We dined with friends at Bari in Memphis Friday night, and I took along a bottle of the Lucente 2007, a cabernet sauvignon-sangiovese-merlot blend from Tuscany. Bari is primarily a seafood restaurant — we also drank, from the wine list, the white Vietti Roero Arneis 2009 — but the kitchen turns out a fine steak too. A special that evening was a boneless rib-eye steak marinated in olive oil, garlic, various herbs and spices and moderately hot chilies, the effect of which I could feel slowly building toward the back of my palate.

The wine is a product of Luce delle Vite, a collaboration, launched in 1995, between the late Robert Mondavi and Vittorio Frescobaldi, of the prominent and ancient Tuscan wine family. The main wine is Luce, with Lucente as a less expensive second label. The blend in Lucente 2007 is 50 percent merlot, 35 percent sangiovese and 15 percent cabernet sauvignon. The wine ages 12 months in almost all French oak, 55 percent new barrels, and a bare 5 percent American oak. The first impression is of classic merlot and cabernet elements: cedar, tobacco and dried thyme; black currants and black cherry; dusty tannins and glittering graphite-like minerality. The wine is meaty and fleshy, inky and a little tarry, and at this point one feels a sense of sangiovese character, a bit of plum, a wash of dried spice and flowers, a touch of smoky black tea. Give the wine a few minutes and you perceive echoes of moss on granite, dried mushrooms, iodine; then the dense tannins really start to emerge. In others words, Lucente 2007 resembles a really well-made Napa Valley blend that possesses several degrees and shades of Tuscany. The alcohol content is 14.5 percent; just like Napa! Best from 2011 or ’12 through 2016 to ’18, but boy it squared off damned prettily and essentially with that medium-rare boneless ribeye. Excellent. About $30.
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The next night was Pizza-and-Movie Night at our house (Tilda Swinton in the Italian film “I Am Love”), and desiring something simple, tasty and authentic to accompany my pizza — topped with roasted tomatoes, green pepper, roasted sweet chilies, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, pepper-cured bacon, mozzarella and Parmesan — I opened a bottle of Li Veli Orion 2008, a 100 percent primitivo wine from Salento, the heel of the Italian boot that forms the Apulian peninsula. This was precisely what the doctor — I have an honorary doctorate, thank you very much — ordered, a drinkable red wine, very spicy, quite succulent with black currant and blackberry flavors encompassed by smoke, a hint of tar-tinged violets, black pepper and shale-infused tannins. Depending to what you’re reading, this wine was made all in stainless steel (the press release) or spent six months in oak barrels (the winery’s web-site), but I don’t mind saying that in any case, this is a very enjoyable expression of the usually rustic primitivo grape that just happens to share DNA with zinfandel. Nothing deep here; just direct and tasty appeal. Very Good+. About $11, a Real Bargain.
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Lucente 2007 is imported by Folio Fine Wines, Napa, Cal.; Li Veli Orion 2009 is imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Cal. These were samples for review.
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