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June 14, 2011

Wish You Were Here: A Wine Roadtrip (Sort of)

14 June 2011 | by Andrea Frost


“Can I help you?”

Yes, I hoped so. I wanted to buy wine that would take me away. Not to just any old place but somewhere remarkable, somewhere that I have never been and, should I be stirred enough to visit, would change me a little and impress me a lot. I wanted to be moved and inspired. To taste somewhere extraordinary.

Of course, that’s not what I asked for, I didn’t want to appear unhinged to the wine store sales guy so I took a more conservative approach.

“I’m after a selection of wines that are affordable, interesting and not from here.”

My rationale was that if wines really do speak of their place, then wine tasting is a lot like armchair travelling; an intimate taste of somewhere else. I was relying on this selection to help me decide which parts of the Old World I should visit later this year to make my wine spirits sing.

More recently I have tasted my share of European wines; a cluster of bright and cheery Spanish tempranillos, a line up of earnest and complex French wines, and now with autumn in Melbourne officially handing the baton to winter, it seems right to try a mixed bag of Italian wines.

To me, these wines are what Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar is to someone contemplating a long train journey. Well, maybe not quite as definitive as that, but a peek behind the curtain all the same.

The 2008 Querciabella Mongrana ($20) tastes the way I imagine Tuscany to be. Warm, ripe, bright and rustic. A red wine blend of mostly sangiovese, it feels like it comes from a place that is sunny and warm with days that are long and lazy. Its generosity offers a lot and asks for little in return. I feel as comfortable with this wine as I hope to be revelling in its home.

The 2007 Vietti Perbacco Nebbiolo Langhe ($55) is brimming with fruit, power and round velvety tannins. A region that produces wines with such strength, considered layers and serious demands on anything it accompanies will expect a lot more from me. Cultivating wines of such robustness makes this place feel serious. I’m guessing I’d like it, but I might need to dress for the occasion.

Just when my wine tasting journey was starting to feel familiar and comfortable, I take a sip of the 2009 Matteo Corregia Anthos Brachetto ($30) and get the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. Or are we? This is a delightful and wildly unexpected lighter-bodied red wine with aromas more herbal and vegetal than ripe and red. Stylish and elegant, surprising and delightful, it’s like nothing I’ve tasted, been taught or imagined. It is an unexpected delight on my Italian wine tour.

More day trip than wine odyssey, these wines got me excited and got me thinking – can I really taste such characters or am I just linking them with images I know to be Italian? Can a place really make your wine spirits sing?

Well, I guessed, there’s only one way to find out.