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Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Wines of Italy

Straccali 1995 Chianti ($5.49)
I love a good Super Tuscan or high-tone Italian red as much as the next guy, but sometimes it's instructive to realign our sights and take another look at the basics. Chianti, for example -- not your Classico or your Riserva but just the simple, old-fashioned stuff -- can be a delightful re-discovery if you don't come to it expecting a clone of Tignanello. We opened this one last night and found it an excellent value. It's a clear, dark garnet. Black-cherry, floral notes and spicy oak combine to yield a haunting potpourri quality on the nose. Soft, juicy fruit gains structure from lemon-squirt acidity. Simple, fruity, meant to be drunk young, but it's a pleasant quaff, and went nicely with smoky spareribs from the grill. Importer: Palm Bay Imports Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. (May 23, 1997)

Conti Contini 1993 Sangiovese di Toscano ($9.99)
Dark ruby color. Spicy oak and black-cherry fruit aroma; flavors follow the nose, full and ripe, with sufficient acidity for balance. Dead ringer for a Chianti, it makes clear that Sangiovese is far and away the dominant element in the traditional blend. Good wine, and by that standard, a fair value. Importer: Palace Brands Co., Farmington, Ct. (May 17, 1997)

Barone Ricasoli Brolio 1991 Vin Santo (375 ml)
Clear, very dark amber, with some light sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Raisins and burnt-sugar aromas; flavors follow the nose, golden raisins and caramel, drying out somewhat, with sweetness balanced by lemon-squirt acidity. (May 14, 1997)

Brolio 1994 Chianti Classico ($8.99)
Clear garnet color. Black-cherry and spicy oak aromas, typical Chianti. Ripe, full fruit, so forward that it seems soft at first, but appropriate acidity and very light tannins appear in the finish. Develops a bit of warm, raisiny quality and anise notes with time in the glass. An approachable table wine. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (April 29, 1997)

Fossi 1990 Chianti Classico Riserva ($14.99)
Remember C. V. Fossi, makers of the dynamite bargain Fossi Rosso and the odd but appealing 1959 Chianti that they just took out of barrels and put in bottles three years ago? Ran across a sample of their "regular" Chianti Classico Riserva recently, and based on good experience, couldn't resist spring for it even though it was a bit on the high end for value. Dark garnet color. Ripe black-cherry aroma with whiffs of rose petals, caramel and spicy oak. Full black-cherry fruit flavor, soft at first tasting ("attack"), but firm acidity and light tannins appear as it crosses the palate. Delicious Chianti, ready to drink. Importer: Francis A. Bonanno Inc., Springboro, Ohio. (April 23, 1997)

Firesteed 1995 Barbera d'Asti ($8.99)
Here's another wrinkle in the growing "world wine" trend: Is it Oregon, or is it Italian? It was darned hard to tell without reading the fine print on the back label very closely indeed. Turns out that Firesteed, an outfit that I've previously known for a low-end Oregon Pinot Noir, made an arrangement with an Italian winery to make and bottle a Barbera d'Asti under Firesteed's U.S. label, and imported it through the corporation's presence in Seattle.

The wine manager at my local shop thought this over for a couple of days before deciding to shelve it under "American reds, other." I told her she should have put it under "Italy, Northwest," but frankly it probably would have confused people either way.

In any case, it's pretty good vino, and it's definitely Italian: Clear dark ruby color, with jammy blackberry and spicy oak aromas. Full, bright fruit on the palate backed by tart, lemony acidity. Simple but fresh, a fine table wine. Importer: Firesteed Corp., Seattle. (April 21, 1997)

Roberto Voerzio 1993 "Priavino" Dolcetto d'Alba ($11.98)
Dark reddish-purple. Ripe, rather pruney but pleasant aromas. Soft and full on the palate, tasty black-cherry and tobacco-leaf notes, with sufficient acidity for balance and a touch of light tannins. Very accessible wine! Importer: Diamond Wine Merchants, Emeryville, Calif.(April 5, 1997)

