Italy


I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. Many of these models I would recommend for buying by the case to enjoy in the months ahead, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent cabernet franc. Excellent. About $19.

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Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosado 2016, Bierzo, Spain. Rosé of 100 percent mencia grapes. Excellent. About $13.

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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 70 percent loureiro grapes, 30 percent alvarinho. Very Good+. About $7-$10.

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Averaen Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $20.
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Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinette 2015, Rheinhessen. Excellent. About $14.

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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 100 percent hondurrabi zuri grapes. Excellent. About $16.
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Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $19.

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Contrade Negroamaro 2015, Puglia, Italy. Very Good+. About $10.

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Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon, 10 percent muscadelle. Very Good+. About $13.
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Maquis Gran Reserva Carménère 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $20.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Istria, Apulia, Italy. 90 percent verdeca grapes, 10 percent fiano minutolo. Excellent. About $18.

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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 504 cases. Excellent. About $18.

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Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015. Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 percent merlot, 14 percent petit verdot, 10 percent grenache, 2 percent carignane. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Excellent. About $16.
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Olema Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. Second label of Amici Cellars. Excellent. About $20.

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Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna. Excellent. About $15.

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Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” 2016, Beaujolais, France. Excellent. About $15.

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Principe de Viana Garnacha Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain. Very Good+. About $11.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County, California. With 6 percent petit sirah, 5 percent barbera, 4 percent syrah. 50-to-103-year-old vines. Excellent. About $20.
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The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, South Africa. Very Good+. About $11.

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Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
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St. Urbans-Hof Nik Seis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, Saar Valley, Germany. Excellent. About $18.
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Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi 2014, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. Excellent. About $19.
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Serra Lor Rosato 2016, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardenia. An unusual rosé blend of 50 percent cannonau, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County, California. Excellent. About $19.
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Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, Bordeaux. 100 percent merlot, no oak. Excellent. About $12.

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Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Viognier White Bland 2015, Sonoma County. 85 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent viognier. Excellent. About $18.
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Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne Brut nv, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $20.

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The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as well as a sense of individuality and, if possible, a connection to a region or, in more rarefied examples, to a vineyard. Not all wines, even great ones, display this spectrum of virtues completely; winemaking is too intuitive a craft to allow for cookie-cutter sameness. Often, it’s the differences among wines from vintage to vintage that make them intriguing and exciting. I hope the wines listed here pique your interest and that you have a chance to try some of them. Many of them are entrancing and beautiful, and we could all stand a little enchantment and beauty in our lives.
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Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Vineyard Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 100 percent mourvedre. 277 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wine “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $38.

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Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, Sicily. Excellent. About $25.

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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $35.
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Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $98.

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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition nv, Champagne, France. 70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $68.

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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

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Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot, 7 percent malbec. Excellent. About $55.

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Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 40 percent each aragonez and alicante boschet, 20 percent syrah. Excellent. About $65.
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Fathers & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 393 cases. Excellent. About $32.

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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton district, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $42.

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Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $50.

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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 646 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
The label vintage date is one year behind.
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Grgich Hills Estate Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. 942 cases. Exceptional. About $94.

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Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Trocken Riesling 2014, Baden, Germany. Exceptional. About $30.

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Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 672 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. A brut rosé, 76 percent pinot noir 24 percent chardonnay. 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Domaine Jessiaume Les Cent Vignes Beaune Premier Cru 2014, Beaune, Burgundy. 300 cases. Excellent. About $45.

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Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $32.

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Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. 95 percent schiava. 5 percent lagrein. Excellent. About $24.
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. Exceptional. About $15.
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Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, France. 100 percent malbec. 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. Howell Mountain Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.

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Lioco “Sativa” Carignan 2014, Mendocino. 650 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne. 77 percent chardonnay, 23 percent aligote. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Marc Roy Les Champs Perdrix 2015, Marsannay, Burgundy. 100 percent chardonnay. 175 cases. Excellent. About $50.
The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Mayacamas Vineyards The Terraces Special Bottling Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $95.
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Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet Sauvigono 2013, Calistoga, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $160.

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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 45 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin-Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley, Solano County. Exceptional. About $28.
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Paul Blanck Scholssberg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Alsace. Excellent. About $34.
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Penner Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley. 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.

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Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux. 50 percent each sauvignon blanc and semillon. Excellent. About $22.

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Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Sidebar Kerner 2016, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 193 cases. Excellent. About $25.

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Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $35.

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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc and 6 percent merlot. Excellent. About $50.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Stewart Cellars Beckstoffer Las Piedes Vineyard “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. 180 cases. Exceptional. About $175.
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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $48.

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Tongue Dancer Wines “Pinot de Ville” Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 125 cases. Excellent. About $65.

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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 55 percent marsanne, 45 percent viognier. 180 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2013, Alsace. Exceptional. About $40.
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Yount Ridge Cellars Epic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $250.

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Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

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ZD Winery Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2013, Carneos. 800 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

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Let’s think about New Year’s Eve and what kind of bubbly you might want to serve. Your choice will be dictated by the number of people crowding into your house, apartment, mobile home or tent and how much money you want to spend.

These products were samples for review.
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For example, if you’re throwing an event for multitudes, including the people who got lost looking for a different party, your focus is on pleasant quaffability and low cost. In addition to which, you may be using plastic tumblers instead of actual glasses, so let’s not waste the effort and fiduciary prowess on something more expensive. You can’t go wrong with the Martini Rosé Extra Dry Sparkling Wine, yes, from the Martini & Rossi company — “Say, Yes!” — an unusual blend of riesling, chardonnay, glera (the grape of Prosecco) and nebbiolo. This is made in the Charmat process that produces the necessary effervescence in tanks rather than in the bottle. Whatever! The color is an attractive salmon-coral-pink and the overall impression is of rose petals and violets, slightly macerated raspberries permeated by pears and blood orange, and a soft but lively texture animated by crisp acidity. 11.5 percent alcohol. Drink up! Very Good. About $13.
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Say, however, that your gathering will encompass some 20 to 30 people. Turn then to the McBride Sisters Collection Brut Rose, nv, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. A blend of 90 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay, from vineyards farmed by sustainable practices, this charming sparkler, made in the traditional Champagne method, offers a pale salmon-copper hue and a steady stream of tiny bubbles; notes of raspberry and heather unfold to touches of almond blossom and orange zest, while on the palate chiseled limestone minerality bolsters chiming acidity for vitality and freshness; while the entry hints at sweetness, the finish is bone-dry and bracing. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Pacific Highway Wine and Spirits, Sonoma, Calif.
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O.K, let’s shrink your New Year’s Eve occasion to a dinner party for six or eight close friends. Let’s go for the Barone Pizzini “Animante” Franciacorta Brut, from the region devoted to sparkling wine in Lombardy. It’s a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanc that ages anywhere from 18 to 30 months in bottle. The color is very pale straw-gold, enlivened by a surging spiral of tiny silver bubbles; this is dry, spare and high-toned, with notes of spiced pear and roasted lemon, touches of quince, ginger and summer flowers, bound by chiming acidity and a keen edge of limestone and chalk minerality. 12 percent alcohol. A delightful sparkling wine with a slightly serious edge, suitable as aperitif and at table. Excellent. About $36.
A Leonardo Locascio Selection, The Winebow Group, New York.
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On the other hand, your New Year’s Eve fete may involve only you and another person — a small dinner, music, candle-light, romance personified. This tete a tete requires a Champagne of utter delicacy and elegance, for which I nominate the Champagne Boizel Blanc de Blancs Brut, nv, made completely from Premier and Grand Cru chardonnay grapes (including 40 percent reserve wines) aged four years in bottle on the lees. The color is the palest blond, the myriad bubbles active, incisive and precisely delineated; notes of acacia and hay, lemon balm and lime peel are wreathed with toasted hazelnuts and almond skin and lightly buttered and toasted brioche; elegant and delicate, yes, but driven by the tensile strength of bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality, all culminating in an etched and transparent finish. 12 percent alcohol. Seductive and stimulating. Excellent. About $60.
Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla.
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Here’s the third in a row of a trio of Italian red wines that I offer as Wine of the Day. This is the Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, a model of the type for its restrained winemaking and its integrity toward the grape. In an area where estates have been seduced by the siren call of new French oak barrels — apparently believing that Americans prefer wines that exhibit the presence of toasty oak, coconut and vanilla — Marchesi di Gresy instead ages this wine a mere five months in wood, partially in second- and third-year barriques and partially in large Slavonian casks. The result is a Barbera d’Asti notable for its clean, fresh, pure character. The color is rich, warm ruby-magenta; scents and flavors of sour cherry and raspberry are infused with notes of cherry pit and stem and a hint of pomegranate; a few minutes in the glass bring out touches of violets and orange rind. This dry, spare wine is sleek and lithe, powered by squinching acidity that refreshes the palate with each sip; an element of wild blueberries also emerges, all qualities supported by moderately stated and subtly hewn tannins. 14 percent alcohol. A perfect wine for a selection of salumi or pizzas or hearty pasta dishes — pappardelle with rabbit or Bolognese comes to mind. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $18, marking Good Value.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.


