What a challenge. To travel across Italy in an afternoon of wines. I arrived at the soaring spaces of Lindley Hall in Victoria, where Berry Bros & Rudd had assembled 43 growers from 11 regions for its Grand Tour, Italy 2013.
Master of ceremonies David Berry Green strolled among the tables tasting and gossiping, introducing old friends to new. An Englishman living in Barolo, Piedmont, David is a lean, towering figure who looks like the youthful Jeremy Irons. His passion is infectious. After chatting to him for ten minutes, I felt I’d watched a documentary about Italy. Wine, he told me, was imperial Rome’s secret weapon. The Romans conquered with the sword but pacified with the grape. Defeated tribes were taught to lay out vineyards, to plant and harvest, to ferment and blend and savour. A newly cut grove of darkening grapes would convert the proudest warlord into a diligent wine-grower. ‘The emperors knew,’ he said, ‘that a vanquished foe would never abandon his vines.’
I plunged in and sampled the Aglianico del Vulture, 2009, whose subtitle, Stupor Mundi, might be translated as ‘torpor of the world’ or, at a stretch, ‘humanity gets a hangover’. It’s a dense fiery red with a long, silky finish. The Prosecco Asolo ‘Colfòndo’ takes you by surprise. It’s cloudy in the glass, like a semi-fermented homebrew. But the rising stream of bubbles delivers a kick as potent and wholesome as any champagne. Favourite among my tasting notes was the keenly priced Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, ‘Le Vigne’, which I summarised in three words, ‘I’d buy that.’ And I did.