It’s always fun to be on the lookout for new wines to try, and this past weekend gave me the opportunity to explore two tasty and moderately priced red wines from Italy. They come from less familiar areas of Italy, that nonetheless are making excellent wines.
There’s a wonderful trend in wines from countries around the world: once one region of a country makes a name for itself, wine importers go looking for unknown (and usually well-priced) wines from another region.
In France, renowned Bordeux and Burgundy wines have become very expensive with those most in demand often selling for several hundred dollars a bottle. This has opened the way for other regions of France, like the Pays d’Oc, to begin to apply advanced winemaking techniques to turn out some first-rate wines, often at very reasonable prices.
Italy has had the same experience with the superb wines of Tuscany, Chiantis and Brunellos, as well as those of Piedmont, Barberas and Barolos, now often very highly priced. This trend in Italy is providing an opportunity for areas, long under-represented in international sales, to begin to shine.
This week I found two Italian red wines from two different regions, both of which I would recommend. Interestingly, both are blends of two different grapes and, in each case, the primary grape in the wine is Sangiovese, also the primary grape found in Chianti wines. In each case, it is blended with a second grape and the results are very pleasing.
The first that I tried was Zonin Primo Amore, a happy blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. Interestingly, this blend that is more commonly seen and first developed in Tuscany, is from the island of Sicily in the Italian south.
This moderately priced ($14.85) screw top is a great wine to take to a barbecue and I think has a lot more taste and character than other American or Australian reds I have tried at the same price. This wine is dry; has a tart, red-current-like start to it, mellowed out and given a little more depth to it by the merlot grape. Well worth a try.
I would be remiss, since I’m writing about a wine from Sicily, if I didn’t also recommend trying a Nero d’Avola grape wine.
Unlike the Primo Amore, which is made from grapes originating in Tuscany and Bordeaux, the Sicilian Nero d’Avola wines are rich, strong, dark and intense wines made with local Sicilian grapes. There don’t appear to be any currently on the Yukon Liquor Corporation list, but I think they’ve carried them in the past. Keep your eyes peeled.
My second pick for the week is the Rubesco Sangiovese & Canaiolo from Cantine Lungarotti , which is a Rosso di Torgiano or “red of Torgiano” ($17.30). This ruby-red and unfiltered blend has lot of character and the added charm of a cork … call me old-school, but I love using my cork screw. It’s from Umbria, just east of Tuscany, and its wines have some of the same fine characteristics.
This beauty has a nice bouquet, a dry and balanced taste with cherry notes and a nice finish (the taste in your mouth after you swallow) that brings to mind a mid-priced Chiantis. In fact, I would say that it drinks better than the Tuscan Chiantis. I drank it at my cabin, with pizza made from scratch, last Saturday night and I will certainly be serving the combination again.
So don’t be afraid to try wines from regions outside of the well-known ones. You’re likely to find some pleasant surprises and, since these winemakers are working to develop a reputation, you’re likely to get a lot of value for your money.