Italian and French Wines You Must Try Before You Die

1. Tuscan Sangiovese

If you love wine and have never experienced the magic of a Tuscan red, it is a must that you seek out some and drink them with your wine loving friends! Tuscany is the mecca of sangiovese and it is grown in a number of famous areas, such as Chianti, Montalcino, and Montepulciano. A well chosen Chianti melds that unique Tuscan earthiness with glorious sultanas, prunes and soured fruits like no other wine. It comes mostly medium-bodied but can also come full-bodied. It has silky but ever present tannins that are made for pairing with barbequed pork and lamb. It also abounds with natural acidity that makes it a perfect match with tomato based pasta or pizza. Bellissiomo! A special experience and even more magical knowing that the land that its fruit was farmed on has been producing wine for almost 3 millenia! For all we know, Jesus may have shared a Tuscan red while breaking bread with his apostles at the last supper!

2. Super Tuscan

‘Super Tuscan’ wine is a term you hear people rave on about all over the world now. It has generated a global cult following. Essentially it is the relatively new concept, derived from the 70’s, where some renegade vignerons started growing Bordeaux grapes on Tuscan soil, such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Some of the wines produced caught the attention of the world and the rest is history! Super Tuscan wine now has its own classification – Indicazione Geographica Tipica or simply IGT. A well picked bottle is one of the special joys in life. It melds so seamlessly that rustic Tuscan earthiness derived from those alluvial soils with perfectly elegant Bordeaux grape varieties. A well chosen Super Tuscan is a death row drink paired with a perfect steak or a rich pasta.

3. Amarone DOCG (and its little brother Ripasso DOC)

Amarone is grown in Veneto, just outside of the famed city of Verona and has caught the attention of wine lovers the world over! It is made using a combination of the ancient method of racking grapes to partially dry them (usually about 4 months) and modern technology. The result is a wine of alluring soured dark fruits with great intensity. They come mostly full bodied and have endured at least 2 years oak and 2 years sitting in the bottle before release. This is an unusually large amount of oak for a European wine but it is often barely traceable due to the intensity of the fruit. It is typically very smooth, mysteriously exotic and continues to woo wine lovers from afar. It is also a wine that can cellar well if you have the discipline to hold off from what is already an amazing result. It comprises 3 main grapes all native to the Veneto region - corvina, corvinone, and rondinella - and in that proportion. A divine breed of wine that wine lovers must try before you die! Have it with a garlic and rosemary barbecued rack of lamb for a perfect match! If you want to join the Amarone club and have a death row experience, go to Popsy and JJ who have brought back an absolute beauty from Veneto, available exclusively online through popsyandjj.com

4. Soave Superiore DOCG (and its little sister Soave DOC)

If you have never sampled the magic of a perfectly balanced and complex white wine known in Venetian circles as Soave Superiore DOCG, then you need to do so before it gets too expensive! In producing Soave, named after a small town in Veneto, the principal grape being Garganega, there are two key lines, the fresher, simpler and super easy drinking style of Soave DOC that you might pair with fresh oysters or pipis and the more complex and serious style of Soave Superiore DOCG to be paired with richer dishes such as prawn linguini. For Soave Superiore DOCG, harvesting starts around mid-September and ends in October; two passes through the vineyards and careful grape selection ensure perfect ripening. The grapes are then left on straw racks to dry for two months. The wine matures for at least one year in new, lightly toasted barrels, thus encouraging the malolactic fermentation. Bottling is followed by extended cellaring before release. This wine when poured is often a light golden straw colour, while the aroma abounds with tropical fruit and hints of sweet spice, the palate often has a hint of vanilla is usually very long showcasing exotic fruit. Despite the oak treatment, the fruit takes centre stage as it always should with good wine. It has quite a luscious viscous texture a little bit like chardonnay. If you’re a chardonnay drinker and you’d like to try something different and interesting, then this is the one to try! If you’re a red wine drinker but would like to enter the wonderful world of whites then this is also a great place to try. Luckily for Aussies, Popsy and JJ have travelled to Veneto and have sampled some beautiful Soaves and have 2 beauties on offer. The first, a super fresh and cheerful Soave DOC, Fabiano Le Coste 2018, and the second, a more complex style just described, Villa Canestrari Soave Superiore DOCG Single Vineyard 2015. Both are ready for shipping to Aussie homes. Check out the video and written reviews at popsyandjj.com! Have it with a crispy skin barramundi for maximum impact!

