Most importantly however he found six genuinely interesting high-quality wines to show us, several of which I had not tried before. The whites kicked off with Pieropan's Soave La Rocca 2002 - pure, elegant, honeysuckle-scented, dry and long and after a while it opened up to reveal amazing depth and concentration of fruit. You have to pay attention to Pieropan's wines but they do repay it. That wine represented tradition and then we moved to the modern with Ascheri's Viognier Podere di Montalupa 2000. This had a bit of new oak on it, which I don't find works so well with Viognier and I am not sure I would have spotted the grape if it had been served blind. On the other hand, it was a fine, serious wine that had a sense of character about it and I would like to have a proper drink of it to decide just how much I like it. The final white was Jermann's Vintage Tunina 2001 - a blend of all sorts of varieties, typically Friuli it its pure fruit, stylish, complex wine and one again that I would like to drink a glass or two of (just in the interests of further study, of course).
And so to the reds, starting with another cocktail of varieties (60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot and 10% each of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir) in the Monsordo Langhe Rosso 2000 by Ceretto. To my palate, the great wine regions of Italy, Piedmont and Tuscany, have done a better job than most of the world in giving expression to the local terroir while making wines from classic French varieties. This wine had some classic blackcurrant notes but it had something of the Langhe about it too. I tend to go for traditional Barolos and so on, but enthusiasts for experimentation will find a lot to like here.
I found a lot to like on more traditional lines in the Chianti Classico 2000 from La Massa, an estate with a very high reputation these days for serious ageworthy wine. This had excellent fruit quality, nice acidity and balance and a structure that needs at least five years or so before it will be showing its best. Over-ambitious Chianti can be rather tiring, but I think this carries it off - impressive stuff that makes me keen to try their top wine, the Georgi Primo. Staying in Tuscany, we tried also the 1998 Brunello from Sesti, a farmyardy, characterful mouthful that hinted at the fact that it is Brunello rather than Chianti that is ultimately the great wine region, while not having been made with quite the attention to detail that had been apparent in the rest of the evenings wines. Their Rosso too is pretty decent - we had a bottle with the meal. This is an estate I guess that might raise its game a bit further and produce something really top-class.