Reading about wine can be interesting, learning about it educational, and drinking it undoubtedly one of life’s pleasures. But, as Italian-American Herald columnist Murray Schulman has pointed out, while shopping for it is a kick, it can be challenging, especially if you’re looking for good bottles without suffering sticker shock.
Let’s face it, the majority of wine consumers just want to know what to look for at a price they can live with. It doesn’t have to be a certain vintage or from a famous vineyard. They’re not out to impress people with their wine expertise. With some foresight, buying wine doesn’t have to be intimidating or unnecessarily complicated. What follows is a buyer’s guide to 20 Italian wines for under $20, all of which I’ve had in the past year. There are no numerical scores, rankings, or over-the-top winespeak, just brief comments that I hope will be helpful.
Tormaresca “Neprica” R (TW/PA) $$ An unpretentious “drink-don’t-think” blend of juicy Primitivo, herbal Cabernet and earthy Negroamaro. (Puglia)
Feudo Montoni “Lagnusa” Nero d’Avola R (WW) $$ Not a typical Nero, just well made with lots of herbs and delicious red fruit. (Sicily)
Saladini-Pilastri “Piediprato” Rosso Piceno R (TW/WW) $$ A 50/50 Montepulciano-Sangiovese loaded with spicy berries, cherries and a rough, rustic edge that keeps it lively. (Marche)
Talamonti “Trabochetto” Pecorino W (PA) $$ Grill some tuna or chicken and pop open this up and coming native of Abruzzo that packs some heft for a white.
Copertino Riserva! R (WW) $$ Southern Italy in every sip, a consistently solid “go to” wine that pairs well with just about everything. (Puglia)
Terredivino “Luna e I Falo” Barbera R (WW) $$ “La luna” on the label sheds light on a satisfying Piedmont Barbera that can hang with pricier Nebbiolo-based wines.
Marotti-Campi “Rubico”! R (PA) $$$ You’d expect to pay $25 or more for a bottle that expresses the exotic lure of Lacrima di Morro as well as this one. (Marche)
Dolia Monica di Sardegna R (TW) $$ Long overshadowed by Sardinia’s other red grapes, the simple pleasures of easy drinking Monica shouldn’t be missed.
Taurino “Notarpanaro”! R (WW) $$ Never had a wine from Puglia? Try this elegant, eye-opening pure Negroamaro. A lot of wine for the money from one of the region’s top estates.
Zenato “Alanera” Rosso Veronese R (WW/PA) $$ Full-bodied and similar to Valpolicella, but with a firmer, denser texture that coats the mouth. Perfect for porchetta or roasted lamb. (Veneto)
Stregeta “Genius Loci” Fiano! W (PA) $$$ Crisp, pleasantly dry waves of lip-smacking white fruit roll across the tongue in a lighter, less concentrated style of Fiano. (Campania)
Laila “Biancoperla” Verdicchio W (WW) $ Summertime, and the drinking is easy with this breezy, refreshing day at the beach bargain from Marche’s most famous grape.
Tenuta La Ghiaia “Undicinodi”! R (WW) $$$ Sangiovese joins three obscure Ligurian grapes in a savory upscale version of a farmhouse field blend. (Liguria)
Cardedu “Nuo” Vermentinio di Sardegna! W (PA) $$$ Unfiltered, deeply colored and full of character, it’s more like an unadulterated old school table wine than most Sardinian whites.
Tenuta del Portale Aglianico di Vulture! R (TW) $$$ The rich aromas and flavors pull you in and don’t let go, confirming that Basilicata’s underappreciated premier grape has a lot to offer.
Sella & Mosca “Terre Rara” Carignano di Sulcis”! R (WW) $$ Well-balanced tannins, cedar, and ripe dark fruit, a “big” wine that’s not overwhelming. (Sardinia)
Monte del Fra Bianco di Custoza W (PA) $ Dry and tangy, a peach-flavored blend of six grapes that smells and tastes like the tropics, even if you’re only in the backyard. (Veneto)
Argiano “Non Confunditor”! R (WW) $$$ A well-regarded winery’s powerful take on the big three of Bordeaux-Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot. Delivers a “Super Tuscan” barrel of wine for the price. (Tuscany)
Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso R (WW) $$$ Since tough and tannic Sagrantino is in the mix, it takes time to open up and release an explosion of fruit on your palate that’s worth the wait. (Umbria)
G.D Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe R (WW) $$$ Proof that you can experience affordable, authentic Nebbiolo at a third of the price of this producer’s excellent, highly regarded Barolo. (Piedmont) IAH
Prices may vary slightly but are generally in the specified range. It’s always a good idea to check out the websites for availability and/or shipping policies. The wines are not exclusive to those three retailers, so inquire about them at your favorite wine store. Happy hunting!
A ‘20/20’ buyer’s guide to getting the most bang for your buck