5. Piedmont nebbiolo trio (Langhe DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG)

If you love red wine and have never sampled a proper nebbiolo grown and made in Piedmont, then you have been much deprived! Do yourself a favour and find a good one to savour! Piedmont is the global capital of nebbiolo and is situated in the north-west of Italy. It possesses soil and a microclimate that grows nebbiolo like no other region on Earth. Many have tried but nobody can reproduce the magic quite like Piedmont. More specifically, within Piedmont is a place about the size of the ACT, called Langhe that is host to two of the most famous wine cities in the world - Barolo and Barbaresco. Wines grown within the Barolo region can be labelled Barolo DOCG if they undergo the rigid regulations including minimum 18 months oak treatment and minimum aging of 38 months or longer before release. Similarly with Barbaresco DOCG, and they both have become very expensive in recent years, with Barolo probably in the lead. Both can produce Riserva labels but that requires wines being held back for more than 5 years before release. Barbaresco mostly comes slightly bolder and fuller bodied than Barolo. By contrast, Barolo often takes on the weight and texture of a heavier style of pinot noir and so is often compared with Burgundy. A well chosen bottle of Barolo or Barbaresco usually abounds with aromas of fruit and earth, is beautifully smooth, has oodles of tannin but they are silky soft and great for food matching. They can often have an incredibly long palate showcasing all the flavours of the farm - earth, dirt, cherries and dates often resembling the profile of a xmas cake. Langhe DOC is also 100% nebbiolo and can be made from grapes grown anywhere in the Langhe region, including those grown in Barolo and Barbaresco that didn’t get used in the final cut for the DOCG labels. A well chosen Langhe DOC can often out perform a badly chosen Barolo DOCG or Barbaresco DOCG, but at a much lower price tag. It’s sometimes called the poor man’s Barolo! Even these however are not cheap. Probably best to get in now as the prices are likely to creep up even further! Popsy and JJ, wine merchants and the leading European wine reviewers in Oz, have 3 Piedmont nebbiolos on offer - Langhe DOC, Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco Riserva DOCG - all produced by Elio Filippino. Popsy refers to Elio as the ‘nebbiolo scientist’! Check out these very special wines at popsyandjj.com. And remember, Piedmont nebbiolos are best matched with rich pastas and meat dishes.

6. Friuli White

If you love your white wine and have never tried a Friuli white then you are missing a piece in your life! In the north-eastern part of Italy where the Alps border on Austria is a microclimate that produces some striking wines. Here they make 5 bottles of white for every bottle of red. And the sauvignon blanc from Friuli is like nothing else you have tried. Don’t expect the Australian or New Zealand versions of this wine. Reset your mind and your palate! For starters, it has far more texture and viscosity than your typical southern hemisphere sauvignon. It displays loads of exotic, tropical fruit with aplomb, has incredible minerality you can only expect from a euro wine, and has a very long palate. If you serve it to your chardonnay guzzling friends, they probably won’t pick it as a sauvy. Superbly complex white and one you must try before you die! Have it with a whole baby snapper for a magical food moment. Luckily Popsy and JJ have brought one back from Fruili for Aussie wine lovers – Dario Coos Sauvignon 2018. It’s exclusively available through Popsy and JJ at popsyandjj.com

7. Red Burgundy

Burgundy has become a global icon and a name you hear thrown around all the time. If you’re an Aussie you might not know that white Burgundies are made from 100% chardonnay and red Burgundies are made from 100% pinot noir. Burgundy is the birth place for both these wonderful grapes and today they’re planted all over the world in huge abundance. If you want to know why Burgundy invented pinot noir and why it grows so well there and how the resulting wine melds so seamlessly the earthy character from its unique soils and the natural characteristics of the grapes so well, then you must sample one! Earth, strawberry and cherry come together and become lifelong friends. As luck would have it, Popsy and JJ have got a beauty on offer - Domaine Fourrey Pinot Noir Burgundy 2018. It’s available in Oz exclusively at Popsy and JJ’s online store at popsyandjj.com. Try it with a duck à l’orange or cod fish with a rich beurre blanc sauce for something different!

