Thinking of visiting the Italian wine country this spring or summer?

Italy offers us an astonishing variety of wines in all categories – red, white and rosé, still, sparkling, dessert and fortified – but the red wines are what we usually think about when we think about Italian wine.

Apulia – also known as Puglia - includes the heel of the boot of Italy all the way up to the spur of Parco Nazionale del Gargano, just east of San Severo.  Bordering the warm southern reaches of the Adriatic Sea, it is hot and dry and perfectly suited for ripening dusky red wine grapes.

Billing itself as “The biggest ‘Boutique Winery in Italy’ the Farnese Group is currently producing more that 13 million bottles a year as it moves to rebrand all of its wines as Fantini. Fantini Farnese Primitivo (619163) $9.99 Puglia over delivers for the price – deep, rich, black and blueberry fruit aromas and flavours segue into subtle notes of dusty anise, basil, sage and rosemary.

From Rocca delle Macie - a light, fruity red with dried plum and sour cherry flavours - Straccali Chianti (87072) $13.60 is exudes dried cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors and is perfectly suited for pairing with most meat dishes. Rocca delle Macie will be pouring at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, in the International Tasting Room February 16, 17 & 18.

Tickets for the Vancouver International Wine Festival running from February 11th through February 19th went on sale Tuesday January 10th.  Interested local wine lovers should visit their website at Vanwinefest.ca for details.

Veneto – in north western Italy – is best known for its expensive dried grape red wines called Amarone.  Every now and then a ripe and elegant lesser red wine comes along and captivates even knowledgeable wine lovers with its quality and affordability.

A blend of 60 per cent Merlot and 40 per cent Corvina, Gran Passione Rosso (509018) $17.95 is crafted in an ‘Appassimento’ style like the Amarone wines of the Veneto. Over the centuries, this technique of drying the grapes before crushing has clearly been perfected. Ripe dark cherry, plum, vanilla and cake spices predominate in this remarkably luscious red.

Aglianico is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is known to produce full-bodied red wines that show musky berry flavors with firm tannins and good aging potential.

From a winery built on the Volcanic soils east of Naples, Feudi di San Gregorio Trigaio Aglianico (687244) $18.79 is a dusky dark red wine, that surprises most wine lovers with its bright cherry and raspberry flavours.  Savoury notes of salty tar and liquorice fill out the long, silky finish.

Unbelievably rich and surprisingly fruity, Toramaresca Castel del Monte Trentangeli (675843) $19.99 is another bargain red from Puglia and a southern Italian project of the famed Antinori family. A blend of 70 per cent Aglianico, 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 per cent Syrah, this is an ‘Old World” red with all kinds of voluptuous New World’ attitude.

Based in the Veneto region Allegrini’s Villa Della Torre is unique, built during the Renaissance period along the lines of the ancient Roman home or ‘Domus Antiqua’. Today it is the official headquarters and the showpiece of Allegrini Estates.

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (466011) $31.99 70 per cent Corvina, 25 per cent Rondinella and 5 per cent Sangiovese with a portion of the grapes held back and dried almost into raisins to finish of the wine after the initial fermentation.  Overflowing with a medley of red, blue and black berry aromas and flavours over an earthy base of herbs and spicy white pepper. Look for the Allegrini Table at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!

With less than three weeks to go, its still not to late to get organized and over to Vancouver for the Festival.  Maybe I’ll see you there?

The 2017 Vancouver International Wine Festival Tasting Room will be open to the public 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm, Thursday, February 16 Friday and Saturday with a matinee tasting on Saturday afternoon from 2:30pm - 5:00 pm.  Interested local wine lovers should visit their website at Vanwinefest.ca for details.

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com