Breaking the rut

I’ve been in a wine drinking rut recently so I figure I should explore further Italy’s red wines. I’ve always liked Barberas (great with almost all foods) and Montepulcianos, but my flirtations with Italy ends there.

So, what QPR (where P <= $35), dependable Italian reds should I try?

Langhe Nebbiolo!! There has even been some Giacosa Langhe Nebbiolo on sale for around $20 in recent past, and possibly even still.

There are so many fantastic wines under $35 from Italy it boggles the mind. I’d rather pick a region or grape and start exploring one at a time. With your Pinot / Burgundy leanings, I’d first look into Nebbiolo. Under $35 you can find a lot of Langhe Nebbiolo and some really excellent base bottlings of Barbaresco and Barolo (Produttori del Barbaresco, Cantina del Pino, Vajra spring to mind, Vietti Barolo Castiglione at $40 is rocking). After that, my favorite varietals are Lagrein, Cesanese, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Nerello and Sagrantino. The list of possible producers is way too long. Asking “what’s good in Italy under $35” is like asking “what’s good in 05 Burgundy over $100”…

Explore the veneto, explore the south… Explore Alto Adige.

Totally agree with the Produttori di Barbaresco comment, I just finished a long week of tasting in Piemonte and they had the best QPR. I also tasted a 1999 Valtellina Superiore (wine made from Nebbiolo in Lombardy) from ArPePe, called Grumello Buon Consiglio. I have no idea what this costs in the U.S. or if it’s even available, but it was a showstopper even in a sea of Barolos and Barbarescos that we were drinking. It costs a lot less than a Barolo here in Italy, but again I’m not sure in the U.S. Site:" onclick=";return false;

There is so much the possibilities are pretty endless…

Southern reds - Ciro’ from Calabria (Librandi, Ippolito are probably the most easily available in the U.S.), Nerello Mascalese from Calabria and also Sicily, the area around Etna.

As others said, nothern reds - Teroldego from Trentino-Alto Adige, Lagrein… in Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo… just start tasting, it’s not a big financial investment and you can probably find some amazing stuff if you find a retailer who is interested in these lovely QPR winners.

The only Valtellina Superiore I’m aware of that has good distribution over here is Nino Negri and Triacca.

OK, then it may be not be around. But ask for it, maybe it could be ordered. I haven’t tasted Negri or Triacca, just getting into the region. I will check them out!

There are a ton of options. One category that I particularly enjoy (the good ones, anyway) is Rosso di Montalcino. Almost all are in that price range.

Cary, just to make sure I understand the question, are you saying that you drink Barbera & Montepulciano but no other wines from Italy?

If so, my first comment would be that I find it surprising that someone could have stumbled upon and developed a liking for wines from Montepulciano without ever trying stuff from chianti? Interesting to say the least.

Well, I will take a slightly different tack that the previous posts and suggest that if you really are a “blank page” with respect to what you want to try next in Italy, then at the risk of turning this thread into a commercial, check out Roberto Rogness’ website (Wine Expo). I have been drinking Italian wines for many years (and am continuing to enjoy being in a Tuscan & Piemonte “rut”), and I can honestly say that I have never come across a more diverse and idiosyncratic Italian wine selection than Roberto’s. Even if you don’t buy anything, at a minimum, it will provide “food for thought”.

La Sibilla Piedirosso

Try some Nerello. And some reds from Alto Adige

I’m sure in the past I’ve drunk other types of Italian wines, but during those formative years I was just starting and none of those wines stuck in memory.

My first Montepulciano was at Bartolotta in Vegas. I basically asked the sommelier the same question I asked here (of course the $ went up higher), and he recommened a Montepulciano.

So yes, aside from Barberas and Montepulcianos, I’m a “blank slate” towards Italy.

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll take a look at the website.

Thanks for the recs. I guess I should have put $20-25 for the dollar amount. It looks like Langhe Nebbiolos fit right in that range. I’ll take a look at those. Looks like there is a Cantina del Pino Langhe for $20 at K&L…

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Actually, I never agree with recommendations for Langhe nebbiolo. It’s like if someone asked for a good $35 French wine - would you recommend AOC Bourgogne Rouge? Of course not, not when there are so many regions where $35 buys you the top wine rather than the entry-level wine. There is a price premium for both examples because they come from regions famous for the greatest of the great. You can get far better nebbiolo for the money from Gattinara, Carema, and the Valtellina, and far better Langhe wines for the money from grapes other than nebbiolo. (Even Langhe rosso, a blend of various proportions of barbera, dolcetto, and nebbiolo, is a safer bet than Langhe neb.)

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You can also try wines that aren’t Nebbiolo or Sangiovese. I love both Tuscan and Piedmontese wines, but they’re a small fraction of the Italian wine universe. What I usually do when I’m in Cary’s predicament is to put together a mixed case of stuff that’s NOT from regions I know.

Did you mean Montepulciano di Abruzzo when you mentioned Montepulciano or Vino Nobile from Toscana?

Our store is 75% Italian and 85% of that is under $35 so you have a target rich environment in front of you, no need to spend $$$.

Montepulciano grape, so the former.

I would still argue that under $35 you would do much better to seek out a few base bottlings of Barbaresco / Barolo rather than Langhe Nebbiolo. If you go for a Langhe Nebbiolo, I think two of the best are Vietti Perbacco and Cavallotto. But here are some < $35 Barolo/Barbaresco that I love…

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco
Cantina del Pino Barbaresco
Vietti Barolo Castiglione (I just bought more at $33 so I put it in this list)
Oddero Barolo
Fontanabianca Barbaresco
Burlotto Barolo

Another that gets a lot of love are the Barbarescos of Paitin, though I haven’t fully formed an opinion on those just yet…

But going further afield and experimenting more is really warranted, so many good wines and so much variety in that price range…