Tastes of Italy: Volcanic Wines For An Explosive Festive Season

Christmas and New  Year are all about tradition from the religious aspects leading through to two occasions when memorable dinners are de rigueur.  For these festivities, you can justify exploring beyond the normal choices. For me, the best wines are those fresh discoveries; they add new, pleasurable and exciting experiences to the dinners.
After many years of wine drinking, I am still on a steep learning curve, my wine experiences are a mixture of pleasure, frustration and downright annoyance.  The worst bits have been reading the rave reviews of Naked Wine aficionados, being naïve I joined, leaving shortly after prompted a deluge of sobbing emails.  
A much more positive wine experience has come out of bumping into William Goodacre on a ski trip in Italy.  He combines a wine merchant business majoring on Italian wines (and high end French) with a tour operation specialising in wine tours; Tastes of Italy.  Brough Gurney-Randall, former Sales Director and owner of OW Loeb is a leading expert in French wines, he has joined the tour operating team.  After a lifetime bringing wine to the people, now he brings people to the wine.
I have enjoyed exploring wines with William and Brough, in discussing this feature we covered a few of my favoured characteristics, favourite grapes and wine regions.  One area I mentioned was Santorini; the general awareness of the quality of the wine is now being matched by the prices.
I wanted some suggestions to ring the changes for one of these festive dinners.  I gave William our planned menu based on a goose main course and suggested we try something not run of the mill with a maximum of £30 per bottle.   
In his response, William picked up on those specific preferences and came up with selection on the theme of ‘VOLCANIC WINES for AN EXPLOSIVE FESTIVE SEASON ’ and beat the budget by all the bottles costing less than £20. The combination is proposed as follows:
Canapés:
Lessini Durello Spumante, Antonio Fattori,                          (Around £17)
Champagnes are not without worthy competition on price and quality, this sparkler is grown on volcanic soils, and is a great half way house between ‘Grands Marque Champagnes’ and ‘Prosecco’.  Durella grapes grown in the Lessinian hills north of Verona are particularly known for their high acidity, but there is a ripeness you would expect of Italy, balanced by the acidity often missing in prosecco.  The fine consistent perlage helps waft up inviting aromas of yellow and green fruits, rewarded by a clean citrus palate finishing with a pleasant aftertaste of unripe almonds.
First Course:
Three fish ceviche (salmon/trout, smoked cooked shelled prawns, tomatoes, oranges slices avocado coriander (fresh) limes, dressing.  
Terre Nere Etna Bianco 2018                                                       (Around £19)
This crystalline pale yellow wine has floral and herbal notes balanced with lip-smacking acidity. The wine is made with 65 percent Carricante blended with other grapes (Catarratto, Grecanico and Minnella).  The volcanic soils and perhaps the maritime aspect – these grapes are grown on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily – give the wine a distinct salinity which pairs so well with food.
The Main Course:
Roast goose with pear, pork and sage stuffing, confit of pears in balsamic vinegar plus celeriac and potato mash.
Aglianico del Vulture ‘Piano del Cerro’  2016                       (around £19)
Isn’t there something about Christmas that demands a deep coloured red?   This wonderful wine made from Aglianico grapes on the slopes of the long extinct Mount Vulture in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy hits the spot with its generous blackberry and balsamic notes.  It has great structure and a lovely long finish.  Aglianico is a tannic grape, used in the more famous big brother Taurasi produced in the Campania region and often known as the Barolo of the South.  This incarnation of Aglianico however importantly sees much softer rounder tannins that do not interfere with the unami character of the wine.
Dessert:
Tangerine charlotte, plus cheeses, etc.   
Dobogo Mylitta Tokaj Noble late harvest  2017                   (£17)
After the deep red, what better than this pale gold Hungarian late harvest Tokaj.  The baby brother of the Aszú wines (the finest growths), this wine beautifully refreshes the palate thanks to great acidity balancing the honeyed citrus and candied orange peel flavours.  A very satisfying finish to the meal.
Buying Wine:
My experience is an endorsement that a higher level of life’s quality is about carrying on business with individuals and small companies.  You are not just another number to be processed.  In the instance of buying wine, individual wine merchants are invariably very personal and, given your personal preferences, you will be able to enjoy wines that will certainly tickle your palate.  
Taking that a bit further, many of William’s wine clients also have been on an escorted wine themed holiday with his travel company; Tastes of Italy.  Like many successful firms, they grow to cover a wider area but still carry the original name, France, Spain and Portugal with more to follow have been added whilst bespoke tours are organised in other countries.     
The business serves mainly those in London and the Home Counties.  Those interested in getting to know more about wine and wine makers or in putting together a wine tasting or event for wine club, business or group of friends, drop a note to William (wg@tastesofitaly.co.uk) for details of tastings and wine events.  
www.tastesofitaly.co.uk