Tuscany


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.


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.

Not that there’s anything wrong with cabernet, merlot and pinot noir, that is when they’re thoughtfully-made and well-balanced, but these admired grapes and the renowned wines made from them cannot be our be-all and end-all when it comes to beverages. Today, for the second Weekend Wines Notes in a row, I look at wines fashioned from other grapes, 12 this outing, including both 100 percent varietal wines and some interesting blends. We cover examples from various points in California, a pair from Southern Oregon, a wine from Portugal, one from Austria, an august Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany and several from Chile. As usual with this series, I forgo the details of technical matters, history and geography for the sake of incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my wine-stained notebooks, in order to pique your interest and whet your palate. Prices range from $15 to $75. Enjoy! (Moderately, of course.)

These wines were samples for review.
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apaltagua_grial_carmenere_2012_clup
Apaltagua Grial Carmenere 2012, Apalta Valley, Colchagua, Chile. 14.5% alc. Very dark ruby shading to a purple rim; smoke, graphite, mint, eucalyptus and cedar; ripe and spicy red cherries and currants with a touch of plums and blueberries; a sizable wine, very dense and chewy, packed with dusty, velvety tannins and flinty minerality, feels a bit rock-ribbed and clasped by iron, clearly intended as a privileged and long-aging expression of the grape; try from 2018 or ’20 through 2030 or ’32. Very Good+ for now with Excellent Potential. About $75.
Imported by Global Vineyard, Berkeley, Calif.
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DCR14C_180x579pxh
Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2014, Monterey County. 14.5% alc. 270 cases. Medium ruby hue with a pale magenta rim; raspberries and plums, hints of tar and lavender, raspberry leaf and black tea; intriguing notes of red cherry and cherry pit; an aura slightly macerated and baked, with dried fruit and spices; wood smoke and loam; swingeing acidity and spare, slightly dusty tannins. One of my favorite wines to try every year. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $48.
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bruce-patch-wines-2013-old-vine-zin-carreras
Bruce Patch Wines Carraras Ranch Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Dry Creek Valley. 14.5% alc. 100 cases. A field blend With carignane, petite sirah and alicante bouschet, from vines planted in 1906. Dark ruby-purple; very ripe and spicy blackberry, black currant and blueberry, with a hint of boysenberry; notes of tapenade, fruit cake, tobacco and roasted fennel; lip-smacking acidity, tannins and loamy minerality keep it both lively and grounded; opens to touches of lavender, vanilla and cinnamon; finishes with notes of wild berries. A zinfandel that flaunts its purpose and struts its stuff but remains essentially balanced. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $40.
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Marques_de_Casa_Concha_Carmenere
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 14% alc. Inky violet-purple; warm, ripe, spicy and fleshy; plums, currants and mulberries, woodsmoke, cedar and dried rosemary; hints of black olive and bell pepper; sleek, slippery moderately dusty tannins; something not just robust here but wild, in its deep berry flavors, its dark, vivid acidity, its precipitous graphite character. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Excelsior Wine Co., Old Brookville, N.Y.
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concha
Concha y Toro Serie Riberas del Cachapoal Gran Riserva Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 13.5% alc. Very dark ruby color; a warm, fairly generous melange of black currants and cherries permeated by black tea, tar and loam, cloves, allspice and lavender; framed by dusty, velvety tannins, an inky wine, opening to a finish flecked with cedar, black olive and bell pepper. Very tasty. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $17.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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esporao
Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 14.5% Aragonez and alicante bouschet 40% each, syrah 20%. Inky-purple with a magenta rim; fresh and bright, notes of smoke, mint and graphite, spiced and macerated black and blue fruit; cedar, cloves, dried thyme and rosemary; robust, vibrant and juicy but stalwart with dusty, granitic tannins; pulls up green hints of olives and peppers and layers of leather and loam. Now through 2028 to ’30. Quite a performance. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Adil Wines & liquors, New Bedford, Mass.
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gaja
Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta 2011, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany. 15% alc. 100% sangiovese. Medium-hued but intense ruby color; deeply dredged from the spice cabinet; macerated red and black cherries and currants, with all the sangiovese undertow of oolong tea, orange rind, lavender and rose petals, these qualities being hints within the elements of resinous cedar, iodine and a profound factor of dusty, granular tannin and oak; lithe, supple, muscular texture, ultimately well-balance despite the alcohol level and the wood-framed bastions. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2029 to ’33. Excellent. About $75.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois
