March 16, 2012 at 5:33 PM ET
I can never seem to keep enough good, inexpensive Italian reds on hand — you know, the kind that cost between $10 and $15 that you can enjoy with a simple tomato sauce made either with or without meat. Such wines need enough acidity, of course, to hold up to the acid in the tomatoes. And if you find one that also has delicious fruit and some complexity, you’ve got it made.
I hit it just right the other night with a wine from Puglia, the region in the south that forms Italy’s “heel.” While there is plenty of forgettable red wine churned out there, the 2009 Salice Salentino Rosso “Torre Nova” from Natalino del Prete stands out. Puglia’s hot, dry climate helps give the wine its generous black plum and black cherry fruit, which is framed by a firm tannic structure and accentuated by subtle leather, earth, meat and cedar aromas.
The wine is made primarily from the local negroamaro variety using organic methods, which undoubtedly contribute to its “soul” and sense of place. It was the perfect companion to our pasta dinner — fusilli tossed in a cast-iron skillet with a tomato-basil-parsley sauce, then topped with diced mozzarella and placed under the broiler for a few minutes to give it a crispy finish. The modest 13 percent alcohol and the $13.50 price made it all the more memorable. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections, New York. You can find it online by clicking here and here. Got a favorite pasta wine? Let me know by leaving a comment.
By the way, while cooking, start off with a refreshing white from California, the excellent 2010 Mendocino County “Small Lot Blend” Sauvignon Blanc from Parducci, which is crisp and balanced with subtle grapefruit, lime and herbal notes and another great value at $11. (Received as a press sample.)
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