Both Tuscany—located in central/northern Italy—and the island of Sicily— southernmost in the country—share sun-drenched vintages that generally produce rich, hearty, full bodied red wines. Friuli—further north than both these regions—produces scintillating whites awash with florals, freshness and minerality. As summer winds down and dining tables are moved from outdoors to inside, consider opening any of these wines to kick off an evening and then glide into dinnertime.
Premiata Fattoria Di Castelvecchi. Chianti. Mandonnino dell Pieve. DOCG. 2015.
Named after the Mandonnino vineyard from where these Sangiovese grapes grow, this Chianti Classico includes pungent aromas of acorns, chestnuts, wet forest leaves, red plums eucalyptus and a little petrol. In the mouth—attack of plums, cranberries, chestnuts. A still young wine with tannins overshadowing acidity and fruit. Pair with duck breast or duck a l’orange, or a curry that includes sultanas and oranges.
Mazzei. Siepi. IGT. 2018. 92 to 94 points.
This blend of Sangiovese and Merlot is light purple in color with brisk, fulfilling and lush aromas of black and sour cherries, red plums, charcoal and slight cocoa. Complex, ebullient and well-integrated mid palate with dark fruit, sultanas, red plums, licorice and sage. Juicy, though slightly acidic on the finish. Pair with sausage risotto, roasted spare ribs in red wine sauce or a dessert of Italian carrot cake.
Podere Le Ripi. Sogni & Follia. Rosso di Montalcino. DOC. 2016. 92 points.
From winemaker Sebastian Nosello comes this wine named ‘dreams and craziness.’ This 100% Sangiovese ages 30 months in large oak casks. Beautiful light brick/amber color. Firm, structured aromas of brick, leather, Amarone and teak in this biodynamic wine. Vibrant acidity and a meaty mid-palate of prunes, cooked figs, red plums. Low key but well structured tannins. Pair with charcuterie, Tuscan roasted chicken alla contadina, or a dessert of espresso cookies.
Podere Le Ripi. Amore & Follia. Toscana Rosso. IGT. 2019. 92 points.
Meaning ‘love and craziness,’ this wine is a a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Sangiovese. Light cherry in color. Aromas of peat, wet earth, leather and orange slices in this biodynamic wine. A chewy mid palate of rich red fruit and slight licorice, backed by firm acidity and well structured tannins. A lingering mint and anise finish. A very fresh and energetic red from two such powerful and dark grapes.
Podere Le Ripe. Lupi Sirene. Riserva 2015. Brunello di Montalcino. DOCG. 2015. 96 points.
The name means ‘mermaid wolves.’ This biodynamic 100% Sangiovese wine aged 33 months in oak, nine months in cement tanks and another 19 months in the bottle. Light amber color from this biodynamic producer. Buoyant, hefty, assertive aromas of light red cherries, slight licorice, orange peel and graphite. Vibrant and assertive acidity on the attack, a full flush of complex, rich fruit mid palate—plums, figs, prunes, clementines and spice—and a delicious lingering finish with sultanas and menthol. Well-structured tannins. Lusciously deep flavored, yet also light and welcoming. Consider pairing with pork chops and pesto, potato croquettes and pancetta.
Podere Le Ripi. Amore & Magia. Brunello di Montalcino. DOCG. 2016. 93 to 95 points.
Meaning ‘love and magic,’ this 100% Sangiovese from this biodynamic producer ages 33 months in large barrels, 12 months in cement vats and another 12 months in bottle. Color of brick and ruby. Structured, layered aromas include orange rind, black pepper, cloves, teak and eucalyptus. Plush red cherries on the attack, plum, minestrone and Dutch licorice mid palate with juicy, generous acidity and a beautiful finish that begs a second glass. Consider pairing with marinated lamb, or potato gnocchi and herbs. (And pairing with cinghiale wild boar while in Tuscany is always a winner.)
Petruna. Valdarno di Sopra. Il Borro. Sangiovese in Anfora. DOC. 2018. 92 points.
From the magnificently renovated entire medieval village of Il Borro in Tuscany comes this Sangiovese wine that is fermented and aged in clay amphorae. Light ruby color. Aromas of charcoal, cranberries, walnuts and attractive herbaceousness. Cherries on the attack, raspberries and prunes and fine acidity mid palate. Consider pairing with butternut squash ravioli.
Bosco del Merlo. Terranio Sauvignon Blanc. Friuli. DOC. 2019. 94 points.
After separate vinification of parcels, this wine (named after a 5th century monk) is aged five months in steel. Jumping, dazzling aromas of salt, grapefruit, lime, paw paws, gunpowder and flint. A mid-weight juicy mid palate with well-heeled acidity, a taste of white pears and a pleasing, creamy finish. A succulent, Friuli beauty—providing evidence of the stellar quality of whites from this region. Pair with a fried fish with character—such as barracuda, or a shrimp and lime platter.
Cantine Settesoli. Mandrarossa. Cartagho. DOC. 2018. 94 points.
From a producer located near the southwest coast of the Italian island of Sicily comes this 100% Nero d’Avola that includes aromas of red plums and black cherries. A full mouthful of robust dark fruit flavors and mouthwatering acidity. Red fruit mid palate and a finish with cocoa and plums. A generously juicy wine that needs food: pair with focaccia and cheese, or goat cheese and salami with a honey-based bread.
Cantine Settesoli. Mandrarossa. Bonera. DOC. 2019. 95 points.
This blend of Nero d’Avola and Cabernet Franc from a Sicilian producer is ruby colored and includes aromas of violets, black cherries, wild raspberries, hibiscus and orange rind. A plush and deep flush of flavors in the mouth includes licorice, chocolate brownies and red plums. Licorice and aniseed on the finish. Has the dark heft of Nero d’Avola with the silky acidity of a Napa Cabernet Franc. This is an arresting black beauty with embracing acidity. A wine with a wallop that is ready for hearty Italian food. Pair with rigatoni and salsa casareccia al basilico, and maybe even white asparagus.
Cantine Settesoli. Mandrarossa. Timperosse. IGT. 2019. 90 points.
This 13% alcohol and 100% Petit Verdot includes somewhat herbaceous aromas of green scrub, as well as red fruit—plums and raspberries. A juicy mouthful with rich and somewhat heavy tastes that include cookie dough and plums mid palate. Pair with molasses cookies or roasted duck breast.
Cantine Settesoli. Mandrarossa. Urra di Mare. Sauvignon Blanc. DOC. 2020. 90 points.
Succulently strong aromas of grapefruit, clementines, cotton candy and mango juice—a true blast of acidic tropical fruits. In the mouth a chewy, juicy white wine with a rich mouth coating. Slightly honeyed and velvety with a candied finish. Pair with shellfish or sushi.