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heinrich
Heinrich Zweigelt 2014, Burgenland, Austria. 12% alc. Certified biodynamic. Medium ruby-purple shading to transparent magenta; immediate Spring-like appeal of lavender and violets, opening to spicy blackberry, currant and plum scents and flavors; a little smoky and meaty; lithe supple texture animated by bright acidity and mild tannins; dry finish brings in graphite and a hint of mulberries. Needs rabbit. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York.
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2014-POV-Front-Label
Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County. 14.5% alc. With 6% petite sirah, 5% barbera, 4% syrah, all from vines 50 to 103 years old. Opaque black purple with a glowing violet rim; black cherries and blueberry jam, mint, iodine, graphite and cloves; notes of lavender and bitter chocolate; very dry, enlivened by pinpoint acidity and founded on lavish, dusty tannins; a finish packed with granitic minerality, yet for all that, a classically-framed, delicious and highly drinkable zinfandel. Now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.
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AMADO-SUR-MALBEC
Trivento Amado Sur 2014, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Malbec 79%, bonarda 11%, syrah 10%. Dark ruby-purple; first, lavender and tar, then notes of blackberries and blueberries, earthy briers and brambles, raspberry leaf and graphite with a hint of iodine; a dry, fairly tannic but lively and supple wine with lots of grit and bottom to it, entirely appropriate with hearty red meat preparations and pastas, or, say, a sausage pizza or bacon-cheeseburger. Very Good. About $15.
Imported by Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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troon mt
Troon Vineyard M*T Reserve 2014, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 60.1% tannat, 39.9% malbec. 240 cases. Opaque purple center shading to transparent fuchsia; a beautifully conceived, well-knit, vibrant and vivid blend that marries mulberries and blackberries with dusty plums and brandied black cherries; plush tannins bolster firm but moderate tannins; clean acidity and graphite minerality cut through smoke and loam, mint and iodine and an overall aura of pure blueberry. Irresistible but with a slightly serious edge. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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troon tannat
Troon Vineyard Estate Tannat 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 169 cases. Dark dark ruby hue; red and black currants, cherries and plums, loaded with smoke and graphite, tobacco and blueberries, brambles and pomegranate; very intense and concentrated core of lavender, iodine, mint and bitter chocolate; dusty, iron-like tannins coat the palate, allowing for a supple velvety texture midst the granitic rigor; and for all that, a thoroughly balanced and drinkable wine appropriate for the biggest and most robust red meat preparations. Drink through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
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Maremma is the southwestern area of Tuscany that runs along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Once a swampy backwater known mostly for CHI La Mora Vermentinocattle-herding and particular breeds of horses ridden by the local “cowboys,” Maremma was drained in the 1930s under Mussolini’s Battle for the Land program. It’s a great region for beaches and resorts and increasingly for wine at every level of production, from everyday quaffs to the finest of long-aging red wines designed to compete with the best of Bordeaux and California. Our Wine of the Day does not fall into the second category, but it’s certainly an unusual interpretation of the vermentino grape. Typically, vermentino produces a fresh, lively, tasty, slightly waxy and savory white wine intended for immediate pleasure, enjoyed and forgotten. The Cecchi La Mora Vermentino 2014, Maremma Toscana, however, is the most complex example of the grape I have encountered. Made all in stainless steel, the wine offers a color that’s like the bright golden haze on the meadow, an appropriate reference, since the wine’s initial impression is of meadowy flowers and herbs, with hints of hay and heather; it’s quite ripe and juicy, but dry, savory and a bit briny; scents and flavors of slightly honeyed peaches and quince open to a seductive and crystalline element of apricots and mangoes glazed with ginger and tumeric, no, I’m not kidding, the effect is subtle yet right there, and it lends the wine a depth of character and exoticism I have not seen from the vermentino grape. The finish adds a spare tinge of sea salt and marsh grass, etched into limestone minerality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink this fascinating and highly individual wine through 2018 or ’19 with seafood risottos, grilled octopus, marinated red shrimp. Excellent. About $20, representing Real Value for the quality.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.

