Ah ... Tuscany, the land of romance. Soft breezes blow and the sun gently matures the fruit to perfection. The resulting wines epitomize the love Italian winemakers put into their craft, with the Sangiovese grape reigning in the bottle. The main grape in Italy's famous Chianti, Sangiovese also graces the heavier Brunello di Montalcino wines. "Di Montalcino" refers to the town where the grapes are grown. Earning the highest quality distinction in Italy, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) -- translated as "regulated and guaranteed place" -- Brunello is considered in some circles to be the best aging wine on earth. In other words, the wine is big, tannic and often undrinkable under 15-20 years of age. It's also pretty pricey, retailing at over $30 per bottle.
To enjoy the romance of Tuscany today, you might explore Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a light, DOCG red wine suitable for everyday drinking. A blend of both Sangiovese and other red and white Italian varieties, it presents a fragrant, fruity wine.
In northeastern Italy, a deliciously charming trend is flirting its way into our hearts: excellent white wines. Praised heartily for their award-winning red wines, Italy sports some whites so acidic they'd eat through a Coke can. But the Pinot Grigios from the Trentino-Alto Adige are redefining Italian whites. They're smooth, fragrant, affordable, and absolutely delicious.
Maso Canali 2001 Pinot Grigio Drips with grapefruit and lemon flavors, with very little acid hitting you in the face. This single vineyard wine hails from the south of Trentino. $15 1/2
Villa Diana Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2001 Good sippin' and bursting with a bath of cherry fruitiness on the tongue. Nice pricetag too. $7
Zeni 1999 Valpolicella Strawberry jam without the toast. Absolutely great stuff, especially with hard cheeses and a big hunk of Italian salami. $9