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ITALY TAKES ON THE WORLD

Michel Conrad of IWS Thailand with Antonio Zaccheo Sr, centre.

Michel Conrad of IWS Thailand with Antonio Zaccheo Sr, centre.

Bisol

Bisol

Cesari shows a map of the Grandi Vini Group

Cesari shows a map of the Grandi Vini Group

The Grandi Vini Group marks 25 years of success in Asia, one of its best markets

Antonio Zaccheo Sr of Tuscany first visited Asia in 1984 and kept encountering people in

Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand who didn't know where Italy was, let alone what wine was for. The Japanese had a better understanding, but Zaccheo needed to shore up his optimism that Asians would someday buy his wine.

In Rome in 1987 he formed the Grandi Vini Group with seven other top Italian wine producers from different regions. "When you get two Italians together you can have a party, and yet we are eight together," chuckles Zaccheo, still the group's president.

"Back then the vintners had no intent to export or even the desire. They had an attractive domestic market and, anyway, their wines were often not dependable enough to ship outside of Italy. But some of us strongly wished to export, so we formed the group with the characteristics of a family-run enterprise, good-quality products, and technical dependability."

The consortium includes Pighin from Friuli, celebrated Prosecco producer Bisol, Villa Girardi Michele (both from Veneto), Chiarlo of Piedmont, Umberto Cesari of Emilia Romagna, Garofoli in Le Marche, and Tuscany's Mantellassi and Carpineto, which is Zaccheo's firm.

Together they cultivate 30 grapes varieties on 250,000 acres to produce 12.5 million bottles per year.

Since Singapore was the first stop for Zaccheo in 1984, that's where the winemakers gathered recently for the group's 25th-anniversary tasting at the Fullerton Hotel's Post Bar and a banquet at the Fullerton Bay Hotel's Clifford restaurant.

The gala dinner started with 2010 Bisol Cartizze Valdobbiadene, Superiore di Cartizze DOCG with canapes. Pickled sardines in onion jam and Mediterranean tuna tartar followed, with 2010 Pighin Sauvignon Collio DoCG.

The wine made the tuna even sweeter.

Garganelli pasta tossed in a lobster and fava-bean ragout was paired with 2006 Garofoli, Special Verdicchio, La Selezione di Gioacchio Garofoli, which was very pleasant with the seafood.

Crisp-skin suckling pig on chickpea sauce and black truffles served with 2007 Mantellassi Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG 50th Anniversary, which was 85 per cent Sangiovese and 15 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2006 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio Riserva DOC, 100 per cent Nebbiolo.

Both wines were very smooth with the tasty pig and cleansed the palate, but anyone preferring a more traditional, tannic taste would go for Barolo.Slow-braised beef cheek on cheese-laced polenta and shaved chocolate also came with two wines - 1988 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riverva DOCG (a blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo) and 2000 Umberto Cesari Tauleto Sangiovese Rubincone IGT (Sangiovese and Bursona Longanesi).

It seemed unfair to serve DOCG and IGT and so big different vintage at the same time even though both were the blend of Sangiovese. Anyway it showed its character and quality very well and depended of your palate.

The last course was Dolci - a hazelnut chocolate maralumi sensation with olive oil-cocoa crumble - served with 2008 Villa Girardi Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOC, which combines Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes. This intense wine, made in a special process, is always good with chocolate thanks to its intense flavour and sweetness.

"Italian wine is now international, so you no longer have to drink Italian wine only with Italian food," says Zaccheo.

"More than anything I'd like to see the world integrated in culture and lifestyle, not only in terms of wine or food but the quality of life itself."



BY THE RULES

<< Italian law applies the following

appellations to wine:

<< DOC stands for Denominazione


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