Barone Cornacchia 1994 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($7.99)
Very dark ruby color. Plummy, peppery aromas, with an odd but appealing hint of sun-dried tomatoes and burnt sugar. Flavor follows the nose, tartly acidic but with ample fruit to hold it up. Tapers off a bit in the finish, but still a tasty table wine and a good value. Importer: Riservati, Seattle. (April 4, 1997)

Di Majo Norante 1995 "Moli" Biferno ($7.99)
Here's a new appellation that I haven't tried before, not a bad table wine in the budget range. It's from Molise, a little-known Italian province down the Adriatic coast from Abruzzi that was only assigned its first D.O.C. (delimited wine region) -- called Biferno -- in relatively recent times. The wines are said to be similar to those of its neighbor, and I'd say this one's a fair match for Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Clear garnet color. Plummy, spicy fruit with a candied note, vaguely reminiscent of Beaujolais. Consistent on the palate with soft, juicy fruit and light but sufficient acidity for structure. Finishes tart and surprisingly lingering. Nothing fancy here, but a good food wine, went well with a slice of Easter ham. Importer: Elizabeth Imports, Denver. (March 30, 1997)

Conte Contini-Bonacossi 1995 "Capezzana" Barco Reale di Carmignano ($9.99)
Given that Tuscany's wine makers have had to fight the rules to produce the new "super-Tuscans" with Cabernet and Sangiovese, it's intriguing to realize that in Carmignano, they've been doing it for decades. And better yet, this bottling from one of the most historic and respected properties of the region offers excellent QPR, coming in for a penny under $10 when many Super-Tuscans go for $30 or more. Dark garnet in color. Ripe cherry and spicy oak aromas. Fresh, crisp red-fruit flavors, structured with tart acidity and soft tannins; flavors consistent in a long finish. Importer: Palace Brands Co., Farmington, Ct. (March 25, 1997)

Melini 1990 Vigneto Coltri "Vineyard 2" Red Table Wine of Tuscany ($17.99)
Clear dark garnet, with a lovely scent of black cherry and violets. Full and ripe, with black fruit, herbal notes (tarragon?) and a lemon-squirt acidic structure; tannins soft but definitely perceptible. Delicious now, but the excellent balance of fruit, acid and tannins suggests significant aging potential. It's 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangioveto (a Sangiovese clone). Very fine wine, and a very good value. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (March 19, 1997)

Castello di Monsanto 1990 Tinscuil Vino da Tavola di Toscana ($17.99)
Clear dark ruby in color, with lovely earthy tones of bookbinder's leather and tobacco leaf, truffles and anise, appealing though a bit lacking in the fruit department. There's plenty of ripe black fruit on the palate, though, structured with lemon-squirt acidity and soft tannins. Black fruit and earthy notes in a long finish. Just a bit awkward now, but I believe time is on its side; at the price, I'd consider picking up a few for cellaring. It's a blend of 75% Sangiovese di Monsanto, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Importer: Palace Brands Co., Farmington, Ct. (March 2, 1997)

Neirano 1993 Barbera d'Asti ($7.99)
Clear ruby color, rather light for a Barbera. Lovely aromatic scent, sandalwood and anise and wildflower notes over ripe black fruit. Bright fruit flavor with a firm, tart acidic core; soft tannins and black fruit in a long finish. Exceptional value, another fine bargain from Northwestern Italy. Importer: Austin, Nichols & Co., NYC. (Jan. 17, 1997)

Luigi Righetti 1990 Capitel de' Roari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($19.99)
Dark garnet in color. Deep, brooding black fruit with a distinct note of violets in the aroma. Rich, juicy fruit flavor, 'jammy' and warm, so fruity that it almost shows an edge of sweetness; strong (15% natural alcohol) and smooth, with a slight, pleasant burnt-caramel quality that I find typical of Amarone. Tannins present but almost concealed by all the fruit; young but accessible. Mighty fine for after-dinner sipping, yet it went surprisingly well with a simple snack dinner of melted cheddar on flour tortillas. Importer: Castle Wine Group, NYC. (Feb. 17, 1997)

