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What To Drink Now: Italian Reds

Earthy Italian red wines should be your drink of choice.

A great bottle of Italian wine is always welcome at my table, and I have tried some tasty ones lately. They offer\ incredible taste, quality, and easy pairing ability.  You may want to decant these wines for an hour or two before serving in order for the robust, earthy undertones to settle and soften. Each of these is a spectacular wine, especially with rich stews or soups and any meat cooked on the grill. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

frescobaldi-castelgiocondo-1. A nicely aged Brunello di Montalcino tops the favorites list for many wine lovers, and I have tried two incredible ones lately. One I dug out from deep in my cellar that I had held on to for over 10 years. Both of these are incredible, earthy, dense, and lush wines that capture the true characteristics of the region and the wineries. 2007 Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 100% Sangiovese from Marchesi de’Frescobaldi comes from estate-grown grapes planted in clay soils, rich in mineral content, creating an earthy wine filled with forest floor notes of dried herbs, mushrooms, and wet stone with big black cherry and blackberry flavor, mingling with black pepper and leather.  Though the wine is 5-years-old now, the 2007 is the current release. A few more years of aging will continue to help soften the tannin in the wine. It’s $69.99 at Total Wine and More stores.

2. For New Year’s Eve we opened a robust 1999 Tornesi Brunello di Montalcino from Le Benducce – Tornesi, a family owned estate since the 1850’s. It produces wines that speak to the region’s terroir, this one specifically the Brunello clone (Grosso) of Sangioves,  filled with a balance of earth, black berry, black plum, baking spice, wild flowers, and tobacco notes with very soft tannins and a nice balance of fresh acidity apparent even after 10+ years of aging.  A 1999 might be hard to find now, but a 2006 Riserva and 2007 are available through various wine retailers for around $50-$80 a bottle.  Click here for more information on purchasing.

vietti_barolo_castiglione3. Another Italian favorite, considered the King of all Italian wines, is a great Barolo.  Made from the Nebbiolo variety grown in the hills of the Piedmonte region of Northern Italy surrounding the town of Barolo, this is a robust and tannic, yet balanced and refined wine ideal for pairing with hearty meat and wild game dishes on a winters night.  Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2009 is a somewhat young wine, benefiting for just a touch more aging or decanting and allowing the wine to breath for a few hours prior to enjoying it with food.  From fruit grown in 4 different vineyards in the region, aged 2 years in oak casks, transferred to stainless steel tanks where it is blended and held for another 8 months prior to bottling, the wine is filled with dried violets and dried herbs, black cherry and berry, leather, cedar and tobacco notes with balanced acidity, ripe tannins and structure.  And a great value for the quality of this wine, priced around $48, this wine can be found locally at Jimmy’s Italian Food Store and Pogo’s.

4. Often when we think of Italian wines we think Chianti, and a high quality Chianti Classico DOCG 100% Sangiovese wine can transport the palate to the heart of Tuscany.  Bellezza Chianti Calssico from Castello di Gabbiano will do just that.  Established outside of Florence in 1124, Castello di Gabbiano today is made up of a 252 acre estate filled with vineyards and olive groves, producing traditional wines and rich, fragrant oil. 2010 Bellezza is made from specially selected, quality vines throughout the estate planted in limestone and clay soils, creating earthy, mineral intense, yet floral and fresh Sangiovese wines. Handpicked and aged for 17 months in completely new French oak, and another 6 months in bottle before release the wine is filled with purple flowers, ripe red cherry and raspberry notes with spice and toasted vanilla lingering throughout each sip, enhancing a long, delicate finish.  Retails for around $36, available here for $29.