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Italian Reds

Most of us know what to expect if we order a Cabernet or Merlot in a restaurant, but say you're in an Italian restaurant and want to drink an Italian wine. There's always Chianti right? I'm guessing you're a bit more adventurous than that, but you still want a bottle of wine that you'll enjoy drinking.

Valpolicella is one of my favorites, but it's easy to find bottles that are just so-so. If you see a Classico or Classico Superiore within your price range, go for it. They are generally well above the basic and can still be had for a reasonable price. Masi, one of top producers in Veneto, has a 2000 Classico Superiore available for $9.00 at Coit Liquor (585 Columbus). You'll find candied cherry, dried currants and cassis balanced nicely with dried orange and a hint of cedar.

Nero d'Avola, a grape native to Sicily, is making its way onto many wine lists. It's rich and dark like you would imagine burgundy velvet to taste. A concentrated dried grape flavor from the hot island sun lies refined underneath a cleansing acid. Forti Terre Di Sicilia's 2001 ($12.00 at The Wine Club, 953 Harrison) is a great example of the rich, juicy character, but is finishes clean, leaving you ready for that next bite of pasta or another sip of wine.

For something a bit lighter, Dolcetto is another great go-to. It's generally low in acid, but has sweet tannins that will fool you. It's not mouth stripping like some Cabernets can be, but it does allow this seemingly simple wine to stand up to most meat. Dolcetto di Dogliani 2001 from Francesco Boschis ($12.00 at Coit Liquor, 585 Columbus) is an example of how simply elegant Dolcetto can be; it fills your mouth with fresh berry jam and finishes with an unexpected hot cinnamon spice.

Now you can tackle the reds at least.

Genevieve Robertson can be reached at [email protected]