$12 Italian wines — it’s a minefield I rarely enter any more. See, as a 21-year-old, I spent way too much of my hard-earned dough searching for good Chianti and Pinot Grigio for $10 to $15.
I was living in Brooklyn and, having grown up on the Jersey Shore, random bottles of cheap Italian wine seemed the natural place to go. Now that I was pulling down decent cash at Kinko’s, and saving money by sleeping in an illegally-rented basement in Brighton Beach, I had some extra money for the first time in my life. So I spent a lot of it on cheap Italian wine. Surely those classy-looking bottles at the corner store would be delicious and pair well with my homemade eggplant parm — right?
For a while, I wondered if something was wrong with me. Why were these wines so lifeless?
Truth is, there are plenty of good, inexpensive Italian wines. But the bottles you see on every shelf and grocery store in America (with the kitschy labels and castles and Renaissance sketches), some of these wines can be so boring you’ll wish you bought grain alcohol and grape juice.
But, as is the case in most every wine-producing country, someone, somewhere is producing wine on the cheap worth getting excited about. These usually hail from the lesser-heralded regions, from grapes you may not be familiar with, and — damnit — Safeway may not carry them.
If you find the good ones, it’s worth the effort. I was recently impressed with the overall quality of this Vento Di Mare brand of wines from Sicily. For $12 a pop, I’d gladly buy up any of these wines to open at big family gatherings.
Actually, I tested these wines out on my family. I tasted through the Vento Di Mare lineup before my Ma was passing through town on her way to a sister’s weekend in Pennsylvania. After tasting and writing about these wines, I sent the bottles with her so she and my four aunts could enjoy them. They drank these wines that night with charcuterie, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, baked ziti, ravioli — you get the idea. The next week, I got a postcard, signed from all of my aunties. “We loved those wines! They made the food and fellowship so much better!”
See? This is what I was looking for when I was scouring shelves for cheap-o-vino. Wines that cost little money, but were delicious with food and enjoyed by everyone at the table. If you’re looking for something like that, you may want to seek out Vento Di Mare.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »