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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > ITALY: South, including Sicily & Sardinia

Winner Details

Italy: South, including Sicily & Sardinia

Pricing, as always, was higher than expected, but the overall standard of wines was encouraging

Southern Italy has been the cockney used-car salesman of the Sommelier Wine Awards in the past. A bit rough round the edges, full of banter, slightly brash and never shy about trying to charge what it thinks it can get away with.

All too often, our tasters go into the flight expecting to pick up the equivalent of well-priced Ford Focus run-around wines and end up being sold a 10-year-old Mercedes sports car with all the trimmings and oak dust in the gearbox.

Historically, the whites have done best, and while the large(ish) number of expensive wines sent in this year was well received, with one taster describing them as ‘taking on body and weight, similar to white Rhône’, there was only one Gold, which is fewer than usual.

The Ubiquitous Chip’s Richard Masterson spoke for many when he suggested there was something of a hole in the mid-price area, with nowhere near enough good wines entered in the crucial £8-£10 price band, which would get them on a list sub-£40.

‘I was very disappointed,’ agreed Etrusca Restaurants’ Luigi Buonanno. ‘The best were the most expensive. There was not much value for money. But that’s been the story for a few years now.’

In a murky landscape of overcharging, the Surani Fiano, at a whisper over £7, stood out. ‘It was very fresh and clean, like squeezed grapes when you’ve just stepped into the wine cellar during the harvest,’ said Stefano d’Andrea from Maze. The Tasca Chardonnay (narrowly topping out at Silver) was popular as well.

This was the best year in the SWA for the South’s reds since the competition started in 2007. Not only were there three Golds, but there was a rather better ‘ladder’ of pricing all the way through than for the whites – though as usual it required a fair bit of vigorous weeding out in the early stages of tasting to get there.

Some were dried out and a bit knackered (technical term), others had been liberally beaten with the oaky stick, but generally speaking there were fewer complaints about the winemaking than in the past, beyond one or two half-hearted concerns about a ‘creeping internationalism’ and ‘loss of Italian accent’.

‘Most of them were quite well made, but if anything it’s a region that you’d expect to be more rustic,’ said The Chester Grosvenor’s Garry Clark.

This year, the big discussion point was not the wines themselves so much as the prices. Our tasters talked of three ‘tiers’ of wines, finding large numbers of entries at each price level that were amazing value, OK value and truly execrable value for money.

So hats off to the La Ferla Nero d’Avola and the Taurino Cosimo Notarparnaro, both of which gave a lot of wine for the money.

‘[The Taurino] offered approachability, typicity and complexity – at a pretty good price,’ said Soho Wine Supply’s Kyri Sotiri. ‘It shows the best of what southern Italian reds can do.’

‘You’re still paying £30 on a list for the cheapest drinkable reds. That would worry me.’
James Hocking, The Vineyard Group

‘The whites were not cheap but they were good value for what they are. There’s a lot of potential from the south of Italy… these were well made wines.’
Irina Atanasova, Fifteen London