M&S's spring tasting at the invitation of Elizabeth Kelly.
As a student, I had a housemate who was a great fan of a certain band (English Prog Rock group Yes, if you must know) - he had not only all their studio albums, but live, solo, bootlegs and collectors' limited editions.
Over time, I was converted to the cause, but my enthusiasm was always rather more tempered - I thought their best albums (Fragile and Close to the Edge) superb, but the rest rather left me cold; either dross, overblown or simply not to my taste.
I feel much the same way about Italian wines: the best I like very much, but have not yet learnt to love them unreservedly and feel that I don't generally know them all that well.
My Concise World Wine Atlas notes that, compared to France "Italy has no less taste, but order comes far down the priority list ... Italy has an equally valid, if often exasperating, wine personality"; that pretty much sums up my feelings about Italy.
Frappato 2012, Sicily (£7.99) pale translucent ruby, bright red fruits, leesiness. A pleasant light red.
Reggiano Rosso 2012, Emilia Romagna (£5.99) ruby garnet, strawberry and raspberry aromas, ripe pure cherry and raspberry fruit, savoury with a firm finish.
Toscano Rosso 2012, Tuscany (£5.99) leather, vanilla and spice on the nose, bright cherry fruit, good structure and a firm finish. This is a baby Chianti. Good.
Aglianico 2012, Campania (£6.49) bright purple, ripe, slightly cooked fruit, spice and chocolateyness. Mouthfilling and grippy.
Dolcetto d'Asti 2012, Piedmont (£6.99) dark purple, ripe, simple berry fruit, savoury and quite long with firmness on the finish.
Perricone 2011, Sicily (£7.99) dark purple, minty spice, bramble and berry fruit, good fresh acidity and firmness on the finish.
Chianti Flask 2012, Tuscany (£9.99) this reminds me of going on a date in the '80s to an Italian restaurant - they used the whicker flask bottles as candle holders and I felt ever-so sophisticated. Actually, the flask is probably the most interesting thing here.
Etna Rosso, Sicily (£9.99) pale ruby, like tawny port. Herbaceous raspberry leaf aromas, red fruit and soft gentle texture. Fresh acidity and rather grippy finish.
Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, Le Marche (£11.99) dark purple, violets, red fruit and eucalyptus, soft texture, grippy finish.
Morellino di Scansano 2009, Tuscany (£15.99) complex musky, leathery, cherry-fruit nose, dense tannins and feels much more sophisticated and nuanced. Pleasant firmness on the finish. Good.
Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2009, Piedmont (£27) tawny port colour; mintiness, red fruits and muskiness. Soft smooth texture with a firmness on the finish. Approachable, wonderfully composed and very elegant, as you would expect at the price. Good.
All the wines here were well-made and free of technical or stylistic faults; the best wine here was the Barolo, but if £27 feels a bit steep for a bottle from the supermarket, then the Morellino is the one. Bargain hunters should go for the Toscano Rosso.
Other related articles
Outis - Wines from Sicily
Slow Wine Tasting - Italian Artisan Wines
Moscato Frizzante and a Jelly Recipe
Vinum Tasting of Italian Wines
A (Metaphorical) Tour Through Italy's Vineyards
Marks and Spencer - website, twitter
Main image credit: https://twitter.com/hazel_macrae/status/327382719606706176