Podere le Cinciole 1994 Chianti Classico ($11.99)
Dark ruby color. Big black-cherry and light anise aromas. Full, juicy black fruit flavor with spicy oak held in restraint and crisp acidity and firm tannins to back it up. Flavor remains clean and consistent in a long finish. A lot of potential here, and while I wouldn't call it "infanticide" exactly to drink it now, since the forward fruit makes it so enjoyable, this one will clearly reward time in the cellar. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Feb. 16, 1997)

Dei 1991 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($11.99)
Clear, dark garnet. Plums and black cherries aromas with notes of spicy oak. Juicy cherry fruit flavor with black-pepper nuances and a marked edge of lemony acidity. Good table wine, went very well with a pan-grilled T-bone; might be a bit piercing in the acidity department for sipping alone. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Feb. 7, 1997)

Cortenova 1995 Pinot Grigio Vino da Tavola del Veneto ($6.99)
Clear pale straw color. Faint aroma, light musk, spearmint and neutral fruit, with a sulfury "rubber band" note that's less than pleasant. Soft, faintly sweet, minty notes war with that sulfury quality in a short finish. Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va. (Jan. 24, 1997)

Fontaleoni 1995 "Vigna Casanuova" Vernaccia di San Gimignano ($10.99)
Although I've pretty much given up on Italian whites due to lack of interest, I cut an occasional exception for old times' sake, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano is one of those. A dry white wine from a remarkably quaint little Tuscan town known for its ancient towers, it's one that I just plain WANT to enjoy. Luckily, this one passes muster. It's a good value even at the low double-digit price. Clear, pale straw color. Fresh hay, melon and an aromatic medicinal whiff of witch hazel. Full, juicy fruit flavor, fresh and tart, with clean lingering acidity and a characteristic touch of bitterness in a long finish. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Jan. 21, 1997)

Coltibuono 1993 Cetamura Chianti ($6.99)
Clear ruby color. Red cherry fruit with a whiff of spicy oak; soft, juicy flavor, simple and fresh, with sufficient acidity to hold it together. Simple but appealing, good quaffing and good at the table. Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Jan. 14, 1997)

Castello Banfi 1994 "Centine" Rosso di Montalcino ($9.99)
Clear garnet color. Black-cherry fruit and spicy oak aromas. Fresh, juicy fruit flavor, a little soft on the acid side. Good quaff, no real flaws, but doesn't rank with the best of the Rossos that I've been sampling recently. Castello Banfi is the large, modern winery in Montalcino built by Banfi, a U.S. importing firm. Importer: Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. (Jan. 5, 1997)

Seghesio 1993 Barbera d'Alba ($11.99)
Very dark ruby color. Luscious black-cherry scent, full and ripe. Big, tart and mouth-filling flavor, black fruit and lemon-squirt acidity, fresh and cleansing. Good table wine. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (Jan. 2, 1997)

Fassati 1994 "Selciaia" Rosso di Montepulciano ($7.99)
Clear ruby color. Perfumed floral notes over red-fruit aromas. Fresh, juicy fruit flavor, a bit light-bodied, with tart acidity and just a soft touch of tannic astringency. Pleasant table wine, with at least short-term potential for improvement in the bottle. Importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (Jan. 1, 1997)

Masi 1991 Campofiorin "Ripasso" ($11.99)
Ripasso is rather rare -- I only know of a couple of Veneto makers -- but it's one of my favorite hearty wine styles fit for a warming winter meal. It's a high-tone Valpolicella that gains considerable authority by getting a second fermentation on the leftover lees from a batch of Amarone! It was a very dark garnet in color, with a ripe, heady aroma of black fruit with a "brandied" quality and notes of oak. It's rich and full on the palate, with jammy black-cherry fruit flavors over an oaky-alcoholic warmth that's almost reminiscent of Bourbon. This is an impressive vino, no garden-variety table wine, but despite the almost "fortified" description (it's actually 13.5% alcohol), it showed sufficient balance and finesse not to overshadow the entree. Importer: Paterno, Chicago. (Dec. 31, 1996)

Caparzo 1992 Rosso di Montalcino ($8.99)
Dark garnet color. Luscious black-cherry and spicy oak aromas. Full, fresh fruit flavor, juicy and bright, with lemon-squirt acidity to hold it in balance. Short finish, but still a fine table or quaffing red. Importer: Palace Brands Co., Farmington, Conn. (Dec. 29, 1996)

