Wanted: Italian wine.
November 13, 2011 12:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the best Italian wines?

My boyfriend is passionate about Italian wine, so I want to surprise him with a rare and amazing bottle for Christmas, but I have no clue where to even look. He manages a fine dining restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so he's quite the expert on wines, but I want to get him something he'll be impressed by without having to ask him any questions. I'm willing to spend up to $200 and he generally prefers red wine. Can you suggest some great bottles?
posted by missjamielynn to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Amarone della Valpolicella. I can't give any more specific information, as the first and best bottle I had was from '97, but you should be able to dig around and find more information on the better vintages.

It's an exceptional wine, as a class. Mmmn.

Also consider that he may have gone past the point of great wines being great wines in and of themselves: that what makes a great wine is the company it's enjoyed with. In which case you could buy what some would consider a rather ordinary red, and put forth a stronger effort to maximize the circumstances surround its consumption.
posted by herrdoktor at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Barolos are generally the highest of the high-end Italian reds, though if you go with a well-regarded Brunello, you've got a lot of options too. My suggestions (though I don't have vintages for you): Argiano Brunello and Nardi Brunello Manachiara (or that could be Nardi Manachiara Brunello). Both excellent, both right around $100 price point.
posted by GamblingBlues at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I only know that the Brunellos were some of the most enjoyable, if not the best, reds I have ever drunk. I definitely think $70-$100 should get you there.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2011

I'd head for Italian Wine Merchants on 16th St, or De Vino on Clinton St. He knows Italian wine, so he's had plenty of Barolo and Amarone - if he likes rich reds consider a top sagrantino like the Caprai 25 Anni or the Paolo Bea ('01 and '04 were banner years) or the Marion Teroldego, an excellent wine from a lesser-known grape.
posted by nicwolff at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2011

This will sound idiotic, but over the years I've realized that if the name of the grape for the Italian wine begins with "B" and it is a red, I will love it.
posted by bearwife at 1:50 PM on November 13, 2011

Brunello, Brunello, a thousand times Brunello. I believe 2002 or 2003 were supposed to be particularly good vintages, but obviously I'd trust a wine store for that kind of rec over a stranger on the internet. A bottle will start at at least $60 and go up from there - it's like liquid maroon velvet, uhmg.
posted by AthenaPolias at 2:02 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why give him something that he's probably already well familiar with? Some of the usual suspects, are of course great wines, but they are the usual suspects, if you know what I mean.

I'd rather go the unusual route - still great wine, of course, but less likely for him to already know all about it. For this, I'd go with some varietal that's rare. Maybe a wine from Sicily, which has one of the oldest wine-growing cultures in Italy and the Mediterranean in general. I'm thinking of a pure Perricone (not blend) - it's quite robust and complex, which would be appreciated by an oenophile, as he can lovingly pick it apart. Candidate: Vigna Curria Perricone IGT 2003. Around $60, here's the pricing trend for the 2003. Here's a review:

"Maturing color but still quite intense. On the rich and quite mature nose it shows scents of plums and dark cherries, dried leather, clove, dark chocolate, warm earth, sweet tomatoes and dried roses. Not elegant but trying to get there. Most unusual bouquet but captivating, oh yes!

On the palate it’s intense with good acidity grip, mature tannins and some fruit still left. Excellent balance between the components. Earth, plum skin, licorice and slightly bitter cherries. Fine integrated oak and a hint of moist tobacco. Long, spicy finish with a nice kick from acidity.

A wine pumped full with personality and worthy of a buy. Tasted over two days and was just as good on the second day.
posted by VikingSword at 2:24 PM on November 13, 2011

A rare Italian red...

I can't think of anything that fits the bill better than Quintarelli's amazing Alzero. It's basically an Amarone, but made from Cabernet Franc. Absolutely unique, very rare, and accordingly expensive. (I only ever managed to try a glass when I convinced a drunken Spaniard to uncork a bottle at a Vinitaly showcase; pretty unforgettable.)

If you're going to go for Amarone (a fine choice), you wouldn't be mistaken in looking for those by Quintarelli's protegé Romano Dal Forno - shouldn't be too hard to find. Superbly rich wines.

- Faro Palari is a pretty singular Sicilian super-red. Or perhaps Andrea Franchetti's Etna wine, Passopisciaro (despite the unfortunate name)? (The most amazing red from Sicily I ever had was an illegal red dessert wine made from Nero d'Avola by Barone La Lumìa; not sure there's a way to get hold of that.)

- Edizione from Farnese is a from a newer producer, but quite spectacular.

- Montevetrano is a lovely blend produced in small numbers in Campania. (As you would expect from a Cotarella wine, practically all vintages are excellent.)

If you must go for Tuscany, and want to avoid Trinoro (see Franchetti, above), you could just get the wine my mom makes.
posted by progosk at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2011

If you do decide on a Brunello (which are AWESOME), think about also buying him two Riedel Brunello glasses. Even though 90% of the science behind wine-based glass shape has apparenty been debunked, I still think it makes a noticeable difference to the aroma.
posted by hammurderer at 5:38 PM on November 13, 2011

Call rare wine co in California. They have a deep bench of aged Barolo, barbaresco, brunellos and super Tuscans.

On their list, they have 90 flaccianello and 99 Guado al Tasso both of which are drinking well currently and in your price bracket for super Tuscans, as well as various mascarellos with decent age on them. They have excellent provenance which is important for bottles of this age.


posted by Hurst at 5:42 PM on November 13, 2011

Wine geeks have intensely personal preferences. It's hard to know what he likes, without sampling 100 glasses with him and taking notes. If you're not a wine geek too, it will be hard to find something he thinks is genuinely great.

On the other hand wine geeks tend to form personal relationships with particular vineyards and wineries. Kind of like how book geeks form relationships with their favorite authors, and read everything by that author. Once you know the context of where something came from, you can appreciate its intricacies far better.

I would recommend finding a vineyard he particularly likes (based on his wine collection), then choosing an older/more expensive bottle produced by the same vineyard.
posted by miyabo at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2011

+1 for Amarone. Although many approach $100 per bottle, and some certainly exceed that, I've found those from Luigi Righetti to be a real bargain. You can find them all day long for under $30 per bottle, and I even found it for under $10 once at Blackwell's in San Francisco.
posted by tomwheeler at 9:12 PM on November 13, 2011

Rare Wine Co is a fine resource, but not necessary when you're in the same city as Crush Wine & Spirits, which has an extensive Italian selection, including 26 bottles between one and two hundred dollars. I see the big names, Conterno, Gaja, Ornellaia, Giacosa. Their staff is high on the geek factor, too.
posted by wnissen at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2011

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