For as long as I can remember, Italian wines meant Chianti. I love them. But as my palate broadened, I’ve discovered the stunning deep reds of Piedmont in the country’s northwest region, the gravelly yet luscious whites in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and most recently the value-centric and delicious wines of Puglia along the Adriatic Sea.
The area around the “heel of the boot” is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, and one producer in particular is leading the charge. Tormaresca, which means “tower by the sea,” maintains two estates in the area and weaves together the area’s thousand-year-old history of soil, sun and gastronomy to make some spectacular wines.
The core red wines are enough to knock your socks off at a mere $12-$24. The 2011 Neprica includes a heady trio of Negroamaro, Primitivo and more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon that offers both structure and certain amount exoticism that keeps your attention. Great every day sipper. $12.
Next up the rung is the 2010 Torcioda Salento that is decidedly plumper and richer. Made of 100 percent Primitivo, it’s the kissing cousin of California’s Zinfandel so you can imagine the plum-fig-black licorice thing going on in your mouth as those lovely shortribs slow-cook in the oven. Love this wine. $22.
Finally from the Tormaresca trio is the 2009 Rosso Castel del Monte. This is your steakhouse wine. The soft palate of Aglianico, Cab and Syrah quickly yields to intense red fruit and spice. The wine is well-balanced and designed with a New York strip in mind. $24.
The Tormaresca collection of reds will have you pausing on the Italian aisle and rethinking your reflex reach for Chianti. These wines are widely available locally at Fry’s Food Stores, Total Wine and More, BevMo and AJ’s Fine Foods. Cheers!