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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > ITALY: Central, Including Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

Winner Details

Italy: Central, Including Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

A record medal haul, decent prices and good drinkability made Central the go-to destination for those seeking Italian value this year

It’s tempting when considering Italy to head to the fancy-pants regions of the North/Tuscany, or the sun-filled value-basket of the South. Tempting but wrong. ‘Central Italy’ might not conjure up images of much in the way of big-name wine styles, but this year, leaving aside the big reds of Tuscany and Brunello, at least, it managed to provide our tasters with no less than six Gold-Listed wines (the same as the north-east and north-west put together) and managed, for the most part, to combine good value with justified attempts at bling.

Approachability was the key to Central’s success. You can’t, as Bo London’s Cedric Beaumond pointed out, ‘wait three to five years to open the bottle for the customer’, but here, at last, was a part of Italy where you didn’t have to.

‘These were supple, with good fruit. There were a lot of approachable, good value, good quality wines to be found here,’ said Mondial Wine’s Simon Cassina.

Moreover, the prices were decent, with a good swathe of reds under £10 (the marvellous show-off Umberto Cesari at £31 was an exception). The Orsogna Coste di Moro, for instance, was described by Dabbous’s Charles Pashby-Taylor as ‘a fleshy, seamless wine… like a smooth eight-cylinder engine’. Not bad for CV6 prices.

For the whites, it was like watching the class hunk and the class geek trying to impress girls at the school prom.

The generic whites from non-famous appellations or from less impressive grapes (the geeks) were received with utter indifference despite some show-off winemaking and desperate oaky dancing. Apart from a good performance by Antinori and a decent one by Frescobaldi, none picked up medals and our tasters rolled their eyes like bored teenagers when asked for their feedback.

‘Bland’ was the one-word description of Sara Bachiorri of The Glasshouse Restaurant when asked for her thoughts on the flight. She might as well have popped her gum and said ‘dey was like such losers innit?’ of a flight that consistently under-delivered for the money.

The Verdicchios, however, were far more positively received. In fact, our tasters had a bit of a sommelier crush on them, admiring their silky minerality, toned fruit and sardonically raised acidity. ‘They had cleanliness, texture and minerality,’ swooned Athila Roos of The Arts Club. ‘They would be really good with food.’

‘I’m looking for minerality and flowers in Verdicchio,’ said The Ritz’s Tobias Brauweiler. ‘Some of these had a touch of residual sugar, but they can need that because of the grape’s high acidity. They are great with chicken and herbs or seafood salads.’

‘For the price [the Monte Schiavo] really showed well,’ added Dabbous’s Charles Pashby-Taylor. ‘It would be a great addition to the list, a really flexible wine with bags of style by the glass, but with enough balanced fruit, structure and acidity to match with antipasti or a lot of quite boldly flavoured starters.’

With a Critics' Choice as well as a Food Match award, it put the seal on a good year for this often-forgotten region.

‘The Verdicchios were a really good flight. The kind of wines that you really want to drink.’ Athila Roos, The Arts Club

‘The reds can work very well with food, from pizza to quite complex, rustic dishes, and they are good wines for enjoyable drinking now.’ Cedric Beaumond, Bo London