Need a red wine to drink with the short ribs or veal shanks you have braising atop the stove or in the oven? Truth is, there are hundreds if not thousands of candidates that could do the job. For today, however, I’ll nominate one particular wine made from a grape that deserves to be better known. Lagrein is grown in the Südtirol-Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, where it is made into a bright, vibrant red wine whose intense berry fruit and moderate tannins render it ideal for drinking with hearty fare over, say, two to six years. The Alois Lageder Lagrein 2014, Südtirol-Alto Adige, from a 52-hectare estate — about 138 acres — operated on organic and biodynamic principles, sees no oak but aged 12 months in a combination of concrete vessels and stainless steel tanks; all the better for its freshness and immediate appeal. The color is opaque black-purple with a transparent magenta rim; both in nose and on palate, this wine features ripe, fleshy black currants and blueberries touched with notes of mint, graphite and truffles, displaying a robust, rustic and somewhat rooty nature; a few moments in the glass unfurl hints of loam, bittersweet chocolate and black tea. Vibrant acidity keeps you coming back for another sip, while a briery-brambly element adds grain to a lithe, supple texture. 12.5 percent alcohol. Nicely balanced and integrated for drinking through 2019 or 2020. I can smell those short ribs now, and I’m waiting for my invitation to dinner. Excellent. About $25.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Poggio al Tufo is a project centered in Tuscany’s Maremma region, Grosseto district, launched by Tommasi, the well-known producer of Amarone in the Veneto. Tommasi purchased 163 acres there in 1997, planting or replanting vineyards that lie approximately 1,000 feet above sea level in volcanic rock called tufo, Poggio al Tufo meaning, approximately, “the hillside of tufo soil.” Our Wine of the Day is the Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2014, Toscana, a blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 40 percent cabernet sauvignon that aged one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels of 65-hectoliter size; that’s a hair more than 1,717 gallons, so, yes, big barrels. The color is dark ruby that shades to a bright magenta rim; aromas of macerated and slightly stewed black and red currants and plums are permeated by notes of orange rind, oolong tea and graphite; a few moments in the glass unfurl hints of lavender, violets and bittersweet chocolate. It’s a dry wine that’s impressive for its heft and presence on the palate, though never obvious or ponderous; sleek, chiseled tannins and coursing acidity make for a lithe, supple texture that forms the perfect backdrop for well-spiced black currant and blackberry flavors, all these elements concluding in a long, concentrated bracing finish. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2021 to ’24, and bring on the medium-rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the grill, or the braised short ribs or the rack of venison. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.

Imported by Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, N.Y. A sample for review.

