On Wednesday 14th March the world witnessed Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio step out onto the balcony in the Vatican and become Pope Francis, the first Argentinean and indeed the first South American to assume the highest position in the Catholic Church.
The bonds between Italy and Argentina are strong and long-established and the appointment of Pope Francis - himself born in Buenos Aires to Italian emigrants - seems to personify this relationship. And as is so often the case the world of wine reflects the realities of life, so let us introduce to you a unique wine that, like Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was born in Argentina to Italian parents.
Passo Doble is a wine produced in the Tupungato valley in Mendoza by Masi, the venerable Italian wine producer that is still family-owned after two centuries. It’s a unique blend of Malbec, the grape for which Argentina is famous, and semi-dried Corvina, itself a native Venetian varietal manipulated in the old Valpolicella Ripasso method. The result is a full-bodied, rich and velvety, easily-approachable wine full of dark fruit, chocolate and finely integrated tannins. The perfect wine with which to toast ‘Il Papa’!
Closer to Rome and the Vatican is Tuscany and its capital Florence, where a certain other ‘noble family’ is based. The Antinori family have been producing Tuscan wines since 1385 (when Pope Urban VI was in office) and are one of the foremost wine dynasties in Italy. Pèppoli is their trademark Chianti Classico and one of the most popular in Ireland, made with the very Tuscan Sangiovese grape. With plenty of distinctive cherry fruit which is redolent of a good Chianti, it also carries some soft chocolate and vanilla from some oak aging, and with nicely integrated acidity and tannin the wine would be fantastic with some very Italian tomato-based pasta dishes - or perhaps even some Argentine steak!
Keeping on topic, most people will be aware of Châteauneuf-du-Pape even if they don’t realise it: it’s the popular southern French wine region with the very distinctive papal coat of arms on the bottle shoulder. Based in the southern Rhône and literally translated as ‘The Pope’s New Castle’, this is the region to which the papacy was relocated for a seventy year period in the fourteenth century before returning to Rome. This is clearly long enough to leave an impression and we can still drink the pope’s choice of wine today.
One of the best examples available here is ‘La Bernardine’ from iconic Rhône producer M. Chapoutier: complex and subtle, it has spicy blackcurrant and plum followed by roasted coffee, cinnamon and morello cherry; a robust wine with great subtlety. Michel Chapoutier is famed for his intense sense of regionality and ‘terroir’ so this is the perfect choice for sampling the very wine that the popes were keen on seven hundred years ago!
All these wines are distributed in Ireland by Findlater Wine & Spirit Group // www.findlaterws.ie