8. White Burgundy/Chablis

Combining Burgundy’s microclimate, limestone soil, traditional vinification as well as modern techniques produce a wine that is coveted globally and unable to be perfectly reproduced anywhere. It’s made purely from chardonnay grapes which are indigenous to the region. Due to its popularity, chardonnay grapes are now the most planted grape in the world. Yet nowhere else in the world can quite reproduce the magic of chardonnay grown in Burgundy. Such is the case especially with Chablis which is predominantly an unoaked chardonnay. It’s just as viscous and has texture as most southern hemisphere chardonnays yet it abounds with minerality and freshness unable to be reproduced in Oz or NZ. It’s a magic that must be experienced by any white wine lover before you knock off the earth. You never know when that’s gonna be so visit Popsy and JJ and check out their 2 amazing Chablis wines exclusively available through their online shop. Just super stuff and at mere mortal prices. Visit popsyandjj.com. If you’re on death row, try it with prawn linguini for one of the best matches ever made.

9. Alsace Riesling

If you’re a riesling fan or a white wine lover and you’ve never sampled a perfect Alsatian riesling, there is a gap as big as the Grand Canyon waiting to be filled in your life! That’s a good thing. There is no escaping the wonders of the alluvial soil and microclimate of Alsace which lends to superb white wines with awesome minerality and superb subtropical fruit flavours, such as lychees, peach, pear, apple, and citrus. Riesling is often considered the noble grape of the Alsace region, and they have been producing it for many centuries. And the region as a whole has been producing wine for over 2000 years! Alsace riesling balances acid, sugar, minerality and fruit so harmoniously. Not an easy trick but when you’ve been doing it for this long, it comes a little more naturally. One taste of the Cuvée Jean-Charles 2018, available exclusively at Popsy & JJ, is proof in the pudding! On the nose is citrus, pear, and traces of pineapple. More citrus on the palate and the acid kept nicely in check. Try it with an Indian fish curry if you want a peak preview of heaven! Check it out at popsyandjj.com

10. Bordeaux Red

You wouldn’t be human if you hadn’t come across the term ‘Bordeaux red’ or ‘Bordeaux blend’ in your life! That’s because the natural birthplace of the most planted grape on the planet, cabernet sauvignon, is a place called Bordeaux. It’s the birthplace for cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit Verdot as well as the almost-extinct grape carmenere that’s making a big comeback in Chile. Although cabernet sauvignon is the most planted grape in the world, the most planted grape in Bordeaux is its sibling merlot, and both are the offspring of cabernet franc. In Bordeaux the rare and special clones of merlot contribute to some of the most revered wines on the planet. If you haven’t sampled a well-chosen Bordeaux red, you are missing out on a treat! That rustic Bordeaux earthiness is signature to most wines that originate from this region and it melds so superbly with the dark berry nuances of the Bordeaux grapes. A smooth St Emilion Grand Cru matched with a beef fillet with bearnaise sauce and a Paris mash on the side is a match made in foodie heaven! Luckily for Aussies, the leading euro wine reviewers in Oz, Popsy and JJ, have selected a few beauties for their collection. All are exclusively available at their online shop popsyandjj.com

11. Sauterne / Monbazillac Sweet Wine

When you’re looking for a sweet wine to match that perfect choc moose or that allusive crème brulee, think French sweet wine. There is no substitute that can match sweetness with all the elegance and complexity on the planet like a French sweet wine. The most famous area in France for making dessert wine is the Sauternais district, nestled in the south-east of the famed Bordeaux region. It’s made from semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes that have been affected by the botrytis cinerea or noble rot. However, another area making similar wines from the same grapes that grow an incredibly close imposter is Monbazillac. It sits south-west of Bordeaux city, just outside of the Bordeaux wine growing district and is sometimes half the price of similar quality Sauternes. If you have never sampled a Sauterne or Monbazillac sweet wine, you need to do so soon - before everyone outside of France discovers them and they become too expensive! Popsy and JJ have an absolute ripsnorter from Monbazillac. At $26 it doesn’t cost you the Earth to see just how good French sweet wine is. We rated it 95/100 and matched this with an Ash goat’s cheese from Minchinbury NSW but you could just as easily pair it with your favourite gooey French cheese, or even a choc moose or crème brulee would work brilliantly.