With 42 DOC wines and 17 DOCG wines in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that some tiny areas and their products remain largely unknown. Such a one — and totally new to me — is a wine made from the pelaverga piccolo di Verduno grape of which the entire production derives from about 15 hectares — some 37 acres — in the Langhe region, west of the charming city of Alba. This minuscule area lies, in other words, in the midst of a sea of nebbiolo vineyards. Now, let’s be honest. Pelaverga piccolo does not make the sort of great wines of which nebbiolo is capable in the form of Barolo and Barbaresco. What it can make, on the other hand, is light, fine-grained, lively and spare red wines that are what I like to drink every day. This example, the Bel Colle Verduno Pelaverga 2015, fermented and aged six months in stainless steel tanks. The color is an utterly transparent ruby-garnet hue; aromas of red and black cherries and currants are permeated by notes of melon and sour cherry, graphite and lavender and an intriguing hint of white pepper. The wine flows lithe, lively and tasty on the palate, energized by pert acidity that dives headlong into dusty, mineral-flecked tannins doing their duty without being too obvious or domineering. The finish brings in elements of briers, brambles and lightly inflected loam, all of these aspects accomplished with fleet-footed agility. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through the end of 2018 with porcini risotto, pappardelle with rabbit, salumeria and hard cheeses, gnocchi with sage. Production was 1,600 cases. Excellent. About $30, and I’ll confess that I would be happier if this wine were priced closer to $20, though, to be fair, it is a small-production wine from a rare grape.

Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.


Last year, Wine of the Day No. 168 was the Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015. We return to the next iteration of the product for Wine of the Day No. 308. The Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2016, hails from the Maremma region of Tuscany, close to that province’s southwestern shoreline. Made all in stainless steel and including 5 percent viognier grapes to its 95 percent vermentino, the wine offers a very pale, almost colorless hue, though there’s nothing colorless about the wine’s beguiling aromas of bee’s-wax and heather, camellia and lilac, roasted lemon and spiced pear with a note of quince. Lest you think that the wine is a mere vehicle for sensual allure, though, pay heed to its dry character, its talc-like texture balanced by keen acidity and scintillating limestone minerality, its finish that’s lively with bracing seashell salinity and a note of grapefruit pith bitterness — and with no neglect of juicy, lightly macerated stone-fruit flavors. 13 percent alcohol. A delightful wine with a slightly serious side for drinking with all manner of fish and seafood dishes or as a charming aperitif. Very Good+. About $12, a Great Bargain.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Some wines grow more detailed, revealing more dimension and intrigue, as the moments pass. Such a one is the Strasserhof Sylvaner 2015, from the Valle Isarco in Italy’s northeastern Alto Adige-Sudtirol region. The grapes fermented in and the wine aged seven months in 75 percent stainless steel tanks and 25 percent large oak barrels. The color is a pure light gold hue; aromas of spiced pear, quince and ginger feel slightly honeyed and earthy, while a few minutes unfurl notes of lime peel and limestone. The wine is quite lively and frisky, almost prickly on the palate, and though silky-smooth feels slightly sanded, as if a gentle hand applied strokes of delicate sandpaper. More time induces hints of peaches and jasmine, along with beguiling touches of wood-smoke and exotic spices, banana and fig; the lean, lithe finish adds spare elements of lychee, petrol and flint. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with trout sauteed in capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, seafood risottos or, taking a different approach, roasted chicken. Excellent. About $22.

Vias Imports, N.Y. A sample for review.


Looking for a fine-grained, robust red wine to accompany the braised meat dishes and roasts that will surface on our tables as the months slope toward Autumn and, down the road, Winter? Or even just burgers and hearty pizzas and pasta dishes? Try the Niro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015. The color is black-purple shading to a vibrant violet rim; true to the nature of the montepulciano grape, the intense and concentrated scents and flavors of black raspberries and currants are permeated by notes of cherry skin and stem, lending a hint of bitterness and austerity; a few moments in the glass unfurl touches of loam, black tea, orange zest and cloves. The wine ages first in stainless steel and then in large oak casks, resulting in an effect of freshness, vivid acidity and enough wood influence for a sturdy structure. Mildly dusty tannins contribute to a pleasing velvety texture, driving through a finish packed with graphite and black fruit flavors. 13.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $18.

Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.

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