Hidden gem from Italy

ITALIAN: Excellent with red meat. ITALIAN: Excellent with red meat.

TRAVELLING away from Spain this week the focus turns on Buttafuoco Storico from Italy; a serious competitor to Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone.

Little known outside Italy, it is reasonably priced and produced in the Oltrepo’ Pavese, a beautiful hilly area 70km from Milan that has cold winters and warm, dry summers.

Different type of soil - bottom gravel embedded in sand, compact sandstones and also clays - in the relatively small territory impart unique characteristics to the grapes.

Through fermentation of several indigenous grapes with different characteristics, the winegrowers produce a unique wine of structure that can age for years.

The blend is 50 per cent Croatina that brings the colour and hints of red fruit; 25 per cent Barbera with its acidity the backbone of the wine, plus Ughetta Canneto and Uva Rara that enrich softness and fruit.

Buttafuoco Storico is produced by only 14 winemakers who adhere to strict rules, including being harvested by hand, aged at least 12 months in wooden barrels then a minimum six months in bottles embossed with the ‘Mark of the Dawn Treader ship,’ and only marketed three years after harvest.

Excellent with red meat and game dishes it also goes perfectly with blue and mature cheeses.

My favourite labels - all below €20 for a 2011 or 2013 vintage - are Vigna del Garlenzo - Az; Agricola Giorgi Franco di Giorgi Pierluigi; Vigna Montarzolo - Azienda Vinicola Calvi Davide; and Vigna Costera - Azienda Agricola Maggi Francesco.

These are 24 months in barrel and 10 months in bottle, so equivalent to a Spanish Gran Reserva. Salute and happy tasting.

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