Castel de Paolis Frascati Superiore DOCG, Italy 2019 (£18.88, strictlywine.co.uk) When was the last time you drank Frascati? A wine that was once one of the staples of the UK’s vast Italian restaurant scene, has rather fallen from favour in recent years, languishing in that difficult place where passé has yet to become vintage. I suspect many of us haven’t missed it because, even at the height of their popularity, the vast majority of wines produced in the Frascati vineyards in Lazio just south of Rome were never exactly memorable. There was a tendency, in the area’s fertile volcanic soils, to push production as high as possible, rather than curtailing yields in the hope of making wines of character and verve. In what is a familiar story across Italy, however, producers tired of having the name of their region associated with thin, acidic, quasi-industrial wines have persisted with a different approach, among them the Santarelli family, makers of the electrifying swirl of minerals and stone fruit of Castel del Paolis Frascati Superiore.
Waitrose Soave Classico, Italy 2021 (£7.99, Waitrose) At its best, Frascati is never super-showy or massively aromatic. The pleasure derived from a wine like Castel del Paolis or the equally attractive Principe Pallavicini Frascati 2020 (£13.99, noblegrape.co.uk) is all in the mouthwatering purity and subtle insinuations of lemon skin, blossom or hillside herb, a set of characteristics that means they are also adept at performing what their producers would see as their primary role as mouthwatering companions to food (especially fish). You could say something similar of another traditional Italian dry white wine staple of trattoria and pizza places: Soave. Like Frascati, the northeastern Italian wine’s name hasn’t always been a byword for arresting personality and quality. But well-made, and great value wines such as Tesco Finest Soave Classico Superiore (£7.50) or Waitrose Soave Classico both offer wines of gently insinuating acidity and soft pear and apple juiciness which are brilliantly unobtrusive partners for scallops or seafood risotto.
Campogrande Orvieto Classico, Italy 2021 (£9, The Co-op) The very best Soave, such as the single-vineyard bottlings from Pieropan, Gini and Inama, among others, take things to a whole other level of interest and flavoury intensity: wines such as Inanama Vigneti Foscarino Soave Classico 2019 (£21.99, Waitrose), take on ever-increasing depths of macerated herb and honey and more tropically fruited tones as they age, while retaining that essential food-matching raciness. There is plenty of character, too, in the wines made by the best producers in the third of this week’s triumvirate of neglected Italian white wine regions, Orvieto, in Umbria. As with Soave and Frascati, much of what is produced in what is by far the biggest and best-known Umbrian wine region is still near-neutral, vaguely peachy dry whites for drinking without thinking in your local pizza place. But wines such as Campogrande, the work of Tuscan winemaking grandees the Antinori family, or Barberani Orvieto Classico 2021 (from £10.99, thewinesociety.com; vinissiumus.co.uk) have a bright citrussy, subtly nutty allure.
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