An Italian Wine Renaissance

Now's the time to try Southern Italy's reworked wines

Few regions have seen an improvement like southern Italy. A decade ago, most imports tended to be coarse or oxidized and alcoholic. A younger generation has taken the region’s great, but neglected, vineyards seriously and has looked north for inspiration from Piedmont and France. These are wines with unique flavors, and reds tend toward the taste of roasted red fruits. Their tannins are usually restrained, but when present, they taste sweet. Eat with grilled foods and most anything characterized as Mediterranean.

Terradora Falanghina Irpinia   
2008, $18
Located in Campania, this white shows a fascinating interplay among flavors of pineapple, apricot and white pepper, with a texture that’s at once crisp and resinous.  Fabulous with a slightly oily fish like grilled snapper served with peppers. 

Santadi “Grotta Rossa”
Sardinia, 2008, $15
A light but eminently pleasing wine that’s very easy to drink. Dry, but highlighting bright flavors of currants and tobacco. A terrific seafood red; try with sardines.

Castello Monaci “Maru”    
Puglia, Italy, 2009, $13
From Puglia at the tip of Italy’s “heel,” this dark red is made from the Negroamaro grape which displays juicy flavors of brambleberries and spice.   
   
Gulfi “Nerobleo”
Sicily, 2006, $31
Rich and warm, gushing with roasted cherries and chocolate. Sweet oak complements the wine’s richness. Despite all this, it’s well structured and elegant. Enjoy with roasted lamb, or better, yet, goat. 

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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