It’s Barolo or bust in Birmingham courtesy of The Wine Society

It was the night I fell in love with a beauty from Piedmont and I don’t think life will be the same again.

I spotted her across a crowded room in the Cascade Suite and was smitten as soon as I got a hint of her intoxicating perfume. She was petite and so pretty, just half a bottle, but the GB Burlotto 2011 had me at “Barolo.”

For £13.95 a pop, Fabio Alessandria has conjured up something special. When you are in love, it’s hard to find the right description, so I will leave it to The Wine Society to fill you in:  “… the wines are some of the most spectacular in all of Piemonte. Fragrant on the nose, with bright fruit and velvety tannins, they bring out the characteristics of each individual grape.”

For me, the GB Burlotto was the star of the show at The Wine Society’s superb Birmingham tasting at the Copthorne Hotel.


The event, showcasing Italian wines, was a sell-out and offered a fascinating insight into our near-ish European neighbour who continues to live in the shadows of France as far as British wine palates are concerned.

France comprises about half of Wine Society sales. On the basis of the wines available at the Birmingham tasting, it’s nonsensical. This country offers truly stunning wines at all price points.

Among a number of top picks were the wines of Gianni Brunelli, from an estate at Montalcino. Made with pure sangiovese, the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino (£24.50) offers restrained power, elegance and totally delicious drinking. Laura, wife of Gianni, who died several years ago, gave a terrifically impassioned tutorial about the wine.

Fortunately, I spoke to her early in the evening before the conviviality of the evening went up a notch.


Laura Brunelli explains the background to Brunello di Montalcino

My fellow taster, Johnny P, is now setting up a Solihull supporters’ club for Carmelo Nicosia’s stunning, smouldering Sicilian red grown on the side of Mount Etna.


The vines for the 2012 Etna Rosso Fondo Filara (£10.95) are nurtured on volcanic soils and the wine packs warm minerality and tobacco notes born of the high temperatures. What a wonderful mouthful.

At £131 for a dozen, this is great value for money. It’s a wine made for a barbecue summer.

We also loved the sangiovese-dominant Chianti Classico, Fontodi 2011 (£17) for its full-bodied, ripe freshness – and for full-on, lush, richness the Graticciaia, Vallone 2010 (£32) from Puglia is unimpeachable.


The grapes from the gnarly negroamaro vines sunbathe on straw mats to eek out maximum flavour through sugar concentration. This is powerful, rewarding drinking.

There were also some lovely whites for tasting, of which the Falanghina Senete Guardia Sanframondi 2013 (£8.25) impressed.



But for me, this night in Birmingham was all about Barolo – and Brunello.


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