Seghesio 1993 Nebbiolo della Langhe Vino da Tavola ($9.99, marked down from $12.99)
Dark ruby color. Spicy oak evident on the nose, with floral notes and plummy fruit dancing around it. Delicious red-fruit flavor, juicy and ripe, built on a good acidic structure. Fruity and ready to drink, doesn't seem like much of an ager, so drink up now. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (Dec. 28, 1996)

Colombini Cinelli 1994 "Brusco dei Barbi" Red Tuscan Table Wine ($9.99)
Clear ruby color. Lovely blackberry and tart-cherry aromas and flavors; juicy fruit on the palate with crisp acidity and accessible but substantial tannins. Drinking nicely but definitely will age. Excellent value. Importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (Dec. 19, 1996)

Cherubin 1989 Teilà ($17.99)
This blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera is one of those high-end Italian wines that has to be sold as "Vino da Tavola" (table wine) because its components don't fit with the regulations. This one's relatively affordable (under $20), and it sure is fine ... Clear dark ruby color. Aromatic cedar and spice aromas over plummy fruit. Warm, full flavor, black cherries and plums; restrained oaky spice notes and crisp acidity add dimension. Fine, well-balanced wine, made an excellent match with a fat hen roasted with garlic, lemon and rosemary. Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Calif. (Dec. 16, 1996)

Fattoria dei Barbi 1994 Rosso di Montalcino ($8.99)
Clear dark garnet. Spicy oak and fresh red-fruit aromas; full, simple tart-cherry fruit flavor, clean and fresh, with plenty of acidic structure. A bit short in the finish, but lasts more than long enough to wash down an appropriate entree (in our case tonight, braised beef short ribs). Importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (Dec. 15, 1996)

Librandi 1994 Ciró Rosso Classico ($5.99)
This fine Italian wine offers more evidence, not that it's needed, that one good way to break the price-value ratio is to go for wines from unfamiliar regions and unfamiliar grapes where demand isn't driving the supply. This tasty Ciró, from the Calabria (boot toe) region of Italy, is made from the Gaglioppo grape by Librandi, purportedly one of the top properties of its region. It's ripe and full and structured, full of tasty fruit, drinking very nicely now and likely to stay that way for a good while. It's a dark reddish-purple with an odd, attractive bronze hue, but it's not browning; the edge remains clear as water. Ripe, plummy aroma, edged with raisins and stone fruit. Warm and full on the palate, loaded with fruit but built on a lemon-tart acidic backbone that gives it a sturdy structure. Certainly not what you'd call "subtle," but it's a well-balanced, enjoyable wine and a great value. Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Dec. 12, 1996)

Col d'Orcia 1991 Rosso di Montalcino ($9.49)
Clear dark garnet. Full red-fruit scent with lovely floral notes of violets. Warm and ripe, juicy fruit flavor, with plenty of fresh acidity to give it balance; clean and consistent in a reasonably long finish. Delicious table wine! Importer: Premiere Wine Merchants, NYC. (Dec. 9, 1996)

Seghesio 1993 Dolcetto d'Alba "Vigneto della Chiesa" ($10.99)
Note: This is not California's Seghesio but an Italian firm in the Piemonte. It's a clear, dark reddish-purple wine, with plummy fruit and spicy oak aromas and a nice touch of wildflowers; a little tight at first but opens up with time in the glass. Ripe, bright flavor, tart-cherry fruit with crisp acidity and a pleasant bitterness in the finish. Importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Dec. 8, 1996)

Selvapiana 1993 Chianti Rufina ($7.99)
Clear garnet. Spicy oak, black-cherry and warm plummy fruit aromas carry over into a simple and fresh flavor, balanced if a bit short. No world-beater, but it's a good, affordable table wine and a very good value. Importer: Riservati, Seattle. (Dec. 5, 1996)

Ecco Domani 1995 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie Vino da Tavola ($8.99)
Clear pale straw color. Light honeydew melon and a whiff of spearmint in the aroma. Crisp, fresh fruit, clean and fresh, pleasant if rather neutral. A barely perceptible touch of sweetness shows up in the finish. Decent table wine, but nothing exciting here. Importer: Ecco Domani USA (Gallo), Santa Rosa, Calif. (Nov. 10, 1996)

