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Sasso - in a class of its own.


PICCINI have been making wines in Castellina-in-Chianti for 130 years and have become a familiar name in British supermarkets.

Their offering ranges from run-of-the-mill chiantis through to high-end Tuscan wines and the non-vintage memoro blend of various red and white grapes from across Italy.

Memoro is available at a full-price PS9.99 from Tesco but is excellent value when frequently reduced.

With Sasso al Poggio Piccini have excelled themselves producing a wine that is complex, intense, interesting and seriously enjoyable.

Priced at PS12.99 in Morrisons, the 2007 gained an impressive 89 out of 100 score from the world's most celebrated wine critic Robert Parker. Sadly, I'm yet to taste it. The 2008, however, pictured, I tried last week and it is a beauty in its own right - recently scooping a silver medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. If this was only silver, what were the golds like?.

The Sasso al Poggio is a 'Super Tuscan' - a term invented in the 1970s for a new breed of wines that fell outside the strict rules for Tuscan wine classifications such as chianti.

Using 'unauthorised' French varieties such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon to bolster Italian grapes, many Super Tuscans commanded prices far higher than traditional greats from the region yet had to be classified as vini di tavola - Italy's lowest wine classification. The country's law and classifications have been amended in recent decades in a belated attempt to rectify the anomaly and many Super Tuscans are now sold under a relatively new classification - Toscana IGT.

Sasso al Poggio is no exception - being made from a blend of 60 per cent sangiovese grapes, 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 20 per cent merlot. The result is spectacular with a delightful nose of intense cherry and liquorice with hints of blackcurrant and vanilla. The taste is complex and powerful with flavours of cherry, liquorice, dark berries, leather, herbs and vanilla.

This is class in a glass packed with flavour and quality and, while PS12.99 may be more than you'd normally pay for a bottle, this is worth pushing the boat out for and it's still only half the price of an average champagne. It is also relatively cheap for a quality Super Tuscan.

Sticking with Chianti's rolling hills of forests and vineyards and selling at PS7.98 a bottle in Asda, Cortebella Chianti Riserva 2009 is a decent mix of dark cherry with a touch of spice that earned an International Wine Challenge bronze.

Asda's Wine Selection Chianti 2012 is poles apart from the Sasso Al Poggio in style and price.

Costing just PS5 a bottle, its soft, easy-drinking, uncomplicated style will appeal to many. Dominated by cherry flavours and devoid of tannin and acidity, it's a good value wine that sums up the taste of Italian summer and pairs well with a tomato pasta dish.

Barbera is Italy's third most planted red grape variety after sangiovese and montepulciano and is documented as far back as the thirteenth century in the Piedmont region, south of Turin.

Despite its abundance, it has an image problem with many of its wines being notable for high acidity. Like tomatoes and olives it can be an acquired taste - but so can Piedmont's most famous wine Barolo which is made from nebbiolo grapes and typically tastes of sour cherries. Asda's Extra Special Barbera d'Asti 2011 and Ricossa Barbera d'Asti 2011, from the Co-op, are both acidic yet the acidity is tempered by oak aging. The former, selling for just PS5 and made by big-time producer Araldica, is packed with dark fruit flavours and some creamy oak. The Ricossa, reduced to PS5.99, has masses of cherry and vanilla.

Finally, the Co-op is selling an excellent Prosecco reduced to PS7.49 until August 6. Made by Treviso-based Valdo it is beautifully balanced and wonderfully refreshing. Uncomplicated, it has a bright fragrant nose of pear, apple and flowers. The taste is similar.

Sasso - in a class of its ownPiedmont Turin. Despite an image its wines acidity. olives taste is The just
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2013
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