A warming bargain from Italy

What is it about simple suppers around a blazing log fire that evoke such heightened appreciation of wine?

We had a pretty busy day on Saturday; without burdening you with the minutiae I’ll simply say that we ended up getting back from Maidstone about seven on another bitterly cold evening to find that our troublesome boiler had let us down – again. So I set about trying to coax it back in to action whilst Mrs Burns got the fire going and headed for the kitchen.

Half-an-hour later with the first signs that the radiators were warming up and the fire crackling away the supper appeared on a tray in the lounge – sliced, succulent, cold chicken breast and homemade chips – an all too infrequent speciality from Mrs Burns’ range of gastronomic delicacies –  how mouth-watering is that? On the side was a plate of Stilton and Gruyère cheeses.

Unusually, and without prior consultation, Mrs Burns had selected the wine – a 2007 Camillo de Lellis Biferno Reserva from the Wine Society – a rather aristocratic sounding red wine for such a modest meal, I thought – but not for the first time I was wide of the mark!

None the less, as soon as it was in the glass those brick-red and garnet tones caught the eye and already I was intrigued -18 months in oak barrels and then tank-aging had certainly worked their magic.

We are talking here about a ‘rustic’ wine (winespeak for traditional and a bit old fashioned), hailing from Molise, an obscure winegrowing region in Italy’s deep-south on the Adriatic coast. It is made from 70% Montepulciano and 15% each of Aglianico and Trebbiano Toscano grapes. Now, it has to be said that these are not grapes, neither individually nor collectively, to stir the heart of your average wine buff – and the Trebbiano, being a white grape, is especially frowned upon.

But for me there was something about the velvety texture on the palate and the warming elderberry and blackberry flavours that marked it out as a winner – thank goodness there was plenty left over for the cheese. And so our makeshift supper was transformed into a lovely treat.

It was not until the next morning that I thought I go to my Wine Society list to check on what we had been drinking and how I had acquired such a gem – and here perhaps is the best bit – we had been drinking and thoroughly enjoying a £6.95 bottle of wine! Please, don’t let it ever be said that the Wine Society does not cater for every taste and every budget.

I had felt sure Mrs Burns had allowed her hand to drift over to the right-hand side of our modest ‘cellar’ where I keep ‘the good stuff’, but no, this was clearly from the everyday-drinking side!

I guess I must have ordered it in early January when, by custom and after the indulgences of Xmas I stock-up with, shall we say, the more modest offerings of the wine trade. But what a bonus to find in these straightened-times that there are bargains out there that can bring real pleasure and surprise.

If you are not a member of the Wine Society, you can by the wine from Great Western Wine based in Bath or through their web site. Apparently the estimable Butler’s Wine Cellar of Brighton did stock it at one time, but it appears, no longer.


After writing this blog I checked on the internet to see what others may have written about the wine; here’s what the saintly Jancis Robinson had to say about Camillo de Lellis – very scholarly, as you would expect. If you manage to get hold of a bottle or two, I hope it lives up to Jancis’ recommendation – I’m sure it will.


4th March 2013.

Biferno Rosso Reserva 2007


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