Barone Cornacchia 1994 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($7.99)
Very dark garnet. Black fruit and spicy oak aroma, consistent on the palate. Full and bright, well structured with tart acidity. Simple but clean and fresh, an excellent table wine. Importer: Riservati, Seattle, Wash. (Nov. 4, 1996)

Prunotto 1994 "Fiulot" Barbera d'Alba ($8.99)
Clear dark ruby. Spicy oak and plummy fruit aromas; ripe, juicy black fruit and sweet oak flavors, built on a firm structure of fresh-fruit acidity and soft tannins. Good at the table, good for quaffing; a fine value. Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Oct. 17, 1996).

Ecco Domani 1995 Merlot delle Venezie Vina da Tavola ($5.99)
Dark ruby. Dank oak dominates simple, plummy fruit. Soft, a little herbaceous on the palate, not unpleasant but one-dimensional. Wakes up a bit with food, a good match for grilled chicken with an Asian marinade. Importer: Ecco Domani USA Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif. (Oct. 6, 1996)

Fossi Rosso non-vintage Vino da Tavola Rosso ($5.99)
Very dark garnet color, almost opaque. Ripe black-cherry fruit and spicebox oak. Fully, juicy fruit flavor, full and rich, on a hulking acidic structure with tannins evident but playing second fiddle to the fruit. Black fruit clean and lasting with a pleasing bitter edge in a long finish. Good now, good later; this is no simple little spaghetti red but a serious table wine. My retailer insists that it's a declassified Brunello, disqualified from the DOC because part of it stayed in Fossi's glass-lined concrete tanks (the same ones used to hold its late-release 1959 Chianti) and not the oak casks that the law required. I don't know, but I do know this: It's a whale of a bargain. If you see it, buy, buy, buy. Importer: Francis A. Bonnano Inc., Springboro, Ohio. (Sept. 4, 1996)

Bolla 1994 Puglia (Italy) Chardonnay (about $7)
Clear gold color. Perfumed apple scent, faint but pleasant, with a somewhat less felicitous "spoiled-fruit" aroma that develops with time in the glass. Full, fresh apples and lemon-tart acid, pleasant sipping wine in the not-oaky style. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (Sept. 1, 1996)

Fontana Candida 1994 Vino da Tavola delle Tre Venezie Chardonnay (about $7)
Very pale straw color. Light cooking apples and yeasty rising bread-dough aromas. Tart, rather neutral fruit. Not flawed, but frankly unexciting. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (Sept. 1, 1996)

Albola 1995 Aquileia del Friuli Pinot Grigio ($10.95)
Clear straw color with a slight greenish hue. Simple melon and apple fruit on the nose and palate; medium-bodied, tart and crisp, with a light bitter-almond quality in the finish. Pleasant wine, went well with grilled chicken, but it suffers from the "Italian White Syndrome" - it would be a great bargain for $6 or $7, but it's hard-pressed to meet the competition at $11. Importer: Seagram, NYC. (July 10, 1996)

Boscaini 1994 Castel Firmiano Vigneti di Cornaiano Alto Adige Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
Clear, pale-gold color. Light melon and honeysuckle scent. Ripe, mouth-filling fruit, consistent with the nose -- melons, a hint of wildflowers and a whiff of something like spearmint. Dries out and adds a pleasant touch of bitterness in the finish. Excellent match with grilled salmon with a yogurt-dill sauce. Importer: Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., NYC. (June 14, 1996)

Mazzei 1993 Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico ($8.99)
Dark garnet color. Spicy oak veils dark-chocolate and black-cherry aromas. Juicy fruit and sweet oak flavors, ripe and full, with ample acidity to give it structure. It's not as tannic as I recall from my last tasting in December, and the local retail price has gone up a buck. It's still a good buy. Importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (June 13, 1996)

