In my experience, buying wine at the local supermarket is usually a disappointment. Yes, I know Tesco and Asda are stepping up their games with their mini tasters & marketing but lalalalala, they don't usually stock famous names! Some of their wines can be good, but you have to kiss a lot of frogs. If they do carry a producer you recognise the wine is invariably their cheapest expression of the grape or from a year most educated wine drinkers simply wont touch.
My experience of supermarkets in Rome has followed the same pattern until last week. I discovered Auchen had opened a two floor mega market close to my home in Rome. I'd heard wonderful things about Auchen, rumours that seemed so hopeful I dare not believe them. The big news was that Auchen sell Cheddar. I can't stress enough how important Cheddar is to an English person and when you are deprived of it, it's amazing the lengths you will go to obtain it. On an English shopping list the basics go thus; bread, milk, eggs and cheese. As long as you have these (and tea bags of course) then everything will be OK, whatever the crisis.
Auchen's cheese is nothing compared to Auchen's wine. Three full aisles of Italian wine from all corners of the country, cheap wine, 6 litre bottles, bargains and famous names. They even carried a fair selection of international wines, well, maybe 50 international wines, from Chile, Argentina, California, Spain, France and even Brazil. My local Carrefour has 4 bottles of international wine.
I was in my own personal Disneyland with a huge section of champagnes (check out the €320 Moet & Chandon double magnum), the great Barolos (nice Pio Cesare selection) and Brunello di Montalcino's. What I found most interesting was the clear support the store is providing directly to Lazio producers as there was an entire aisle of whites and reds from Lazio, some Cabs and Shiraz that I didn't realise anyone in Lazio produced. There were Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Franc wines from Italian producers that I will be very interested to try. These gave me an idea for two future blog entries, one solely about the wines of Lazio and the other about new grape varieties introduced into Italy.
Auchen even sell those wonderful mini bottles for when getting completely blotto just isn't an option. See left.
I got hold of some great wines today including the Antinori Tignanello 2004 for €40, the Gaja Barbaresco 2001 for €100, the Antinori Chianti Classico Marchese Riserva 2001 for €20 and, a wine I've yet to try and I'm very excited about, the Racemi Primitivo di Manduria 2005 for €8. This wine always divides opinion and I've seen the same years scored from 90 to 82 from known experts.
I adore Zinfandel, I know it gets a rough ride with some in the industry but a great Californian Zinfandel is a wonderful thing and as this is an Italian wine blog then I have to get on board and champion Primitivo. For those who don't know, there is a massive controversy surrounding Primotivo right now.
It has recently been discovered, conclusively, that Zinfandel is more closely related to Primitivo than any other grape currently still in existence. Some US Zinfandel enthusiasts are angry that some Italian producers are using the word Zinfandel on Primotivo labels. They feel the name they have worked for years to create with Californian Zinfandel is being hijacked by Primitivo, a grape that has not exactly set the wine world on fire. Italian producers are beginning to see the potential in Primotivo as a grape and aligning it with Zinfandel. Personally, I really hope good Primitivo can hold a torch to Zinfandel because it's cheap and plentiful here in Italy.
I'll find out tonight!
I'll review the wines in a separate entry for tomorrow and I'll leave you with some of my favourite photo's from Auchen.
Question of the Day
#1 Would you go into a supermarket and take photos for your blog? :o)
#2 Where do you stand on the Zinfandel/Primotivo debate?
#3 Would you buy Italian Merlot in a carton?
You just don't get this in the local supermarkets!