grigio, Umbria, Italy, 2018, Vegan – 12% alc./vol. (rosé)

A simple wee rosé, it isn’t sickly sweet and actually boasts a little dry crisp feel to it with a little summer fruit nose. Grate your favourite hard cheese into drained spaghetti retaining a little of the cooking liquor, add a bunch of fresh herbs and perfecto!

£8.00 for a 750ml bottle from Rutabaga

Bric Sassi Robert Sarotto, Cortese, Piedmont, Italy, 2018 – 12.5% alc./vol. (white)

With a little effervescence, this Gavi di Gavi zings with freshness and stone fruits. A little minerality, but not short on the palate, this wine would be well paired with haddock (lightly smoked), which has been simmered in cream with a splash of this wine over some silky mash and a poached duck egg.

£15 for a 750ml bottle from Rutabaga

Neropasso Biscardo, Corvinone/ Corvina/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Veneto, Italy, 2017, Vegan, – 13.5% alc./vol. (red)

A wine described as “Baby Amarone”, it is great quality with a mid-week price tag. A fruity wine which delivers gently on the palate, the tannins are not high with this one. Enjoy with some Asiago cheese and some plum chutney. Veneto’s perfect pair!

£11 for a 750ml bottle from Rutabaga


When not scribbling down wine-tasting notes, John Kelman can be found hosting virtual tastings at

For more in this series…

Wine Notes: The vegan-friendly Australian whites and reds to watch out for

Wine notes: Explore the depths of South African wines


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