wine reviews & musings

The Modern Classical White Wines of Campania - The Campania region has long been recognized as the source of some of highly-regarded red wines. These flavorful and full-bodied red wines are some of the best Italy has to offer. But Campania also has in recent decades gained recognition as the source of some of southern Italy’s most textured and complex white wines ...read the article»

Marsala Wines - Once Famous, Now Awaiting Rediscovery - Marsala was once one of the most popular fortified wines in the world. It gradually fell out of favor but some quality-oriented producers have worked hard to restore Marsala to its former glory. Despite dramatic improvements in quality, market acceptance has not kept pace and Marsala is just waiting to be rediscovered ...read the article»

Unsung, Affordable Red Wines from Southern Italy - Ten under $20 - While it’s Italy’s great red wines from the north - renowned wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone and Super-Tuscans - that garner the greatest attention in the wine world, they also tend to be expensive and out of the financial reach of many consumers. But there is a growing recognition that wines from various regions south of Rome - an area generally known as the mezzogiorno or “southern” Italy - have improved dramatically ...read the article»

A Tasting of Barbera Wines - Barbera is an unusual grape variety. It is an early-maturing variety and its juice has a dark ruby color with high acidity, wonderful berry-like aromas and flavors and discret tannins.  It is a vigorous, hardy variety that adapts well to different climates and soils and is grown in many parts of the world such as Brazil. Argentina, Australia and in several areas of the U.S. ...read the article»

The Renaissance of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Wines - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano does indeed have a noble and storied heritage. The wine is named after the ancient and scenic hill-top town of Montepulciano whose soaring Renaissance architecture enlivens the landscape of southeastern Tuscany. These wines have been admired for centuries ...read the article»

Break out of the Routine This Year: Six Out-of-the-Ordinary Italian Wines to Expand Your Wine Horizon - There are many finely-crafted and pleasurable wines from Italy on wine shop shelves that simply get overlooked because they’re not particularly well known and consequently outside the typical wine purchaser’s comfort zone. This article reviews six pleasurable, out-of-the-ordinary Italian wines that will give fillip to your plan to escape from the ordinary and expand your wine horizons this new year...read the article»

Morellino di Scansano - Tuscany’s Other Sangiovese Wine -Morellino di Scansano is a Sangiovese-based red wine produced in the area around the ancient village of Scansano in Tuscany’s Maremma region. The area's rich volcanic soil and dry, hot weather makes it a prime area for growing wine grapes. The sea breezes from the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea also promote large day-night temperature swings which, counter-intuitively, are beneficial...read the article»

Value-priced Italian Red Wines for Fall Festivities - Here are some inexpensive red wines from Italy to accompany your fall activities, whether they involve participating in tailgate parties with friends, taking advantage of the outdoor grill before winter sets in or just chilling out watching the leaves change color. And you don’t necessarily want an austere and complex wine. Rather, something flavorful, easy to drink and not too expensive will do the trick...read the article»

Passito Wines for a Sweet End to a Grand Meal- Passito is an Italian word for wines made by the appassimento process whereby grapes are partially dried on straw mats or pallets in airy rooms or barns in order to concentrate the grapes’ flavors and sweetness prior to vinification. As the grapes shrivel and lose water they become full of concentrated sugars and flavors. After anywhere from three to six months the semi-dried grapes are gently pressed and the juice fermented until it reaches the desired level of sweetness and alcohol ...read the article»

Eight Organic Italian Wines You’ve Got to Try - Organic wines and environmentally friendly wineries in Italy - as well as elsewhere - are in vogue now. Formerly the domain of small, artisanal, off-the-grid wineries, the movement has expanded, evolved and become generally accepted in a way that could not have been forecast or even imagined a few decades ago. Today, any number of producers tout their organic or eco-friendly credentials as much if not more than the quality of their wines. Even establishment organizations such as Gambero Rosso ...read the article»

More Value-priced Super-Tuscan Wines - I enjoy touring Tuscany and visiting wineries in that beautiful part of Italy. Wines from the Chianti region are among Tuscany’s most famous while the Brunello di Montalcino wines from southern Tuscany are some of the best Italy has to offer, prized for their structure, elegance and longevity.

