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Column: Summer Sippers from Italy and California

Pair your weekend feasts with a complex white or a versatile red.
Falanghina Janare is a great summer wine to enjoy with seafood and Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel makes a wonderful match for barbecue and Moroccan Tagine.

Today our first wine recommendation is from southern Italy. The Campania wine region is world-famous for its many attractions: the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano, Ravello, Ischia, Capri, Naples, Vesuvius, as well as the two archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Greek temples at Paestum.

Although it’s best known for its reds such as Taurasi and Alianico, Campania’s white wines are delicious too. For example, the 2019 Falanghina del Sanio DOP Janare is a refreshing white to serve these July days; ($18.99 on sale until July 30th, 89 points, Very Good). Despite its age, it is drinking very well.

The elegant dark bottle suggests that the Falanghina is special. With a delicate floral nose together with citrus and nuts, there’s a great finesse and depth of flavour. I love the round apple and pear flavours with lemon and grapefruit. And there are minerals to add complexity as well as a textured mouth feel and almond notes with a lengthy slightly off-dry finish.

The lively acidity balances the flavours and means that this is a lovely wine for seafood. Think prawns, scallops, and clams with pasta, garlic, lemons and fresh parsley. I’ve never seen a Falanghina in Richmond stores before and it's a bargain for the quality. Available at Ironwood and Brighouse BC Liquor Stores.

Now we journey west from Campania Italy to Lodi California and recommend the Ravenswood Lodi 2019 Old Vine Zinfandel ($22.99; 89 points, Very Good). Ravenswood is the name founder Joel Peterson adopted after two ravens harassed him as he toiled in the vineyard to bring his debut vintage Zinfandels out of a heavy rainstorm. By some miracle, the rain stopped whenever he went to pick up the grapes and Peterson’s first vintage was a huge success!

Remembering an old aboriginal legend, he soon realized the ravens were actually protecting him and his grapes from the damaging rain and were cheering him on. The Ravenswood Zinfandel label honours those two raven allies to commemorate this ‘miracle’ in the vineyard.

The Ravenswood Zin is a robust fruit-forward red with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, and raspberry and chocolate with cinnamon and cigar box. On the palate there are ripe flavours of raspberry jam, strawberries, blackberries, and boysenberries with plum sauce and star anise. The tannins are smooth and the acidity keeps the ample fruit in balance.

Originally from Croatia, it was transplanted to Puglia in southern Italy where it’s known as Primitivo. Zinfandel found a new home in California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Lodi is now one of the best areas of California for producing Zinfandel and is considered the Zin capital of the world because its vineyards produce about 40 percent of the premium Zinfandel in California.

Positioned between San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada ranges, Lodi while far inland can maintain a Mediterranean climate featuring warm sunny days and cool evening. Lodi Zin has unique characteristics that appeal to aficionados and everyday wine drinkers alike. The sandy soils of Lodi have poor water retention properties resulting in low yields but great concentration in the grapes. Produced from the 100 year old Kettleman Road vineyard.  It’s 77% Zinfandel and 23% Petite Sirah and matured for 18 months in French oak.

Zinfandel is great with Moroccan Lamb or Chicken or Beef Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives, which brings out the grape’s cinnamon-like spices.

If it’s charred, sweet or spicy, most zins will work so think back ribs, Texas brisket, spicy sausages - anything smoked or treated to a sweet or spicy marinade or rub.

It’s also a great partner with dirty burgers, the kind piled up with cheese, bacon, onions, pickles, whatever. Zin can cope!

I enjoyed Ravenswood recently with gruyere cheese. But you can match it with lasagna, Indian or Thai cuisine, and Chinese barbecued pork. Other suggestions: black bean soup, black bean chilies or any chilli con carne. Ravenswood Zinfandel is oh so versatile! It’s available at all three Richmond BC Liquor Stores.