Poderi Aldo Conterno 1992 Dolcetto d'Alba ($14.99)
Clear dark garnet color. Spicy oak, plummy fruit and pleasant floral hints of violets play in a balanced, complex aroma. Full, juicy black-fruit flavor limned by sweet oak, mouth-filling and lasting. Flavors consistent across the palate, with a pleasant bitterness coming in on a long finish. Importer: Vias Imports Inc., Great Neck, N.Y. (June 12, 1996)

Taurino 1990 Salice Salentino Riserva ($6.99)
Dark ruby color with an orange glint. Oaky vanilla mixes with ripe cherry-berry fruit on the nose, falls back to warm plummy notes and a burnt-sugar quality with time in the glass. Full, tart fruit and sweet oak, almost overripe, but crisp acidity holds it together; works particularly well with a spicy, tomatoe-y cioppino. Importer: Winebow Inc., New York City. (June 11, 1996)

Taurino 1988 Notarpanaro Rosso del Salento ($8.99)
Dark ruby color, shaded toward purple. Intense black-fruit aromas leap from the glass, with oaky vanillins present but lurking behind the fruit. Extracted black-cherry and spicebox flavors, mouth-filling and lasting, with substantial tannins present but remaining in the background. Importer: Winebow Inc., New York City. (June 11, 1996)

Bruno Giacosa 1995 Roero Arneis ($13.99)
Very pale straw color. Heady flowery aroma, heavy with gardenias, with an unfortunate kinship to floral-scented bath soap. Full, juicy fruit, crisp and tart, melons and wildflowers linger in a long finish. Interesting by the standard of Italian whites, but dramatically overpriced. Importer: Winebow Inc., New York City. (June 11, 1996)

La Viarte 1990 Colli Orientali del Friuli ($9.99)
Pale straw color, yeasty nose with forward, rather coarse oak dominant on the nose and palate. (May 20, 1996)

Altesino 1993 Rosso di Altesino Vino da Tavola Toscano ($7.99)
Clear, dark garnet color. Plums and black-cherry aroma with a hint of freshly ground pepper. Juicy, tart-cherry fruit flavor in balance with fresh-fruit acidity. Good buy! Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (May 7, 1996)

Fontana Candida 1994 Merlot Vino da Tavola della Tre Venezie ($8)
Bright reddish-purple. Very ripe, fruity aroma, maraschino cherries, almost like Kool-Aid. Soft and juicy fruit flavor, dry and tart, yet so full of fresh, simple fruit that it almost seems sweet. Not bad, really, but obviously designed for the "Glass of Merlot" crowd. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (May 7, 1996)

Alaura 1994 Chianti ($5.99)
Clear, rather light ruby color. Black-cherry and spicy oak aroma, a bit sulfury at first but blows off quickly (my wife hastened the process with a clean penny in the glass). Ripe, juicy tart-cherry fruit flavor, simple but fresh. Made a fine match with a Neapolitan-style pork chop braised with tomato paste, green peppers and porcini mushrooms. Importer: Palace Brands Co., Farmington, Conn. (May 5, 1996)

Clerico 1993 Dolcetto d'Alba ($10.99)
Clear, dark garnet. Spicy oak over plummy fruit in the aroma; warm black-cherry and mixed-berry flavor with firm acidity and, surprisingly for a Dolcetto, a framework of soft but perceptible tannins. Importer: A Mark de Grazia Selection, Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (May 2, 1996)

Elio Altare 1993 dal Vigneto Bricco Cascina Nuova Dolcetto d'Alba ($12.99)
Very dark ruby color. Warm, plummy fruit and spicy oak aromas. Consistent on the palate, juicy and ripe black-fruit flavors, full and tart; this particular bottling actually shows an edge of tannin. Rich and approachable now, but a year or two in the cellar will do it no harm. Importer: A Marc de Grazia Selection, Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (April 29, 1996)

Boscaini Santo Stefano de le Cane 1990 Vino da Tavola del Veronese "Vino di Ripasso" ($11.99)
Clear garnet color. Intense black-cherry aroma, ripe fruit leaps from the glass. A big mouthful of juicy fruit flavor with fresh-fruit acidity, soft but significant tannins and that pleasant bitter-almond quality on the finish that's a trademark of Veronese reds. ("Ripasso" is a hearty red made from Valpolicella that's produced in the standard way during the autumn but then, the following spring, put through a second fermentation on the lees left from the production of the previous vintage's Amarone.) Importer: Dreyfus Ashby & Co., New York City. (April 27, 1996)