But another category of Tuscan wine - called Super-Tuscan - has received considerable critical acclaim from critics and consumers alike iover the past several decades and in the process has recharged the entire Italian wine scene...read the article»

What I’m Drinking Now - the Pleasurable Wines of Puglia - Puglia can lay claim to 29 DOC wine zones of which more than half (16) are located in the southern-most part of Puglia in what is called the Salento peninsula, the fertile, flat and sun-drenched tip of the “heel” of the “boot” that comprises geographic Italy. Puglia also has 4 DOCG wine zones of which 3 are in the Castel del Monte wine region, an up-and-coming wine area in central Puglia that holds great promise. The zone takes its name from the octagonally-shaped 13th century castle lying south of the city of Andria ...read the article»

The Wines of Mount Etna: From High-altitude, Volcanic Vineyards Come Wines with Attitude - Among Italy’s numerous and vibrant wine regions, the Mount Etna region in northeastern Sicily seems an unlikely site for producing any wines let alone quality wines. Mount Etna is an active, fearsome volcano that has erupted from time to time, sometimes savagely, for thousands of years. Nonetheless, it is one of Italy’s hottest wine regions, so to speak, and vintners are now scrambling to purchase vineyard property in the region ...read the article»

The Winning Wines of Umbria - White wines play a significant role in Umbria today with white wines constituting the bulk of the region’s total wine production and wine exports. But it is Umbria’s dry red wines that have garnered the most attention in recent years. The Sangiovese-based Torgiano Rosso Riserva wines from the Torgiano area and the Sagrantino-based wines from the area around the ancient hill town of Montefalco are wines of character and distinction that garner rave reviews from wine critics and consumers alike ...read the article»

Dolcetto Wines - Hiding in Plain Sight - Dolcetto is an early-ripening grape and like many such varieties produces wines that are soft, fruity and acidic with mild tannins. As such, they generally do not benefit from long bottle ageing. Dolcettos are very popular in Italy, particularly in the Piedmont region, and many use it as their everyday, go-to wine. It is a fixture at their daily dinner tables and for entertaining close friends ...read the article»

Wines I Would be Happy to Find Under My Christmas Tree This Year - What would I like to find under my tree on Christmas day?” you ask. Well - surprise! - I would really be happy and pleased to find a good bottle of Italian wine! And it wouldn’t have to be a really expensive bottle from a boldface-name producer. I would be pleased to just receive a good bottle of wine that showed some care and thought on the part of the giver ...read the article»

Ripasso Wines - For Those Who Love Big Reds But Can’t Always Afford Amarone - Ripasso is a red wine from the Valpolicella zone which is located north of Verona in the Veneto region of Italy, which is also the home of the world famous Amarone wines. Ripasso wines are generally less well known than Amarone wines even though the two wines share some of the same features and flavor profiles. Ripasso wines are rich, full-bodied and have some of the same aroma and flavor contours as Amarone wines. They are more approachable and less expensive than Amarone wines so they can be enjoyed regularly while saving the Amarones for those special occasions ...read the article»

Best Value-Priced Italian Red Wines - Twelve Wines Under $20 - It’s that time of year when we start seeing numerous “best of” lists. You know what I mean - lists enumerating the best of this or that for the year such as favorite restaurants, movies, music, etc.
So, in the spirit of the season, I have assembled a list of my favorite value-priced Italian red wines for the year. Specifically, presented here are the twelve wines I’ve most enjoyed over the course of the year and that retail for $20 or less ...read the article»

Moscato d’Asti - Italy’s Fizzy and Fun Gift to the World - Moscato d’Asti (mos scah’ toh dah’ stee) is a lightly sweet and gently effervescent wine from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. While it is a festive and fun wine, it does have a sense of place and style that help explain why it ranks so high as one of Italy’s favorite wines ...read the article»

Aperol – An Italian Summertime Elixir - Aperol is an Italian liqueur made by infusing orange peel and oranges with a subtle blend of bitter and sweet herbs and spices.  With its low alcohol content, intriguing aromas of orange and tangerine, complex bittersweet taste and its vivacious bright orange color, Aperol may well be the perfect summertime refresher. It is refreshing, vibrant and convivial ...read the article»

Taking it Outdoors: Ten Great Value-priced Italian Wines for Al Fresco Dining - No doubt about it, summer is almost here and your thoughts are turning to moving your dining outdoors. And whether it’s relaxed snacking on your patio, hors d’oeuvres for a summer garden party, grilling ribs or steaks or a picnic in the park, there is a great, inexpensive Italian wine that’s perfect for the occasion ...read full article»

