Wine can be a little off-putting. There’s just so much of it out there. There are Pinots and Merlots and Cab Francs to contend with. There are renowned regions and famous wineries. Then there’s vernacular like the ‘nose,’ legs,’ and ‘finish’ to navigate. It’s a lot to track. The key is to “like what you like” and not apologize for being a neophyte. In the end, it’s just red, white, rosé, and sparkling. The other words on those labels are just place names and types of grapes.
No one understands this attitude better than the Italians. A trip to Italy to tour Tuscany while drinking wine is on the top of many an oenophiles bucket lists for good reason — the country has over 1,000 wine regions. Visiting them all would take a lifetime. It’s easier to hop over to, say, Rome, and start your Italian wine journey with practical advice from a local expert. City Wonders in Rome offers a guided wine night with an expert somm who can give you a gateway to Italy’s wine culture. Plus they’ll throw in a great food pairing.
If you can’t make it to Italy, we’ve got your back. A couple of caveats first. In Italy — and much of Europe — wine is ordered by the region not by grape variety. In America, we tend to order Pinots or Cabs while Italians order Barolos or Salice Salentinos. Those are literally towns in Italy and types of wine.
Also, let’s not get bogged down in pairings. The best advice any somm can give is to find a wine that you love and eat it with the food you love. Don’t let snobbery get in your way of loving great wine or enjoying a great meal. We’re also leaving aging and vintages at the door. We can talk about which wines to age and how that works another time. The wines listed here are good young or old. Lastly, we’ve tried to keep these bottles in the $10-$50 dollar range. But, that’s very speculative since most US states have varying alcohol taxes.
Okay, no more sniffing the cork — let’s dive in. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary…”
VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO — LA BRACCESCA
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or just ‘Nobile’ for shorthand is one of Tuscany’s most important and classic wines. The wines have to come from the hills southeast of Sienna around the village of Montepulciano. The main grape grown in the small mountain region is Sangiovese — which also goes by the name Prugnolo Gentile by the locals. ‘Nobile’ wine has to age for 24 months for the standard and 36 months for the ‘Riserva.’
La Braccesca’s Nobile is a vividly ruby red with a nose of blackberries, violets, and red currants. That’s followed by a rush of cinnamon and dark, ripe berries on the palate with a mineral edge and a clean finish. It’s a blend of 90 percent Prugnolo Gentile and ten percent Merlot. The wine spent 12 months in oak before it was bottled and aged for an additional 12 months.