Michele Chiarlo 1993 Barbera d'Asti Superiore ($8.99)
Clear garnet color. Warm black-cherry fruit and spicy aromas. Soft, juicy fruit flavor, intense and full, so fruity that it conveys an impression of sweetness at first, but dries out crossing the palate and finishes clean and dry, with a hint of the almond-like bitterness that shows up in quite a few Italian wines. Excellent sipping wine, excellent table wine, went very well indeed with pork chops pan-grilled with lots of onions and garlic. Importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (April 13, 1996)

Antinori Santa Cristina 1994 Sangiovese Toscano ($5.99)
Bright ruby color. Odd, funky aroma, candied cherries with less-pleasant hints of dirty socks, vinegary volatile acidity and rubber bands. Not as bad on the palate, or it would have been a dumper; simple, fruity, with a touch of cotton candy and threshold sweetness. No bargain even at the low-end price. Importer: Remy Amerique Inc., New York. (March 24, 1996)

Ruffino Libaio 1993 Vino di Toscano Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio ($8.99)
Clear straw color. Flowers and honey aroma notes; fresh, rather neutral fruit and oak on the palate. Not flawed, but neither is it memorable. Importer: Schieffelin & Somerset Co., NYC. (Jan. 13, 1996)

Cetamura 1991 Chianti Coltibuono ($6.99)
Clear ruby color. Very fruity black-cherry aroma, almost like Kool-Aid, with notes of licorice. Tart-cherry and licorice flavors carry over onto the palate, juicy and tart, well-balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. Simple but appealing, this one's no cellar candidate; drink it now, while it's young and fresh. Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Jan. 10, 1996)

Costera 1992 Cannonau di Sardegna Red Wine ($7.99)
Dark ruby color. Luscious red-fruit aromas, apple skin and strawbery, ripe and surprisingly complex. Flavors follow the nose, tart and clean; cooking apples and mixed berries with lemon-squirt acidity, carrying over intact into a good, long finish. Importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Jan. 2, 1996)

Mazzei 1993 Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico ($8.99)
Very dark garnet color. Black cherry and spicy oak aromas. Ripe, extracted chocolate-covered cherry flavor backed by soft but sufficient acidity; ample fruit pokes through substantial but accessible tannins. Lots of wood here -- it's fresh out of two years in small oak -- but there's lots of fruit for balance. It's well above the midline for the style, an old-fashioned Chianti Classico for a budget price. Importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (Dec. 26, 1995)

Brolio 1990 Chianti Classico Riserva ($12)
Dark garnet color. Black cherry and slightly dank oak aromas; warm tart- cherry fruit flavor, more appealing than I expected from the funky-oak nose; soft tannins and black-cherry fruit linger in a good, clean finish. Importer: Brown Forman Beverage Co., Louisville. (Nov. 30, 1995)

Foss Marai 1991 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ($7.99)
Clear straw color. Pleasant scent, floral perfume infused with a light aroma of almonds. Almonds carry over to the palate with crisp, apple-like fruit in a surprisingly full-bodied flavor. Very good wine, definitely exceeds expectations for a Veneto white. Importer: Vinifera Imports Ltd., Ronkonkoma, N.Y. (Nov. 23, 1995)

Casal Thaulero 1994 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($6.49)
Clear, dark ruby. Spicy oak dominates at first, but soon blows off to reveal delicious chocolate and raspberry aromas. Tart berry fruit over a sturdy acidic backbone; ample but approachable tannins hint at significant aging potential. Back label notes 85% Montepulciano grapes, 15% Sangiovese. Importer: Palace Brands, Farmington, Conn. (Nov. 6, 1995)

Argiolas 1994 Vermentino di Sardegna ($7.95)
Clear, pale gold. Lush honey and pineapple aromas; full-bodied, dry and tart, well balanced and structured, with a pleasing bitterness that hangs on in a very long finish. Importer: Winebow Inc., New York City. (Nov. 3, 1995)

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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