The Subtle and Bubbly Charms of Prosecco - Prosecco is easily Italy’s most popular sparking wine. Light, refreshingly effervescent and inexpensive, it is an integral part of most luncheons, weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations throughout Italy. It is also a popular before-dinner drink (aperitivo), not only in the Veneto region in northeastern Italy - which is Prosecco’s traditional home - but throughout the...read full article»

Chinato - the Better Barolo - The Italian liqueur, Chinato, or as it’s more formally known, Barolo Chinato, originated - not surprisingly, given its name - in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Chinato (key’ not toe) is still produced in the Langhe area of the Piedmont, the same area where Nebbiolo grapes are grown for the production of the celebrated Barolo wines, Italy’s “king of wines.” Barolo Chinato can trace its roots back to the late 19th century...read full article»

Twelve Great Wines From Southern Italy Worth Splurging On - Wines from southern Italy have historically been overlooked in favor of the better-known and popular wine regions of northern Italy - mainly Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto. However, southern Italy has a rich winemaking heritage and is considered the birthplace of Italian wines. With its warm Mediterranean climate, rich volcanic soil and abundance of ancient native grape varieties, vineyards have dotted southern Italy’s landscape for thousands of years ...read full article»

Franciacorta Wines: Quality Italian Bubbly to Celebrate the New Year – or Any Time of Year - Italy offers discriminating wine lovers an astonishing array of super sparkling wines with which to celebrate the New Year or just to enjoy any time of year for that matter. One doesn’t need a special occasion to enjoy a festive sparkling wine. Any excuse will work like “it’s Saturday, let’s celebrate” or ...read full article»

Best Value Italian Wines of 2011: Ten Italian Wines under $20 - Here are the best value Italian wines of 2011, the wines that have the highest quality-to-price ratios of all those I’ve tasted in 2011. This list of my favorite value wines includes both red and white wines and should be a useful list for Italian wine cognescenti in this period of diminshed expectations ...read full article»

Amaro - the Better Italian Bitter - The Italian liqueur, Amaro, is one of my favorite after dinner drinks. Ever since I was first served this liqueur after dinner at a restaurant in Bologna, I have been hooked on them, or at least most of them (more on this later). However, on those occasions when I have served them to guests, response to them has been what might charitably be described as mixed ...read full article»

Refosco - Northern Italy's Hidden Wine Gem - Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is both the name of a grape as well as the red wine produced from that grape. Both the grape and the wine are popularly known as “Refosco” although technically it is only one sub-variety of the extended Refosco grape family. It is grown principally in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in northeast Italy and the nearby Venezia and Treviso provinces ...read full article»

Italy's Best Merlot Wines - Merlot is not a wine that readily comes to mind when discussing Italian wines. In a country populated with hundreds of different indigenous wine varieties and numerous attention-getting and popular wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Chianti Classico, to name a few, Italian Merlot doesn’t rise to the level of wide popular recognition. However, Merlot wines have increased in popularity in recent years with increased production of both blended wines as well as 100 percent Merlot wines ...read full article»

Mirto and the Bounty of Sardinia - Whenever my friend Andrea schedules a return visit to his native Sardinia, I try to remember to ask him to bring back a bottle of Mirto for me and to give him some cash to cover the cost. It’s one of my favorite after-dinner drinks and since it’s difficult to find in the U.S. his courtesies in this regard are always appreciated ...read full article»

Brachetto d'Acqui: A Cheery Italian Sparkling Wine for Summer Festivities - A charming and refreshing but lesser known option in the Italian sparkling wine lineup is Brachetto d’Acqui. Like most other Italian sparkling wines, Brachetto d’Acqui (bra ket’ tah dahk’ qui) is produced in the cooler regions of northern Italy, in this case the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. This seductive red sparkler is just waiting to be discovered by the American wine public. This delicately sparkling, light ruby-colored wine is characterized by pronounced red fruit aromas ...read full article»

Best Italian White Wines for Summer Sipping - When it comes to versatility, food-friendliness and outright summer sipping pleasure, it is hard to beat a white wine, especially one from Italy. People generally want to take a simpler approach to life during the hot months of summer. Formal dinners give way to simpler, buffet or even picnic-type get-togethers where formidable red wines would be out of place. Rather, these types of get-togethers call for crisp and refreshing white wines that can be served either by themselves for refreshing sipping, as aperitifs or as accompaniment to luncheons or other light summer fare ...read full article»

