Enrico Fantasia is one of the more interesting and engaging characters in the wine trade. Born on the island of Venice, he played French horn in the Gran Teatro La Fenice opera house in the city. Tiring of this, he ran a wine bar, and by a series of chance encounters ended up working for Sheridan’s cheesemongers in Galway, importing wine from Italy. He still supplies Sheridan’s with wine, but now runs his own wine company, Grapecircus, mainly supplying restaurants around Dublin. He is very knowledgeable about both food and wine, and even spent a few months working for Dario Cecchini, the world-famous butcher in Panzano in Chianti.
Italy is full of interesting wines that we rarely if ever see in this country. The current economic situation has made things even worse. Enrico laments the fact that the only white Italian wines that seem to sell here are Pinot Grigio and Gavi. I see most Gavi as little more than rich man’s (or woman’s) Pinot Grigio, so that says it all. Even Soave is seen as a little bit too esoteric. Why is it that we Irish don’t respect good Italian wine? It is often said that we don’t understand the food either – what Dublin really needs is one genuine high-quality Italian restaurant (London is full of them) and maybe everything would change. Enrico, however, is persevering, and with the help of Séan Gargano, one of the best sommeliers in Dublin, imports a range of really interesting, well-chosen wines. Most of them are available in Sheridan’s cheese shop in Dublin, possibly elsewhere too.
We had lunch in Dax Café on Pembroke Street, my first visit there. The place was buzzing. Over a strangely sweet salad of ham hock and other bits, followed by a plate of good cheese, we drank a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino.(Canalicchio di Sopra, €22.00 from Sheridan’s). It epitomised everything that is good about Italian and Tuscan wine; nicely concentrated with savoury dark almost bitter cherries, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. A subtle rather than showy wine, but very enjoyable with food, one of those wines that opens out and improves as you work your way down the bottle.