Bigi productions presents an IGT Umbrian wine starring Sangiovese and Merlot. The story of the union of two grape types; its a story of passion between a land and a climate in the year of 1999. Rated 13 per cent. Sartiano now available at an enoteca near you!

Rest assured. These are not the words of that aggravatingly monotonous voice narrating the preview of a film. They are rather a parallel between film and wine. Most of us are familiar with the jargon found on cinema posters, whereas deciphering wine labels can be daunting. It might be helpful to think of a wine label as a video box or a film poster because there are many analogous features, although, as with a film, you cant always judge a wine by its label.

How much you want to know about wine is up to you. There is a wide spectrum of interest levels, ranging from people whose key words are red and white to the expert who can guess the year, grape type and vineyard to the square kilometre. Most people are somewhere in between. Each wine has its own story to tell, and each person his or her judgement to make.

As a sommelier, when I present a bottle I must know three essential things: the name of the wine, the producer and the type. You may be surprised that the year/vintage does not qualify as essential information. This is because some wines are made from a blend of several years, as is the case for most Champagne for instance. This is the kind of information one usually finds on a wine list and is limited just as the words Pinocchio di R. Benigni fantastico in the list of 300 films in Roma C dont reveal much about the film they refer to. Unless youre a film buff or have seen the title recently in reviews, you will want to know more before you decide to see it. The same applies for wine.

The actors are the grapes themselves. Their expression is contingent on external factors including the conditions in which they grow, the type of vinification and ageing. However, each grape, like a famous actor, has trademark characteristics for which it is well known. Like a film director casting and coaching an actor, an oenologist, depending on how he or she envisions the wine, will give more or less voice to a specific grape, using its character traits for a specific purpose in the wine.

Favourite grape types have made their name in the world. Sangiovese, native to Italy, made its dbut in Chianti and has now refined its act for Brunello di Montalcino. Merlot is an international player famous for its role in Bordeaux; it is now found in wines from all over the world. Like actors, grapes can be primadonnas, refuse to grow in certain conditions, or be difficult to harvest.

It may be more adventurous to try a wine from an unknown region or grape type. Fortunately, in Italy the diversity is incredible. Lesser-known native grapes produce pleasurable and interesting results, and little-known producers make great wines. Try a Sicilian wine from the native grape type Nero dAvola or a Sardinian Cannonao.

In Italy, and generally in Europe, wine has its own name, but in the new world often a wine is named after the grape type that plays the most important role. Whereas in the US you get a Cabernet Sauvignon (often referred to simply as Cab), in Italy, a Barolo or a Barbaresco are by definition predominately Nebbiolo grape, another native Italian. Grape vines are highly sensitive to their setting, referred to as the pedoclimatic (climate and soil) conditions. The region has a significant effect on the grapes performance.

Although wine descriptions might be paralleled to comedy and drama in cinema, every wine is in some way a documentary. This is because, ultimately, wine is an illustration of what a particular grape type has to offer from a particular region. In Italy wines have legal categories including Vino da Tavola, IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

As in cinema, there are big and small wine producers. Big-time producers have vineyards all over the world with marketing to boot. Small producers often give quality precedence over quantity and, as in independent cinema, often express more originality. Like in cinema there is trash low quality where the story tastes like any other, and that means bland. Originality comes at a price, because its thought about and invested in. Often the producer acts as the distributor, especially in his or her own country.

In the wine industry, the oenologist, sometimes referred to as the wine maker, is the equivalent of the director. The oenologist is responsible for key decisions and ultimately for the interaction of all the elements such as when to harvest and when to blend what percentage of which grapes. Ultimately, the oenologist creates a wine from the different components. The most famous oenologists have a message and a purpose, a life quest to express in the wines they create. Contrary to film ways, the oenologist is not a household name and rarely appears on the bottle. Fame for oenologists generally arrives from the inside out, entering the public eye only after conquering the industry from within. Some Italian oenologists have reached international fame, including Giacomo Tachis for his work with Supertuscans and the Cottarella brothers, Enzo and Riccardo.

A persons judgement depends on many things such as mood, occasion and what is being eaten with the wine. There are some grape types that I know I will not like like Jim Carry movies so I avoid the wines in which they feature. As in film, you will find that you have your own taste. The more you experiment, the more you will know what you like. Follow your nose

Christmas wines

A different wine? Here are a few suggestions for some lesser-known wines, all available in well stocked wine shops around Rome.

You are bound to need some bubbles, or spumante. Try the Italian Franciacorta Saten 1998 DOCG by the producer Ferghettina. At 17 a bottle, it is as smooth as the name alludes and worth every bubble.

A red from Lazio is I Quattro Mori 1999 IGT from the producer Castel de Paolis, in the Frascati zone on Rome's southern doorstep. It is a blend of international grape varieties, mostly Syrah, also known as Shiraz, and the Bordeaux trio: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Available in most enoteche, it goes for about 23.

From the Abruzzo is the producer Gianni Masciarelli, who was the first to put Montepulciano d'Abruzzo in barrique, a French ageing technique that accentuates tannins in the wine and gives an elegant, spicy taste that is very popular. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Marina Cvetic 1999 (that's his wife!) is both fermented and aged in wood. It costs between e15 and e16 and can accompany just about anything. Masciarelli also makes an acclaimed Marina Cvetic Chardonnay 2000 for 23.

If you want to try a native Abruzzo white grape variety, go for Marina Cvetic-Trebbiano 2000, also for 23. With a chicken-based dish, you will not be disappointed.