A Tasting of Red Wines from Sardinia - The island of Sardinia (Sardegna) lies off the west coast of central Italy. With its rugged mountains, rocky coasts and dazzling beaches accentuated by enigmatic pre-historic stone structures, Sardinia has long been a popular destination for Italian and other European tourists. However, Sardinia is not particularly well known to most Americans and not on the American travel industry's radar screens.  For most Americans ...read full article»

Top Ten Affordable Super-Tuscan Wines - The words “affordable” and “Super-Tuscan” don't often appear in the same sentence. Super-Tuscans are big, rich, intense and modern wines that often carry triple-digit price tags, especially acclaimed Super-Tuscans with bold-face names like Ornellaia, Messorio, Solaia, Tignanello or Sassicaia.

How did the term “Super-Tuscan” come into being and what exactly does it mean or signify? To answer this you have to ...read full article»

Unexpected Pleasures - More Wines From Off the Beaten Track - In a previous posting on this website, I reviewed some noteworthy Italian wines that merit attention but are not particularly well known in this country. Italy is a complicated wine country with a rich and varied wine culture. Every one of Italy’s twenty regions grows grapes and produces wines and the country can lay claim to hundreds ...read full article»

Top Italian Wine Values: Twelve Great Italian Red Wines Under $12 - Italy is a complicated wine country that produces a lot of wine each year, both red and white. Some of Italy’s wines are well known and highly-regarded by the international wine community. They also are frequently quite expensive. But a lot of Italian wine comes from less well-known varieties grown in regions other than Tuscany or the Piedmont that are generally less familiar to American consumers.

Listed below alphabetically by producer are twelve noteworthy red wines that generally retail for $12 or less. These are wines of some character and distinction at wallet-friendly prices. Even though I’ve listed a vintage year for each wine ...read full article»

Tasting of Pre-release 2005 Barolo and 2006 Barbaresco Wines - I recently had the opportunity to taste some of importer Neil Empson’s fine line of Barolo and Barbaresco wines from the 2005 and 2006 vintages, respectively, which have not yet been released for sale. Empson imports wines from around the world but specializes in Italian wines. The company has a stable of remarkable, quality-oriented producers of Barbaresco and Barolo in its line-up that includes Einaudi, Marcarini, Poderi Colla Conterno Fantino, Ca’ Rome’ and Bongiovanni. Below are my notes on the wines tasted recently ...read full article»

My Favorite Italian Red Wines of 2008 - I have had the pleasure of tasting a lot of wines, particularly Italian wines, over the course of the year 2008. While a few have been at best, uninteresting, most have been pretty good and some have been absolutely outstanding and whose tastes have lingered long after the bottles have been tucked away. In the spirit of the new year I want to share with you my top ten favorite Italian red wines for 2008. This obviously is no small task given the thousands of wines ...read full article»

Wines to Drink While Watching the Election Returns - Rather than pairing the wines with food that might be appropriate, pair wines with the platforms and personalities of the candidates. This discerning article on what wines would pair well with the individual candidates for the nation’s highest political office should be of interest to those trying to decide what wines to serve on election night ...read full article»

The Better Barbera - Barbera is the Rodney Dangerfield character of the wine world — that is, it gets no respect from the general wine-consuming public. Although widely available, Barbera wines are not especially well known in the U.S. and are often overlooked in favor of Italy’s more popular Nebbiolo - and Sangiovese-based red wines ...read full article»

Sgroppino - A Refreshing Venetian Treat - I was first served this drink after dinner with my wife, Julie, and a few friends at a small, family-run restaurant on Campo San Margherita in Venice last year. Dinner was delightful and as we began tucking into our desserts, the waiter without any prompting, simply announced that he was going to serve us one of Venice’s most famous digestivi ...read full article»

Unexpected Pleasures — Fine Italian Wines From Off the Beaten Track - Italy produces a dizzying array of wines. With grapes growing in virtually every nook and cranny of this boot-shaped country, Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world. Moreover, with its geographically diverse terrain ... read full article»

Best Italian White Wines Under $20 - White wines in Italy are generally overshadowed by red wines. This is not difficult to understand given that Italy’s most internationally famous wines (i.e., Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di  Montalcino) are red ...read full article»

 

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