Wine List: The Best Italian Wines to Try at Vancouver International Wine Fest

Track down these outstanding bottles at this week's wine festival.

Notwithstanding its relatively modest footprint (at 300,000 square kilometres, it’s roughly the same size as Labrador), Italy places second globally when it comes to wine production. Almost one in five bottles in the world come from the famous boot. And it’s not just quantity. Practically since they started making wine (there’s evidence of viticulture in Sicily going back to 4000 BC), people outside the country have clamoured for it (the Gauls, a.k.a. the French, were fou for the stuff). So we felt no small delight when we learned that Italy would be the theme country for this year’s edition of the Vancouver International Wine Festival (running February 24 to March 3). There’ll be over 70 wineries, stretching from Puglia to Piedmont, all making the case that there’s no better locale for the wine lover—a premise we couldn’t agree with more. Here’s a three-stage approach for diving into the world of vino Italiano.

Castello di Gabbiano (Bellezza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione), $43

There may be no wine more associated with Italy than Tuscany’s chianti, and this one captures the sangiovese grape’s past and future in one bottle. On the one hand, the winery makes a large production of “basic” chianti: bright, fresh and a perfect pizza wine for under $20. But they also make this. Gran Selezione is the new term for wines at the top of the chianti-quality pyramid—and here you get ageability, more chewy tannins and a wonderfully long sour-cherry finish for less than a decent bottle of Napa cabernet.

Medici Ermete (Lambrusco Phermento Ancestrale)

Medici Ermete (Lambrusco Phermento Ancestrale), $33

Outside of its home turf of Emilia-Romagna (and maybe some parts of Brooklyn or Silver Lake), Vancouver is an odd, awesome outpost for the quirky sparkling red known as lambrusco. Its low alcohol and high acidity make it a dream to pair with food, and this take from the famed producer Medici Ermete ups the ante by using the method ancestrale (making it a “pet nat”) to funk up the bubbles—which skew more pink than red in this version—just a touch.

Casale del Giglio (Matidia Cesanese Lazio Rosso IGT)

Casale del Giglio (Matidia Cesanese Lazio Rosso IGT), $40

Among the delights of Italy is falling in love with one of their hundreds of indigenous grape varieties that you had never previously heard of—lagrein, lacryma Christi and schioppettino are all under-the-radar winners. Or take, for example, cesanese, a stalwart grape of the Lazio region near Rome. It has the dark hue and marasca cherry notes slightly reminiscent of barolo and a
spiciness that’s very syrah-like, but somehow remains unknown to 99 percent of wine lovers.

Yeti wine cooler

Raise a Glass to This Wine Cooler

Keep It Freddo It seems odd to get excited about keeping wine cool in a Vancouver winter, but warm falanghina is a problem any time of year. Thankfully, Yeti brings a tired genre into the 21st century with their brand-new cooler ($90)—available in red, white and green, if you so desire.