Joy to the World

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These two excellent wines come from the opposite ends of the great boot that is Italy and are part of the new “Joy” range from Central.  They are both labelled IGT wines. Far be it from me to bore you comatose so early in the piece, but you ought to know what IGT stands for. Perhaps you know already, in which case, pick up a little gold star on your way out.

The letters stand for Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which means that the wine comes from a specific region within Italy and is considered to be of higher quality than ordinary vino plonko. The makers of IGT wines don’t need to conform to the strict wine laws for their region. Alternative grape varieties or wine-making methods are acceptable and some IGT wines are original and exciting.

Not only that, with the purchase of every bottle, a thirty baht donation will be made to Father Joe Maier’s Mercy Centre in Bangkok a shelter for street kids that includes orphanages, a hospice, a home for mothers and children with HIV and a 400-pupil kindergarten. Their mission statement states that “they walk and work together hand in hand and heart to heart with the poor.” So by drinking “Joy” wines, you can savour excellent wines and support a really worthwhile cause at the same time.

“Joy” Pinot Grigio 2010 (white) Pavia, Italy (Central and Tops, Bt. 499)

Drive about thirty-five kilometres south of Milan on the A7 and you’ll reach the ancient city of Pavia. Or rather, you will if you remember to turn on to the A53 just after Trivolzio. Pavia is the capital of the fertile province of the same name and which is known for its wine, rice, cereals, and dairy products. Among the popular white wines made there is Pinot Grigio.

It used to be difficult to find a really decent Pinot Grigio, because many of them were bland and rather dull. This one, from the Alma Family, is exceptional. It’s a very delicate pale gold, with green flecks and a lovely fruity aroma of fresh pears. I thought I could pick up a faint hint of gooseberries too.

“Hand in hand”: Children at Father Joe Maier’s Mercy Centre. “Hand in hand”: Children at Father Joe Maier’s Mercy Centre.

The wine has a rich flavour with plenty of fruit up-front. There’s a lively crisp mouth-feel and a good dash of acidity. It’s completely dry and fresh-tasting and there’s a long finish with hints of citrus. It’s only 12% alcohol content, but even so it seems to me very much a “food wine” and the refreshing acidity would make it an ideal partner for rich chicken dishes or fish. I’d be happy to drink this with many Asian dishes too.

“Joy” Nero d’Avola – Merlot 2010 (red) Sicily, Italy (Central and Tops, Bt. 499)

Here’s a lovely light, easy drinker from Italy’s Deep South. You’ll probably be familiar with the Merlot grape, but the Nero d’Avola (NAY-roh DAH-voh-la) may be new to you. It means “the black (grape) of Avola” and is the most important red wine grape in Sicily. Avola is a wine-growing village in Sicily, where the grape variety evolved hundreds of years ago. The wine is a rich ruby-red with a silky-looking texture and an attractive aroma of fresh strawberries, cherries and herbs.

The taste comes as a pleasant surprise, much lighter than you’d expect for a Sicilian wine. It turns out to be a charming, fruity wine with a very soft and seductive mouth-feel. It’s really dry, but the up-front fruitiness gives just a hint of sweetness. It has a pleasing touch of soft tannin too – just enough to keep the body firm and there’s a lovely dry, peppery finish. Incidentally, the wine carries the Central Wine Cellar’s “C” label which guarantees that it has been shipped and stored in temperature controlled conditions.

I’d be perfectly happy to enjoy this attractive easy-drinker on its own, but at 13.5% alcohol content it would probably be better with food. It would make a great partner for Italian pasta or pizza but it’s light enough for even for roast chicken, if the thought of white meat and red wine doesn’t raise your blood pressure. I read somewhere that Nero d’Avola wines also go well with lamb chops. If you enjoy light, dry fruity reds, I bet you’ll like this.