So, My Readers, here is my annual list of the Great Wine Bargains from the previous year, except that, instead of offering you 25 examples, as I usually do, I provide 30, because there are so many excellent inexpensive wines available. The prices here range from $11 to $20. and while I realize that for some people even $18 to $20 stretches what they want to pay for a bottle of wine, I believe that you will find something on this roster fit for most every taste and pocket book. This is a gratifyingly diverse group of wines, and for the first time I welcome products from Brazil, Greece and Hungary to the line-up. Many of these examples are wines to buy by the case and keep around for a year for drinking daily, though, honestly, the point of most of these wines is not to make old bones. The primary theme is: Drink Up and Enjoy. Sensibly, of course, and in moderation.
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aia
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.

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alpha
Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.

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ascevi-cerou-friulano-label
Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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furmint
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.

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15_VinGris_Domestic_750
Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, Central Coast. 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne. Excellent. About $18.

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colome-torrontes
Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
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grf140_nv_lbl
Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.

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duret
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.

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duas
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.

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csm_pinot_grigio_2005_riserva_7895065a86
Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
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illahe
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.

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Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
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2014_lff_tempranillo
Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.

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lidio
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
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msi_rose_dei_masi_btl
Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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gemma-rose
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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francois-montand-brut
Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
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morgan_label_albarino_2015_front-1
Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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m-cb
M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
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forster
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

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armador-sauvignon-blanc-2013-bottle
Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.

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pedroncelli
Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,

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puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.

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rc-temp-2013-ft
Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
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selvapiana
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
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schneider
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.

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serres-rioja
Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
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traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013-1
Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.

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cava
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
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vr-label-13-red4_front
Vina Robles Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 41 percent petite sirah, 40 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre, 9 percent grenache. Excellent. About $17.
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cc-rs
Wines under the “Coltibuono” label from the Badia a Coltibuono winery are not made from estate grapes but from vineyards throughout Tuscany with which the Stucchi Prinetti family has long-term relationships. That estate, by the way, has been owned by the family since 1846, though the monastery on which it is founded goes back more than a thousand years. So, the Coltibuono “RS” Chianti Classico 2014 — the initials stand for Roberto Stucchi — is composed of 100 percent sangiovese grapes and aged briefly in a combination of French oak casks and barriques. The wine brings its sangiovese character right to the front, with a lovely light transparent ruby hue and enticing aromas of red cherries and raspberries, black tea, orange rind and cloves, with undertones of leather, loam and graphite. These qualities segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine is quite dry, even a bit austere from mid-point back, and freighted with a texture that’s lithe and sinewy and animated by bright acidity. A few moments in the glass bring in hints of talc, lilac and violets. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine with spaghetti and meatballs — not exactly a Tuscan dish — to which it made a fine accompaniment. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

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

Let’s face it, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs, bastardoyou don’t want to drink a fine red wine that sings of the earth and the sky, of rain and sun, soil and bedrock, a wine that embodies a vineyard, place, a life, a wine that is both typical and individual. No, friends, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs what you want is a well-made, decent quaff that sits well with the food and doesn’t get in the way. Such a one is today’s selection, Il Bastardo Sangiovese 2015, Rosso di Toscana. The wine is 100 percent varietal, made in stainless steel and serves as a sort of cadet version of Chianti. In fact the maker of Il Bastardo is Renzo Masi, a third-generation Chianti producer in the Rufina district east of Florence. The color is dark ruby-garnet shading to lighter ruby; aromas of dried fruit and flowers mixed with dusty graphite segue to sweet black currants and red cherries touched with hints of oolong tea and orange rind. The wine is quite dry, animated by clean acidity, and it finishes not with a bang but a whisper of cherry pit and exotic spices. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 and just enjoy it. Very Good. About $9, a Great Value.

