Wine Buff’s Italy

Posted on: 9th May, 2016

Category: The Wine Buff

Contributor: Tony Eklof

Above: Pontormo’s Annunciation in Florence

Regular readers of this column will know that I have had a love affair with Italy, its history, art and wine. A bit of knowledge about the first two enhances an appreciation of the third. I first discovered Italy 20 years ago when on a work exchange in the beautiful former Lombard capital of Pavia and the stunning Certosa di Pavia, a glorious monastery just outside the city was the first great Italian work of art that I came across.

Between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Risorgimento leading to the fall of Rome on XX September 1870 and completing the unification of Italy, the country was deeply divided by European powers, France, Spain, and Austria, as well as a battleground between forces of the Holy Roman Emperor and those of the Pope.

Against this background, a number of city-states emerged, some like Venice creating empires of their own, and others, Florence, Mantova, Padova, becoming rich through trade and banking and giving rise to powerful ‘signori’ who became patrons of the arts. One of the greatest was Isabella d’Este who married the Duke of Mantua and was a patron to such greats as Leonardo, Bellini, Raphael and Titian. The peak of the High Renaissance, the so-called cinquecento occurred in the first decade of the 1500s when Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael were all at the height of their powers.

Some of my favourite places to experience the art of the Renaissance are Florence, Ferrara, (home of Isabella and a beautiful and underrated city) Padua, Verona and Mantua where Mantegna’s fresco of the Gonzaga family is one of the most stunning I have seen. Personally I prefer to visit churches which might just have a couple of masterpieces on view rather than great museums or galleries where one might experience the Stendhal effect named after the great 18th c French writer who experienced a panic attack at the sight of so much great art in Florence. For example one can walk in off the streets of Rome into the French Church and witness three great Caravaggio oil paintings, his St Mathew cycle, or visit the tiny Santa Felicita church in Florence to marval at Pontormo’s exquisite Annunciation.

Other favourite places I have visited in the past two decades are the Lakes, Stresa and Cannero on Maggiore, Bellagio on Como, and Salo and Torri del Benaco on Garda. Palladio’s Vicenza is beautiful as is Santa Margherita Liguria, and Bolzano and Brixen in the Dolomites.

My bucket list of spots I haven’t seen yet includes the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Puglia with baroque Lecce, and Cremona, ‘the violin city’.

Italy’s provincial history is reflected in the great variety of fabulous wines, with the two most important growing areas of the former Savoy stronghold of Piedmont (the foot of the mountains) and Tuscany which gets its name from the Roman name for the Etruscans. (Incidentally it was the Romans who really popularised wine drinking in the Mediterranean area.)

In the Piedmont where Turin is an underrated destination with its beautiful Baroque piazzas and Alpine backdrop, Barolo and Barbaresco both made from the Nebbiolo grape rule supreme, but also noteworthy are Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba and a personal favourite, Dolcetto.

Tuscany is of course the home of Italy’s most famous wine, Chianti. If it is grown from Sangiovese grapes in the choice area of four villages, Radda, Greve, Gaeoli or Castellina, it can carry the name of Chianti Classico. So called Super Tuscan wines can be made from Cabernet Sauvignon and thus cannot be labelled as Chianti.

The Veneto produces Valpolicella, Bardolino and the more powerful Ripasso and Amarone wines. Other regions to look for up and coming and good value wine include the Marches, Apulia, Sicily, Sardinia and the Tyrol.

This had been a synopsis of a talk I gave on April 20 at the lovely Fernhill House Hotel. Many thanks to Niall at the hotel for being so helpful, to Mary and Sheila at the WCP for their support and sponsorship, to Linda for the nice Carbery cheese selection, and to Maebh, and to all who turned out on the soft April evening, particularly those who travelled all the way from Cooldurragha and from Inchigeelagh.

The wines of the night were:

Musella, Bianco del Drago, a lovely Chardonnay based white from the shores of Lake Garda, and Volpetto 2013 a young fresh Chianti, exhibiting the Sangiovese grape at its best. Both wines are from O’Brien’s in Douglas, Cork.

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Strict visitor restrictions have been put in place with immediate effect at Bantry General Hospital due to the number of patients who have presented with flu like symptoms.

In the interest of patient care and in order to restrict the spread of the flu virus within the hospital, it is necessary with immediate effect to ban all visitors to Bantry General Hospital, with the exception of following: critically ill patients are restricted to one visitor per critically ill patient and confined to visiting times only, and attendance at the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) and Local Injury Unit (LIU) should only take place if absolutely necessary, only one relative per patient attending these areas.

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8th January, 2018  ·  

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What makes Christmas special? Children and adults we support, our incredible staff, families and supporters - these are the people who make our organisation so special every single day, but especially at Christmas! Meet some of them here... Thank you to the wonderful team at AV3 Media who kindly produced this video for us as a Christmas gift! To make a Christmas donation today, go to www.cope-foundation.ie/donate. We believe that together we can do great things and with your support we can do so much more! Please SHARE our video so that more people can learn about the amazing things that happen at Cope Foundation! Evening Echo; Irish Examiner; The Southern Star; The Avondhu; Cork Independent; West Cork Times; West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork; Bandon Opinion/The Opinion; Vale Star; East Cork Journal; Cork Chamber - Faces of Cork Business; Cork City FC; Cork Institute of Technology - CIT; University College Cork; Corks RedFM 104-106; The KC Show Corks 96 FM; Cork's 96FM; Cork's Best; C103 Cork; Cork Airport; Cork Opera House: The Everyman; Cork County Council; County Cork; Cork City Council; CorkLike; CCCahoots; Cork On Ice; Glow Cork; CIT Cork School of Music; RTÉ Today; Ciaran Bermingham - Actor; Rob & Marian Heffernan; John Spillane; Ger Wolfe; Eimear O'Brien PR; Jack O Rourke; Theo Dorgan; Mahon Point Shopping Centre; Blackpool Shopping Centre & Retail Park

18th December, 2017  ·  

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Are you alone or do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? If so, then we here at Casey’s would like to make your day that little bit easier. We are offering a full Christmas dinner on us! Christmas dinners can be collected Christmas Eve from 12:30pm - 8:30pm. Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas from everyone at Casey’s

15th December, 2017  ·  

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s has just announced its Christmas schedule and it features several programmes of interest to listeners in West Cork.

On New Year’s Day at 12.08 pm we’ll hear highlights from the Éigse Dhiarmuidín Festival that took place in West Cork in early December, remembering musician and broadcaster Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. An Nollaig ar Oileán Chléire is an archive show presented by Mícheál Ó Sé on Wednesday 27 December at 5.30 pm about Christmas on Cape Clear and on Friday 29 December and 5 January at 7 pm, Peadar Ó Riada will bring us very special editions of his Cuireadh chun Ceoil programme from Múscraí. Keep an ear out!
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15th December, 2017  ·  

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REMINDER: An Garda Siochana are hosting a Retail Crime Prevention Meeting, to be held at 7pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017. This meeting will be held in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon. This meeting is one of a series being held across the West Cork Garda Division, in association with Operation Thor, the Garda National Anti-Crime Strategy. The purpose of the meeting is to increase the cooperation between Gardai and the retail sector, ensuring that the current low levels of crime in the locality extends past the busy approaching Christmas season. The meeting will be addressed by the local Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Ian O’ Callaghan, who will discuss burglary prevention, shoplifting, fraud, and cybercrime. There will be a particular focus on cash handling and cash exposure of businesses in the run up to the Christmas shopping period. All aspects of commercial crime will be discussed, and we would strongly urge all businesses to make a special effort to attend on the evening.

28th November, 2017  ·  

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