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Italy is among the world’s largest wine-producing regions with more vineyards than any other country. Unfamiliar grape varieties make Italian wines a challenge for Americans, and that’s our bad luck since they are so food friendly. Mostly because of that unfamiliarity, you and I are going to see only a few Italian grape varieties on the shelf. This makes things a bit easier, but we are missing out on some dandy wines. The most prevalent of the red varieties we’ll see are Sangiovese and Barbera. Sangiovese (san-joh-VAY-zeh) is Italy’s most famous red-wine grape variety, but you may not be familiar with the name. Sangiovese is the predominant grape variety of Chianti (Key-AHN-tee), probably the most well-known Italian wine. Sangiovese is rich and savory with plentiful, dark fruit flavors and good acidity. Barbera (Bar-ber-AH) is the most widely grown red grape variety of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and good acidity. The acidity of most Italian wines is one reason they are so food friendly. It is also a primary reason for their compatibility with Italian food (think tomatoes). 

Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Tenuta La Braccesca Nobilie di Montepulciano-Tuscany
Red Varietal - Sangiovese
Notes: Flavors of black olive and black cherry. Savory, rich and full bodied.
A Dry Red – Cost: $$$ out of $$$$$

Barbera d’Alba Pio Cesare Fides Barolo-Piedmont
Red Varietal - Barbera
Notes: Flavors of cherry, chocolate and ripe fruit.
A Dry Red – Cost: $$$ out of $$$$$

Riserva Ducale Oro (gold) Ruffino Chianti Classico
Red Varietal - Sangiovese
Flavors of plum, blueberry, black cherry, blackberry and vanilla.
A Dry Red – Cost: $$$ out of $$$$$

Local oenophile David Dickson has been a wine educator for 30 years.