Value-priced Italian Red Wines for Fall Festivities
As daylight hours shorten and temperatures begin to fall people start to move their social activities indoors. Well, not entirely - there are still some outdoor activities like tailgate parties and wine festivals and outdoor celebratory parties. And there is something about cool fall days and the colorful magnificence of the oak and maple trees that inclines me want to sit back and relax on the patio with a glass of wine and, well, watch the leaves change color. And these types of fall activities just seem to go better when accompanied by red wines.
But you probably don’t want an austere and complex wine to accompany these casual activities. Rather, something flavorful, easy to drink and not too expensive will do the trick.
Here are 10 of my favorite value-priced Italian red wines that are perfect for fall festivities. All are all under $15 and they come from all over Italy, from the Friuli and Piedmont regions in the north to Puglia and Sicily in the south. The wines are presented alphabetically by producer.
Argiolas, “Costera” Cannonau di Sardegna 2010 (about $14)
This full-bodied beauty is from grapes grown on Argiolas’s Costera vineyard in south-central Sardegna (Sardinia). It is made primarily with Cannonau, the local clone of Grenache, with a dollop or two of other indigenous red varieties. Argiolas’s Costera Cannonau spends six to eight months ageing in small oak barrels (barriques) prior to bottling. Like other wines made with Cannonau, it is warm and full-bodied and amply coats your mouth and teeth with ripe fruit flavors and soft tannins. This is a wine to be enjoyed with substantial and flavorful dishes such as roast beef with herbs, roast pork or lamb, pasta with meat sauce or aged cheeses.
Cantele, Salice Salentino Riserva 2009 (about $11)
Negroamaro is the paramount grape variety in the Puglia region and is a major ingredient in many of the region’s DOC wines. It produces ripe, rich and delicious wines that are almost black in color with plum and prune aromas and dark fruit flavors.
Cantele’s Salice Salentino Riserva is made entirely of Negroamaro from the estate’s vineyards in the Salento zone in southern Puglia. After fermentation is complete, the wine spends a year ageing in a combination of both new and used oak barriques and barrels followed by two years in the bottle.
It’s worth noting that this wine recently won Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchiere award and also was their pick for the Best Value Wine of the year.
Cantine Colosi, Sicilia Rosso 2010 (about $11)
Based on the tiny volcano-studded island of Salina just off the northeastern coast of Sicily, Cantine Colosi has garnered a well-deserved reputation for producing affordable, quality red wines.
Cantine Colosi’s Sicilia Rosso is made entirely with Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most important red grape variety found and a primary component in Sicily’s best red wines. Nero d’Avola traditionally makes flavorful, supple wines with soft tannins and Colosi’s 2010 Sicilia Rosso is no exception.
The wine spends 6 months in oak casks and 4 months in the bottle prior to release. This dry and full-bodied red offers juicy, dark fruit flavors and smooth tannins. This pleasurable and inexpensive wine is well worth stocking up on to accompany those hearty red pasta dishes or those grilled steak or burger offerings at fall tailgate parties.
Castello Banfi, “Col di Sasso” Toscana IGT 2010 (about $11)
The Castello Banfi vineyard estate is probably the largest producer in southern Tuscany. Its extensive wine list includes a number of expensive Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Super-Tuscan wines that have garnered a lot of favorable review in the wine press as well as a selection of affordable, everyday wines that will appeal to greater numbers of consumers.
Col di Sasso is great example of Banfi’s attractive, value-priced offerings. Col di Sasso (which translates as “stony hill”) is a Super-Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grown on Castello Banfi’s hillside vineyards around the wine-centric town of Montalcino. Harvested in mid to late October, the two grape varieties are separately vinified. After fermentation, the two wines are blended and then aged in the bottle for a short period prior to release.
This medium-bodied wine is balanced, textured and easy to drink as well as easy on the wallet. It’s the perfect wine for those informal festivities involving pizza, pasta with meat sauce and grilled or roasted beef and chicken dishes.
Falesco, Merlot Umbria 2010 (about $14)
This 100% Merlot is made with grapes harvested from the Falesco estate’s best vineyards in the hills around Orvieto in Umbria. After fermentation, the wine is barrique-aged for 7 months and then spends an additional 3 months ageing in the bottle prior to release. The wine is bottled unfiltered in order preserve Merlot’s varietal character.
