cantina
By Juel Mahoney

With a blank minimalist label, hailing from a relatively new region in Piedmont called Albugnano DOC, Juel Mahoney finds there is a lot more to this red Italian wine than meets the eye. 

Italian wine labels are either genius at design (think Sassicaia, Gaja, Ornellaia) or have more bling than a bunga bunga party. So when I first saw our new wine from Cantina Mosparone Albugnano DOC 2012 - with a plain white label and one free-hand pencil line across it - you could say, it did not exactly jump out like a dancer on an Italian game show.

With its non-descript label from relatively new wine region largely unknown in the UK, some may stop there. But as the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover.

The restraint shown in the label design certainly does not follow through into the glass. The first thing you notice is the complex perfume - savoury cola-like, orange peel, candy shell and rosemary. The palate is light bodied and fresh with cherry and red currants, developing a juicy weight once it breathes for an hour or so.

This is not as serious as Barolo and Barbaresco even though it is made from the same grape variety, Nebbiolo. At only £13.46 per bottle, it does not pretend otherwise. The structure is there, but in this case, the tannins are soft and less severe.

The winery is situated high up in the hills between Castelnuovo don Bosco and Pino d'Asti at nearly 400 metres with soils very similar to the Langhe (the home of Nebbiolo in Piedmont). To get your bearings, it is a one hour drive south from Turin and one hour drive north of Alba - a relatively new appellation established in 1997, which can blend Nebbiolo with local grapes such as Freisa, Barbera and Bonarda.

This is made for pleasure, a platter of parma ham and to be passed around. It is not surprising once you know the wine consultant, Mario Ronco, is involved here. He is one of Italy's up and coming oenologists also responsible for bringing back the quality to joyous Sicilian wines such as Cusomano.

There is nothing imposing about this wine, like a friend you enjoy having at the table for their great laugh. And yet the complex perfumes change over time, the conversation become more interesting, and its distinctly Italian flavours make it taste better with food. And at this price, forget about the bling - that's entertainment.