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Enjoying a taste of la dolce vita
By John H. Isacs

Shanghai is home but as a wine writer I spend a great deal of time traveling to wine regions and wine events all over the globe. Last weekend, I was in Singapore to celebrate the Grandi Vini Group's 25th anniversary in the graceful Fullerton Hotel.

Grandi Vini was established in 1987 in Rome by a group of leading wine producers from Italy's most acclaimed wines regions with the goal of collectively marketing and selling their wines globally.

The group now consists of eight wineries from six regions and is one of the most successful and long-lived wine groups of its kind anywhere. The member wineries export about 80 percent of their production to over 70 countries. Considering the independent nature of Italian people and companies, this cooperative effort has been no mean feat.

Italian personality

Spending two days in Singapore with Grandi Vini wineries afforded me an opportunity to delve more deeply into the subject of what really makes Italian wines different and distinct. In other words what is the personality of Italian wines? Italy by far and away sports the widest diversity of wine varieties and styles in the world. With thousands of different grape types and countless styles of wine, Italy has a wine suitable for practically every person and occasion.

Time and space constraints don't allow me to introduce all the wines I tasted over the past weekend in Singapore so I'll stick to some of my favorites. Most important, all the wines are available in Shanghai.

Tuscan warmth

The beautiful sun-baked rolling hills and warm hospitality of Tuscan people make this one of the most welcoming places on earth. The producer Carpineto perfectly fits this description. Their wines exemplify some of the best traditional and modern-styled wines coming out of Tuscany. Two of my favorites are their Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon IGT. At dinner on Friday night we tasted a 1988 Brunello di Montelcino that was among the best wines I've tasted in 2012. This nearly quarter century old wine has matured beautifully, exhibiting all the complexity and roundness one expects in an old red wine while still showcasing remarkably fresh fruit.

You won't find the 1988 wine in Shanghai shops but more recent vintages of the wine are also exceptional. Carpineto's Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most affordable "Super Tuscan" wines. The term Super Tuscan is used to describe a more modern style of wines that uses non-native Italian grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and others. These hearty cross-cultural bombshells are now some of Italy's and world's best red wines.

What would a party be without bubbles? Fortunately we weren't faced with this dilemma as the acclaimed Prosecco producer Bisol is a member of the Grandi Vini group. Owning some of the choicest vineyards in the Prosecco DOC, Bisol makes a series of sparklers from the pleasant affordable Belle Star to the super-elegant Cru Crede and Cru Cartizze DOCG wines from the prime Valdobbiadene sub-region of Prosecco. The Cru Cartizze is solely sourced from hilltop vineyards and is one of the finest of all Prosecco wines with elegant yellow fruit flavors, fine bubbles and excellent persistence on the palate.

Two other exceptional wines I tasted in Singapore were the Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superior Nizza La Court, a richly-flavored red wine that will forever change your perceptions of Barbera wines, and the Mantellassi Querciolaia Alicante Maremma Toscana IGT, a 100 percent Grenache red wine from Tuscany with an abundance of juicy and spicy red and dark fruit flavors.

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