By Tom Marquardt And Patrick Darr
Italy is one of the most popular wine-growing regions and for good reason. It is the largest producer of wine in the world and its delicious wines are easy to find in the United States. While we have encouraged consumers to try the emerging wines from Georgia, Uruguay, Croatia and Armenia, it is always comforting to go back to the tested and steady regions like Italy.
As Americans are traveling more often to this beautiful country, now is a good time to explore its many, diversified wine regions.
Even though you think you know Italy, you probably have not tried all 350 authorized grapes it grows. Wine is made in every region of Italy, so there is always a new region to explore — Sicily, Campania and Umbria – or return to the tried-and-true regions, such as Tuscany and Piedmont.
Here is a roundup of some new wines we recently discovered from Italy:
Lucente Toscana IGT 2020 ($26). Sangiovese and Merlot go into this perennial favorite. Medium body, soft on the palate and balanced, it has blueberry flavors. A great wine to serve alongside pasta and veal.
Sapaio Toscana IGT 2019 ($94). A very serious wine for the consumer who wants to step up their super-Tuscans. It is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc. Ripe and forward cherry notes, easy tannins and hints of cigar box and herbs.
Volpolo Bolgheri DOC 2021 ($36). A second label of Sapaio, this wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot. Floral aromas with cherry flavors.
Luce Toscana IGT ($130). A partnership between Robert Mondavi and Vittorio Frescobaldi, this colossal wine is the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove. Complex, yet sophisticated, it has layers of black fruit and silky tannins.
Querciabella Chianti Classico 2018 ($33). Made entirely of Sangiovese, this is a delicious quaff that shows ripe, forward red fruit and elegant hints of lavender and spice.
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2018 ($70). The all-Sangiovese Brunellos are much more accessible today than they were years ago. Although this wine can age a decade, it’s delicious now with intense red berry flavors and a hint of spice.
Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018 ($35). Mostly Sangiovese, this wine is aged for 12 months in small French oak barrels. Black cherry and blackberry notes with hints of spice and leather.
Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2019 ($30). You can find this for a lot less if you watch sales. The 10 percent merlot softens the often-acidic Sangiovese in this pleasant wine. Cherry and blackberry notes with a dash of spice.
Ruffino Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva 2018 ($40). One of our perennial favorites, this is a blend of Sangiovese with merlot and colorino making up 20 percent of the wine. Produced only in great vintages since 1947, it draws grapes from the producer’s Gretole estate. Generous violet, cherry and cocoa aromas with plum and cherry flavors.
Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva 2018 ($30-33). A long-lasting wine in the mouth with plum-dried cherry and cedar notes. Soft tannins make this wine drinkable now.
Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso Toscano IGT 2020 ($15-18). This a great value-oriented Tuscan table wine that is 80 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon. Rich and round with a substantial mouth presence and plum and cherry notes. Not complicated, just a really good wine at a great price.
Carpineto Dogajolo Bianco Toscana 2022 ($13-15). This refreshing Montepulciano blend of chardonnay, grechetto and sauvignon blanc is a nice treat for sipping. Generous citrus notes with brisk acidity and a clean mouthfeel.
Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso 2020 ($30). Lovely cherry notes that is smooth on the palate and well-balanced.
New book on Central Coast
Anyone planning a trip to California’s Central Coast would benefit from getting a copy of “Exploring Wine Regions: The Central Coast of California” by Michael C. Higgins.
Higgins has written similar books on Bordeaux and Argentina, so he has the format down pat. There is a lot of detail about the wine-growing region with a focus on 102 high-quality wineries in the region’s 27 sub-AVAs. A reader gets to know the region’s attractions – places to stay and eat – as well as the grape varieties and climate.
There are also good maps to help you navigate the local roads.
Higgins took his own photos for this book and they are well beyond what you would expect from a cell phone camera. They make you want to book a trip now.
Mondavi & Family has released its inaugural edition of Aviana wines meant to support women’s empowerment. The producer is majority woman-owned.
Priced modestly at $20 a bottle, the three wines are sourced outside the United States. A verdejo is from Spain, a red blend from Portugal and a cabernet sauvignon from southern France. Although the Languedoc is not known for its cabernet sauvignon, it’s the one we liked the best.
The label is enhanced with augmented reality. Hold your camera to the female figure and watch as she changes her identity.
Looking for a wine to bring to a Halloween party? Look no further than Flora Springs’ All Hallows’Eve cabernet franc. The producer always has fun with the label for this incredibly delicious wine with a label that should scare off the goblins. But even better the popular 19 Crimes producer has limited-time labels that will put the scare into any adult party. Try 19 Crimes Frankenstein Cabernet Sauvignon or 19 Crimes Dracula Red–both are $18.
Crossbarn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2021 ($40). A very nice mid-range priced pinot noir. Cherry and plum notes dominate with a hint of oak and pleasing acidity.
El Coto Blanco Unoaked Viura Rioja 2022 ($12). Fresh, crisp quality with very pleasant citrusy flavors. This producer makes some of the best bargains in wine today. Try their other varieties.
Mascota Unanime Chardonnay Argentina 2020 ($20). One of the best chardonnays we have sampled from Argentina. Tasted like a big bold French oaked chardonnay from California that would cost a lot more. Butterscotch and lemon curd notes.