Falesco’s Umbrian Merlot is a great entry-level Merlot wine from Italy. Many consumers are surprised to learn that Italy produces some very good - and expensive - Merlot wines. In fact, some Merlots are among Italy's most highly regarded and sought-after wines.
This offering by Falesco has some of the best features and characteristics of more expensive Merlot wines but at a very modest price. It has dark fruit flavors and moderate tannins that sustain and complement each other. It is also easy-to-drink, flavorful and nuanced at the same time. It is a great wine for a relatively modest price.
Firriato, “Chiaramonte” Nero d'Avola 2010 (about $14)
Sicily is an emerging powerhouse in the wine world with its own grape varieties and flavors and innovative producers that evince a rich mix of traditional processes and modern wine technology prowess.
Firriato’s 2010 Chiaramonte is made entirely of Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most important red variety. The wine is aged for 6 months in both new and used small oak barrels (barriques). The result is a full-bodied wine with sultry, complex aromas and black fruit flavors with a touch of spice on the finish. It’s a delightful wine with which to sip away the early fall days.
Masi, Modello delle Venezie 2010 (about $11)
Although the historic Masi winery is based in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone of the Veneto, it also has several vineyard estates located throughout the Veneto regions.
Masi’s Modello delle Venezie is a proprietary blend of indigenous Refosco and Raboso varieties from the Masi vineyards in the Grave area of the Friuli region. The Refosco variety typically produces wines with dark fruit and spicy aromas and flavors while the little-known Raboso variety adds color and tannin to the mix.
Don't be turned off by the screwcap on the bottle. Inside is a dark-colored, medium to full-bodied wine with dark fruit flavors, fresh acidity and soft tannins. It is the type of wine that, like Barbera, is suitable for a wide range of occasions and foods. The Modello Rosso pairs well with light dishes such as pasta and rice dishes as well as hearty dishes such as grilled or roasted meats and aged, firm cheeses.
Michele Chiarlo, “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2010 (about $13)
The Michele Chiarlo winery has a well-deserved reputation for producing quality Barbera wines. Barbera wines were the first wines produced by the estate when it was established in the mid-1950’s and they remain a sentimental favorite of Michele today.
The Le Orme Barbera is produced entirely from Barbera grapes harvested from the best of the estate's owned and leased vineyards in the Asti province of the Piedmont region. After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak casks for 8 months and then spends 4 months in the bottle prior to release.
This is a great example of a quality Barbera wine; dry, full-on fruity and well-structured with bright acidity and low tannins. The combination of high acidity and low tannins makes it very food friendly and suitable to accompany a wide range of foods. It goes well with white and red meats but can stand up to pasta or chicken dishes with red sauce. Try it with chicken or rabbit cacciatore. In the Piedmont region Barbera is the traditional wine to accompany Bagna Cauda.
The wine is ready to drink now but will age well for another 5 to 6 years.
Tommasi, Poggio al Tufo “Rompicollo”, Maremma Toscana 2010 (about $14)
The Poggio al Tufo winery is located in the small town of Pitigliano in the Maremma zone in southwestern Tuscany, not far from the Mediterranean coast. Tommasi, one of the Veneto’s leading producers of Amarone, purchased The Poggio al Tufo (po joe ahl toof oh) winery in 1997. Here they produce a small number of well-regarded red and white wines made with local, indigenous as well as “international” varieties.
The 2010 Rompicollo is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon harvested from a single, well-situated Rompicollo vineyard. It is full-bodied, aromatic and beautifully structured and a good match for dishes such as risotto with mushrooms, pasta with red meat sauces, eggplant lasagna and roast veal. It is a delightful Super-Tuscan red with an unbeatable price tag.
Zenato, Valpolicella Superiore 2010 (about $13)
This Valpolicella comes from the Zenato estate’s vineyards in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone. It is made of 80 percent Corvina, 10 percent Rondinella and 10 percent other local red varieties. It fermentation it is aged for 12 months in oak casks.
Zenato’s Valpolicella Superiore is a dry, round, medium to full-bodied wine with delicate but enticing raspberry, almond and kitchen spice aromas and plush, dark fruit flavors. It is smooth and delightful with a pleasant tannic structure that doesn’t overwhelm the wine. This is a great wine to accompany grilled or roasted chicken, cold cuts, rice dishes served with meat or mushroom sauces or, best of all, thick pasta (such as bigoli) with duck ragout.
The wine is ready to drink now but will age well for a number of years.
October 3, 2013
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