As of 2022, there were close to 1.7 million acres of vine in the nation of Italy – and 2000 grape varieties. For context, Napa boasts 45,000 acres. Admittedly, it’s not a fair comparison as Napa is merely one county, but it gives you a sense of the scope of winemaking in the nation of Italy. Vineyards adorn the entire country and Italy produces beautiful wines. Indeed, from boot tip to alpine foothill, the nation of Italy offers a staggering range of wines worthy of exploration. The standard bearers, (Barolo, Chianti, Brunello)even have a few values if you know where to look. But consider buying a wine from Calabria, Trentodoc or Tuscany’s lesser-known Montecucco. Here’s a shopping list to get things started.
Ippolito 1845 ‘Colli del Mancuso’ Ciro Classico Superiore Riserva 2019: A single vineyard wine from one of Calabria’s signature grapes, Gaglioppo and grown in Ciro, a winemaking region that was most-likely established by the Greeks centuries ago. Calabria is in the southern part of Italy – the “toe” of Italy’s boot if you will. This one shows a robust flavor profile rich with black cherry, black pepper and rustic tannins. $19
Perla Terra Barolo DOCG, 2018: This complex and delicious Barolo wine is only $40 – a feat decades in the making. Owner of Dalla Terra Direct, a highly-regarded wine importing company, Brian Larky and company President Scott Ades together set out on a mission several years ago to create a high-quality Barolo at a value price point. Leveraging their long-standing relationships in Italy and the Piemonte region, the two Larky secured fruit from several small growers to craft this silky, polished expression of Nebbiolo. It is offered exclusively to the US market, lucky us. $40
Fattoria Talosa “Filai Lunghi” Vin Nobile di Montepulciano, 2018: Vin Nobile di Montepulciano wines were once the favorites of kings and nobles but fell out of favor in the 19th century. Today, they are reclaiming their regal status with wines such as this one. Silky dark red cherry fruit layered with spice and earth notes make this a wonderful wine to pair with grilled dishes. Matured for two years in large oak barrels, this wine can easily age for 15 years. Priced at $49, I’d suggest stocking up with a case for the summer.
Tenuta L’Impostino ‘Viandante’ Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva, DOCG 2016: Montecucco is another region of Tuscany that sees less attention than Chianti and it is one of the nation’s youngest appellations, having been awarded status in 1998. The wines are full bodied and structured and offer some of Italy’s best values. This one boasts is 100% Sangiovese, elegant and polished with a great aging potential and made with fruit from a majority of organic vineyards ( FYI, 85% of the total Montecucco DOCG production is organic). $35
Mattia Vezzola Brut Rose, NV: Made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and produced in the classic Champagne Method (Metodo Classico), this is an elegant sparkling wine with refined red fruit notes, ample minerality, and structure to support a range of culinary pairings. The vines grow in Italy’s northern Valtènesi region on the outer hillsides of Lake Garda. $22
I also love the Trentodoc Maso Martis Blanc de Blancs. Maso Martis is one of the pioneers in the Trentodoc region – there were among the first to embrace organic farming back in the 1990’s. $24
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba DOC, 2020: Minimal intervention winemaking and a devotion to each varietal’s individual expression makes Pio Cesare one of the Piedmont’s most trusted and quality-focused brands. The wine shows richness and medium-bodied texture with a bright savory red fruit and a spicy edge. Perfect to drink now or hold for a few years. $27.99
“Volpolo” Rosso Bolgheri DOC 2021: This is the winery’s second label made with fruit from organic vineyards and comprised of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. The palate is textured and rich with lovely aromas of black cherry and hints of cedar. A great wine to pair with a wide range of dishes, from roasted chicken to grilled steak. $36