R. Shack Selection, imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Here’s the wine you want with your red sauce pasta or pizza, roasted pork loin, braised short 2014ribs, even a burger. The Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014 is a fairly traditional interpretation of the style, composed of 90 percent sangiovese grapes and 10 percent canaiolo, ciliegiolo and colorino, old-fashioned grapes nowadays somewhat neglected in Tuscany in favor of “international” varieties. The wine aged one year in French and Austrian oak barrels of various sizes, meaning that the emphasis was not on the lordly and ubiquitous small French barrique. (Producers, please, putting your wine in French barriques does not automatically make it a better wine! Or “better” wine.) The Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014 offers a lovely medium ruby hue and pungent aromas and flavors of red and black cherries with some cherry pit astringency, cloves and orange rind, oolong tea and loam. It’s as dry and spare as Chianti Classico ought to be, its elegance supported by dusty, brushy tannins and vivid acidity that cuts a swath on the palate. Hints of violets and white pepper emerge after a few minutes in the glass. The whole package is lithe, well-integrated and tasty. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $20.

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

At first sniff and sip, you might think of the Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, scheda_tecnica-vermentino2“Well, that’s a decent quaff, pleasant, tasty, as untroubled as still waters.” Give it a few minutes, though, and the wine increases its effects and powers. Made all in stainless steel tanks, the wine contains 5 percent viognier to the 95 percent vermentino. The hue is very pale gold, almost colorless; it opens with delicate notes of peach and pear, with hints of flint and acacia, dried thyme and almond blossom. Give this wine a chance, and it unfurls its savory and saline character, as lively and bracing as a sea-breeze and buoyed by bright acidity. Lithe and sinewy on the tongue yet dense with slightly roasted stone-fruit flavors just touched by a wisp of honeyed lushness, the wine devolves to a spice and limestone-packed finished rounded by nuances of grapefruit peel and almond skin bitterness. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this with a white bean, yellow pepper and sage soup, and it was great. It would also be terrific with grilled shrimp and just about any roasted or grilled fish and seafood risotto. Very Good+, and at a remarkable $12 a bottle, Buy It by the Case.

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

If you’re looking for a classic Chianti that’s not pumped up with toasty new oak and the vanilla and spice accents of French barriques, a Chianti that’s not lush and over-extracted, a Chianti chiantimade with traditional grapes and in traditional methods, well, this is your lucky day. The Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013 is a blend of 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera — no merlot! no cabernet sauvignon! — that ages in large oak casks of 25 and 30 hectoliters, that is, 660.4 and 792.5 gallons respectively. A barrique holds about 59 gallons, meaning that there’s more wood influence on the wine it contains. The color is a lovely transparent medium ruby-garnet hue; aromas of dried raspberries and cranberries are inflected with notes of orange zest, oolong tea, dried thyme and graphite, that after a few moments open to hints of rose petals and violets. The wine is quite dry, with a spare, honed texture that supports flavors of red raspberries and cherries offering a hint of cloves and almond skin against a light background of dusty tannins that do, however, dig deeply into the wine’s structure. 13 percent alcohol. The family-owned estate goes back five generations and almost 200 years. Chianti Rufina is the smallest wine-producing entity of Tuscany’s Chianti region, but probably the best-known of the sub-zones. It is also not contiguous with the rest of Chianti or Chianti Classico, lying to the east of Florence in an area singled out for mention by Cosimo III Grand Duke of Florence in his edict of 1716 as one of the zones of superior production. Shielded by the Apennines to the north but accessible to a maritime breeze, Rufina is cooler than the areas of “regular” Chianti to the west. Drink now through 2019 to ’21 with red meat or tomato-based pasta dishes and pizzas, roasted veal shoulder or pork tenderloin. Excellent. About $17, representing Good Value.

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

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