Postcards from Italy

What We’re Drinking, Part 2: More Outstanding Italian Wines On Our Table

Fall seems like the perfect season for wine, perhaps because the crisp evenings call for cozy fireplaces and warming reds, and perhaps because wine is so closely linked to the months of September and October, when most vineyards in the northern hemisphere are harvested and the delicate process of fermentation begins to work its magic on the crushed grapes.


(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Which is why we thought we’d take a fresh look at our domestic cantina, which we last did almost two years ago, and share some of the great bottles we’ve discovered (and stockpiled) during the last few trips to Italy.

We’ll be heading back to the Bel Paese this holiday season, and will be hard at work hunting up the best vintages to pour with friends and family once we’re back home. In the meantime, these are some labels that we’ll be opening during our Thanksgiving feast stateside, in a perfect blend of New and Old World tradition and cuisine.

With a holiday spread made up of a variety of diverse dishes, and the heaviness of the whole roasted turkey, any of these mid-weight reds are perfect for Thanksgiving. So, if you’d like to bring a bit of Italy to your Thanksgiving table, here are a number of excellent choices to hunt down in your local wine shop:

Barbera D’Asti Tre Rovere – Pico Maccario
One thing we love about Italian wines is that you can find excellent labels at very reasonable prices. This Barbera can be found in the US for about $20 a bottle, and its balance of earthiness and acidity is a perfect pairing for a classic Thanksgiving menu (in fact, we popped a bottle open last year on Turkey Day). Wines from Le Langhe are some of the best in Italy, and Barbera is a good intro to this area of Piemonte’s production.

122/365 - Corking

(Photo by Adam Wyles via Flickr)

Villa di Capezzana – Carmignano DOCG Tenuta di Capezzana
If wines are rooted to their terroir, pouring a glass of this Sangiovese and Cabernet blend is like pouring Florence out into a glass. This truly “Florentine” wine, a bit over $30, has a documented history going back centuries (or millenia, depending upon which Tuscan you talk to), and the winery is owned by the noble Contini Bonacossi family, renowned for their talent at collecting great art and producing equally great wines. We often arrange for our travelers to spend a day at the family estate learning the secrets of Tuscan cooking with the family chef, then feasting on the fruits of their labor with the family over lunch.

old vintages recorking by Vittorio

(Photo courtesy of Tenuta Cappezzana via Flickr)

Avvoltore – Moris Farms (near Massa Marittima)
This “Super Tuscan” hails from southern Maremma in Tuscany, and has a list price of about $45. Predominantly Sangiovese, this wine is the perfect foil to a triumphant roasted turkey or game bird occupying the place of honor at your table. We have a number of bottles from 2003 that we hoarded when touring the Maremma, and we plan to drink them this Christmas.

Sagrantino/Rosso di Montefalco – Milziade Antano
Everyone always asks which is our favorite of the Sagrantinos and Montefalco Rossos. Well, this is it. Though the Montefalco Rosso would be a perfect Thanksgiving wine, this tiny label, also featured in this month’s Departures Magazine, is difficult to find in the US. If you can’t find Antano, a good alternative is one of powerhouse winery Arnaldo Caprai’s esteemed labels. Though their tongue-tingling tannic Sagrantino may be too much for most roast turkeys, the more balanced Montefalco Rosso is a memorable crowd-pleaser.

Succede alle cantine Caprai...

(Photo by Michela Simoncini via Flickr)

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Le Casalte
Montepulciano is famous for excellent wines and fabulous felines (why yes, our cats were “international adoptees” from here). A small producer from this wine country dominated by Sangiovese, Le Casalte, makes wines of an import that belie the winery’s small size…a recent review in Wine Spectator awarded them 92 points. Pick up a bottle for around $30 and impress your guests with the Montepulciano name recognition first, and the wine itself shortly thereafter.

Valtellina Superiore Vigneto Fracia – Nino Negri
When we lived in Germany, we would serve this 100% Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo, at our expat Thanksgivings. For a fair $35, given that Nino Negri is routinely listed among Italy’s 100 Greatest Producers by Wine Spectator, we still sometimes pop open a bottle and reminisce about our international table during those years.

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore