It’s that time of year when it’s starting to get dark a little earlier and the nights are getting a little cooler. Dare I say there’s a touch of Fall in the air?
I feel it! It’s also that time of year when we move from cooking outdoors on the grill back into the kitchen. It’s the perfect time of year to make a big pot of minestrone soup, to roast a chicken to crispy perfection, or to pan roast some thick cut pork chops.
With these changes we’re also slowly transitioning from drinking rosé and crisp summer sippers back to bolder red wines. The fare we’re eating this time of year isn’t super heavy, and it’s still not that cold outside, so the wines I like to drink are light to medium bodied and dry but fruit forward and vibrant on the palate. I want the wine to refresh my palate and accompany my meal. I don’t want the wine to overwhelm my meal nor do I want the food to overwhelm my wine.
Italy produces some of the best food wines in the world in hundreds of different types and styles so naturally the Italian wine section is a great place to look for wines that fit this bill perfectly.
Here are eight recommendations of Italian red wines--all under $20--that are great for fall fare and make for an easy transition to bolder red wines.
2016 Monte Tondo Corvina, Veneto
Monte Tondo is one of our favorite Valpolicella and Soave producers so it was great to discover their 100% Corvina wine. Corvina is one of the key grapes in Valpolicella wines but it’s rare to find a 100% Corvina wines. This light to medium bodied wine is fresh and bright with red cherry fruits, notes of spice and herbs and the tannins are soft making it easy to drink and great with about any food.
$12.99 per bottle
2015 Benanti Etna Rosso, Sicily
The gorgeous wines from Mt Etna in Sicily are all the talk amongst wine professionals these days and getting compared to France’s great Burgundy wines. Etna Rosso is primarily made from the Nerello Mascalese grape grown at high elevations on Mt Etna in dense volcanic soils which gives the wines great complexity and structure. Etna Rosso wines are similar to Pinot Noir in weight and body and can vary from very light to medium bodied but powerful. Benanti’s entry level Etna Rosso is on the light bodied side but is quite complex with aromas of dried roses and violets and flavors red cherries and currants, spice and black pepper. The Sicilians would drink this with fish dishes!
$23.99 per bottle
2016 Emilio Bulfon Cianoros Vino Rosso, Friuli
Emilio Bulfon is a very small producer in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy who produces wines from local, almost extinct, grapes. Cianoros is one of those grapes he brought back to life and I’m so glad he did. His 2016 Cianoros is medium bodied and fruit forward with red cherries and raspberries. He does some whole cluster fermentation to add a little structure and complexity to this easy drinking wine.
$17.99 per bottle
2017 Pecchenino ‘San Luigi’ Dolcetto di Dogliani, Piedmont
Dogliani is a small wine region in the South of Piedmont that only produces wines from the Dolcetto grape so they simply name the wines Dogliani. Dolcetto wines from Dogliani are typically fuller bodied and softer than Dolcetto d’Alba wines produced just slightly to the north of Dogliani. Pecchenino’s Dogliani is a great expression of Dolcetto, medium bodied with great purity of dark berry fruits. This is an easy drinking wine sure to please a crowd and great for almost any food.
$15.99 per bottle
2016 Fabio Oberto Barbera d'Alba, Piedmont
Barbera is one of Italy’s greatest food wines with its freshness and bright acidity. Barbera can range in styles from very light and red fruited to dense and concentrated with black and blue berry fruits. Fabio Oberto’s Barbera is right in the middle which makes it perfect for almost any food and sure to please almost everybody. This is quintessential good Barbera; fresh and satisfying. Part of the wine sees a short time in oak just to smooth it out and add a little more complexity. A steal at this price!
$15.99 per bottle
2015 Lanciola Chianti, Tuscany
Lanciola produces Chianti Classico wines that are pretty packed with dark fruit so I was quite surprised when I discovered their lovely, light bodied and bright Chianti produced from their vineyards in the hills near Florence. The wine sees no oak so the fresh red cherry and berry fruits really shine with hints of wild herbs in the background. Great for pizza, soups, lighter pastas, roast chicken or pork.
$10.99 per bottle
2016 Fernanda Saraillon ‘L'Atoueuyo’ Gamay,
It’s rare to find Gamay produced in Italy except for in Valle d’Aoste, Italy’s smallest wine region located in the Alps in the northwest corner of Italy on the border of Switzerland and France. Gamay is one of the world’s great food wines with its freshness, fruit forwardness and soft tannins. It goes with just about anything, even fish! Fernanda Saraillon started this small winery in 2000 and her total production is around 20k bottles each year.
$19.99 per bottle
2016 Valle dell’Acate ‘Tenuta Ibidini’ Nero d’Avola, Sicily
This young, fresh Nero d’Avola took me by surprise when I first tasted it. Nero’ d’Avola is Sicily’s main red grape and is known for its bold, rich, dark berried fruit. In contrast, this Ibidini Nero is light to medium bodied, bright ruby in color and drinks more like Gamay or Beaujolais than a bold Sicilian red. Vibrant and fresh with hints of savory herbs, this is a great wine to pair with a wide variety of weeknight dinners and can be served chilled for an even fresher experience.
$13.99 per bottle