The promenade at Bardolino. (Photo: Bhayer)
Right then. Here’s today’s quiz question, so please sit up and take notice,
especially those people shuffling around in the back row. What do these
three things have in common; the Corvina, the Molinara and the Rondinella?
If your answer is that they were all Toyota models from the 1970’s that
would have been a very imaginative and compelling answer. Sadly, it would
also have been completely wrong. Let me give you a clue: this is a wine
column (You could have fooled me - Ed.)
The Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella are not only Italian grape varieties,
but also they’re the main grapes in the Italian red wine from Bardolino. If
you got that all right, congratulations! Pick up your fifty baht prize money
at the door on your way out.
The very name Bardolino (bar-doh-LEE-noh) takes me back years, when it was
one of my favourite wines to drink with pizza, along with Chianti and
Valpolicella. After a hard day’s work, several of us used to traipse over to
a well-known pizza haunt near London’s British Museum. On a summer’s
evening, a Bardolino is perfect with pizza.
Palazzo Grimani Bardolino 2011 (red), Italy (Bt 499 @ Big
Although you could be forgiven for assuming that Bardolino is the
name of yet another Italian grape, it’s actually a place; a small and
pleasant town on the eastern shores of Lake Garda, about 100 miles west of
Venice. The cool and fresh climate there produces a wine that is light and
fruity (or supposed to be) with a sharp cherry-like herby flavour.
Named after the sixteenth-century Venetian palace of the Grimani family,
this wine is a medium ruby-red with the aromas of redcurrants, cherries and
a typical herby aroma of brambles. The wine is very dry, light-bodied and
with a touch of sharpness, giving it a refreshing quality. There’s quite a
bit of red fruit on the palate and just the slightest touch of soft tannins.
It’s only 12.5% alcohol content, but I always think of Bardolino as a food
wine, because of the inherent sharpness on the taste. If you enjoy pasta in
a creamy sauce, this wine makes an excellent accompaniment. It was a perfect
partner for a recent Tagliatelle alle Erbette, served with a rich, creamy
home-made bacon and mushroom sauce to which a few bits of red chili had been
added to give it a sense of joie de vivre. For colour and extra flavour, I
sprinkled a few fresh bergamot leaves on the top. I know it’s a Festival of
Cholesterol, but it’s only once in a while.
Pasqua Sangiovese 2011 (red), Italy (Bt. 399 @ Big C
Unlike Bardolino, Sangiovese is not a place but a grape. To be
more accurate, it’s the most famous and widely planted red wine grape in
Italy. It’s also famously mispronounced, because most foreigners give it
five syllables instead of four. The correct pronunciation is
“san-jo-VAY-zeh” with four syllables. If you also wave your arms around when
you say it, people will assume that you speak Italian fluently.
Although Sangiovese reaches its peak in wines like Vino Nobile di
Montepulciano and Chianti Classico, the vine has many genetic variations
which vary in both style and quality. This one comes from Puglia, which
forms the “heel” of Italy’s boot-shaped outline. For years, Puglia has been
a major producer of bulk wines which are trundled off in tanker loads to
Northern Italy and beyond. Despite (or perhaps because of) it’s consistently
hot dry weather, Puglia doesn’t have much of a reputation for fine wines.
This is a typical southern Sangiovese, with its rather rustic aroma of ripe
berries, currants and cherries and some background aromas of herbs and mint.
It’s a cheap and fairly cheerful wine with only the slightest touch of
tannin. There’s a very lively mouth-feel, because of Sangiovese’s relatively
high acidity. However, it works well with food and would be completely at
home with tomato-based pasta and pizza sauces. But don’t forget the fresh
By the way, you can grow bergamot at home if you can find a cool sheltered
spot with dappled sunlight. Buy some fresh sprigs at the supermarket (with
the roots intact) and stick them in a tub of light soil. Give them plenty of
water and although they’ll look half-dead for a few days, they’ll probably
perk up and you’ll have your own supply of aromatic bergamot leaves. The
plant grows vigorously so after a few months, you should be able to open a
small shop. And because it was my suggestion, a very reasonable 10% of your
profits would be much appreciated.