12. Pouilly-Fume

Pouilly-Fume is named after a famous area within the much talked about Loire Valley. It is made entirely of sauvignon blanc but comes in a form almost unidentifiable with the southern hemisphere version. It has texture more resembling that of a chardonnay with more viscosity and texture than the NZ or Tassie version. Its palate exhibits plenty of exotic, tropical fruit but never in excess or in your face, quite restrained and long lasting in the mouth. It typically comes without any notable grassiness or massive acid rush ...but has enough acid to carry the weight of the wine and exude freshness. If you weren’t familiar with Pouilly-Fume, your first guess as an Aussie might not necessarily be sauvignon blanc, so Aussies need to reset their palates. Some of the finest white wines in the world are made in Pouilly-Fume. Wine lovers must try a bottle of Pouilly-Fume before they die ...it almost certainly won’t be their last! Australia’s leading European wine reviewers Popsy and JJ have a cracker available by Domaine Saget which abounds stone fruit, stewed passionfruit and lychees. It has a subtle, almost prefumey thing going on that catches you from behind when you’re not paying attention. At some point you realise there’s still a trace of fruit hanging around your Adam’s apple long after your last sip has passed. It just keeps hanging on for dear life! At just $49 it is a bargain for such prestige wine. Popsy and JJ rated it 96/100 and food matched it with a prawn linguini with butter, olive oil, garlic, chilli and white wine. C’est parfait! Go to popsyandjj.com to purchase or see the full review.

13. Champagne

We celebrate with fizz at every possible occasion ...weddings, wakes, xmas, new year, promotions, business wins, new births, and so forth... How did we ever get started on fizz? Well, it was an unsuspecting group of monks in the town of Limoux in the Languedoc wine region in South-East France that were busy making their new batch of white wine in 1531. They bottled their wine soon after fermentation stopped which is what normally happens at a winery. What they hadn’t realised was that the sudden cold weather front had momentarily paused the fermentation process. Once the warmer weather resumed, the fermentation continued in the bottle only to make the wine fizzy since the carbon dioxide could not escape. Fortunately, many of the upper class and royals loved the fizzy wine that resulted and the rest is history. So Languedoc can claim the first bottles of bubbles that ever existed in records kept by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint Hilaire. From there onward, sparkling wine became very popular all over Europe. The Italians, French and Spanish excelled at making this variety and soon established their own particular protocols of vinification. The original and still the traditional method is where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle just like the monks accidentally did in 1531. Not long after fizz became popular the Champagne wine making region commenced making traditional method bubbles and became the most popular area for it, delivering crisp cuvees blending fine chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier with excellent results. Some of the finest Champagnes today are made in limited quantities by some of the finest artisan producers that have been farming their land for generations. It is a crazy thought to not sample some fine Champagne during your wine journey. Popsy and JJ, Australia’s leading European wine reviewers have found a very special artisan wine available only in very limited quantities, especially in Australia. It is Charles Mignon NV and has won over 150 awards over the last 15 years. It has been given a rating of 97/100 by Popsy and JJ. It is only available exclusively through their online shop at popsyandjj.com. The land from where its fruit is derived was first used in viticulture 2000 years ago but is run today by 4th generation growers Guillaume and Manon Mignon who once ran through the vineyards and played hide and seek as kids. One bottle of this presents a master class of sparkling wine making. It usually sells for more than Veuve in Paris but it is available in Australia for just $69 at Popsy and JJ. They matched it with oysters and Tetsuya dressing but it is a quintessential aperitif style with loads of citrus, pears, apples and brioche notes and comes with a very fine prestige bead that could be matched to most light cocktail foods to begin any special celebration.