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Crisp whites? Bold reds? these bottles all have something going for them.

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No stories this month about winemakers, Italy’s incredible number of grapes, specific regions, or types of wine. Just a bottle roundup, a selection of affordably satisfying wines, almost all of them under $20, many of them in the $10-$15 range that you don’t have to think too hard about. Wines that snobs would probably give the cold shoulder. These corkers are a Festivus for The Rest of Us, a celebration of … well, of nothing, just the juice of fermented grapes.

I’ve always told people to like what they drink. That’s the reason for this list, an idea I debuted three years ago. If you’ve seen a restaurant wine list the format should be familiar. Throw out the tasting notes, anecdotes, or gushing over aromas, flavors or anything else that gets in the way. There’s something here for everybody, so grab a corkscrew and glasses and get the party started.

IT’S PIZZA NIGHT!
Whether baking your own or getting delivery from your go-to pizzeria, we all have those times when America’s favorite Italian comfort food is what we want. Why go crazy over the beverage to pour? If it’s not beer, there are a handful of reds that will do the trick. I didn’t include Chianti because it’s an obvious choice. If you lean to the white, the fuller-bodied ones listed below are up to the challenge.

  • Sogno di Ulisse Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Tormaresco “Neprica” Primitivo (Puglia)
  • De Cerchio “Torre Zambra” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Donnafugata “Sedera” (Sicily)
  • Cantine Polvanera “Calx” Primitivo (Puglia)
  • Isola del Satiro Nero d’Avola/Perricone (Sicily)

LIGHT REDS
Being fruity and easy-to-drink any time of the year doesn’t make these wines lightweights. Not every grape has to be powerful or mouth-filling. Sometimes it’s nice to have a glass or two that won’t make your head buzz, with enough acidity that makes for a good match with a wider variety of dishes.

  • Dolia Monica di Sardegna (Sardinia)
  • Librandi “Segri” Gagloppo Ciro Classico (Calabria)
  • Giucciardini Strozzi Chianti Colli Senesi (Tuscany)
  • Lucenti Lacrima di Moro d’Alba (Marche)
  • Roberto Ferraris “I Scori” Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont)
  • San Lorenzo “Sirio” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Firriato “Sino” Frappato (Sicily)

MEDIUM BODY REDS
The middle ground that describes a large percentage of red wine, the ones most people are at home with.

  • Cantina di Negrar Corvina (Veneto)
  • Cantina di Copertino Negroamaro Riserva (Puglia)
  • Terradivino “Luna e I Falo” Barbera (Piedmont)
  • Chiara Condello Sangiovese di Romagna (Emilia-Romagna)
  • Poggio San Polo “Rubio” Rosso di Toscana (Tuscany)
  • Mauro Molino Dolcetto di Langhe (Piedmont)
  • Pagliareto “Lunadoro” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany)
  • Pala “i fiore” Cannonau (Sardinia)

FULL BODY REDS
This is where Amarone and Sagrantino would be, but their average price pushes them way over the $20-$25 threshold. There are thousands of Italian wines with the oomph to be in this category. Trying to pick out a few is like narrowing down the finalists in a beauty pageant – obviously, they all have something going on.

  • Caleo “Torracina” Nero d’Avola (Sicily)
  • L’Armangia “Pacifico” Monferrato Rosso (Piedmont)
  • La Bignale Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore (Veneto)
  • Taurino “Notarpanaro” Negroamaro (Puglia)
  • Sella & Mosca “Terre Rara” Carignano di Sulcis (Sardinia)
  • Argiano “Non Confunditor” Rosso di Toscano (Tuscany)
  • Nicodimo “Le Murate” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Tenuta del Portale Aglianico di Vulture (Basilicata)

CRISPY LIGHT WHITES
Sunny days when the living is easy. Early evenings that call for an aperitif. Backyard barbecues and tables loaded with summertime food. As the temperatures climb, low alcohol and refreshing flavor are the order of the day, especially if seafood is on the menu.

  • Stregeta “Genius Loci” Fiano (Campania)
  • Laila “Biancoperla” Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi (Marche)
  • Tenuta Il Borgo Gavi di Gavi (Piedmont)
  • Casa Romagnoli “Bianco di Casa” (Marche)
  • Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio (Trentino)
  • Terrenzuolo “Vignabasse” Vermentino (Tuscany)
  • Cesari Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany)

RICH FULL WHITES
Bigger, riper flavors that fill the mouth without being too heavy. If the light whites are Audrey Hepburn, these may not be Sophia Loren but they’re headed in that direction. Best described as fuller, rounder and more substantial.

  • Zorzettig Pinot Bianco (Friuli)
  • Terradora Di Paolo “Le Starse” Coda di Volpe (Campania)
  • Ippolito Pecorello Bianco (Calabria)
  • Balestri Valde Soave Classico (Veneto)
  • Tra Monti “Vigna Rocca” Albana Secco (Emilia -Romagna)
  • Tenuta Roveglio “Limne” Lugana (Veneto)
  • Bastianich “Toh!” Friulano (Friuli)

ROSE’
For those who believe that wine should only be red or white or that rose’ is only for summer, Exhibits A-F. Rose’ doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, but these worthy examples might change some minds.

  • Fonterenza “Rosa” Sangiovese (Tuscany)
  • Sperino “Rosa del Rosa” Nebbiolo (Piedmont)
  • Monte di Grazia Tintore di Tramonte Rosato (Campania)
  • Il Poggione “Rosa” Sangiovese (Tuscany)
  • Di Giovanni Nerello Mascalese Rosato (Sicily)
  • Bisson Ciliegiolo Rosato (Liguria)

WILD THINGS

They make our hearts sing … and our palates, too. Call them geeky, nerdy, whacky, because they are, and proud of it. Made by winemakers who aren’t afraid to be “out there.” Are they visionaries or eccentrics? Maybe a little of both, but their efforts can’t be ignored. These bottles may cost a few bucks more, but if you’re ready to ride Italy’s new wave they’re a good place to start.

  • Sergio Mottura “Tragugnano”, white blend (Emilia-Romagna)
  • Cincinnato “Ercole” Nero Buono (Lazio)
  • Bulli “Sampagnino” Frizzante, white blend (Emilia-Romagna)
  • A Vito “Leuko” Greco Bianco, white blend (Calabria)
  • Cantine Furlani Vino Rosso, red blend (Veneto)

Note: Most of these can be found in the tri-state area. Check out your local wine outlets or online sources.

Frank Cipparone
Author: Frank Cipparone

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