July 13, 2012 at 3:16 PM ET
Two wines from Italy, a delicate white from the north and a hearty red from the central Italy, are notable for their stunning character and their great value.
Pinot blanc can be a wonderful alternative to chardonnay, full of rich and vibrant fruit flavors but usually without the heavy oak overlay that defines so many chardonnays, especially those from this country. One of the best examples of pinot blanc I have tasted recently – the grape is a cousin of the red pinot noir – comes from the Alto Adige region in Italy’s north. The grape thrives in in such cool climates, producing ripe and aromatic wines with moderate levels of alcohol, which, for me, makes them ideal choices for warm-weather drinking.
Colterenzio’s 2010 “Weisshaus” Pinot Bianco is a mouthwatering wine with great acidity, gunflint minerality and pear, melon and subtle lemon and vanilla notes. The wine, which kept its flavors and lasted for several days in the refrigerator after I opened it, is a joy to sip on its own and will pair well with all kinds of appetizers, fish and white meats. It retails for about $19. Imported by Grappoli Imports, Alexandria, Va.
Italy’s Abruzzo region was, until relatively recently, a backwater as far as wine was concerned. That reputation has been changing and Fratelli Barba’s 2007 “Vignafranca” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a prime example of the shift into quality wine.
It’s made from the local montepulciano variety and has a grapey fruitiness with secondary notes of blackberry infused with balsamic, coffee and exotic spices. It’s also got the tannic structure that screams out for red meat, especially grilled steaks and lamb. With plenty of mediocre montepulciano d’Abruzzos out there, this one gives the wine a good name. It’s also a steal at $14. Imported by Michelangelo Imports, Manhasset, N.Y.