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The pick of the Italian litter

Lorn Razzano —

It cannot be overstated that Italian red wine embodies — the soul and passion of the Italian people. If any one phenomena can describe — an entire culture it must be the ever present powerful yet refined warm — and generous reds of the Italian peninsula. These wines are at the same — time rich in history, satisfying on many layers of sensations and technologically — on the cutting edge.

Even the less expensive Montepulciano d' Abruzzo and simple — merlots from large wineries have a subtle yet alluring charm not found — in similar wines at the same price points. It seems that the warm Italian — sun and lazy dreamlike afternoons somehow weave their way into the black — sugar laden grapes at the foot of sleepy hillsides. Years ago, noted wine — expert John Wren once told me that

"Italian wines seem to sit on one's very soul." How true — he is. Here's a short list of my favorites:

Barolo, Barbaresco- These two little villages sit on either — side of Medford's sister city, Alba, in the northwest region of Italy — called, Piemonte. For many wine folks these two nebbiolo based wines, — (named for the townships) are the pinnacle of Italian winemaking. Pricing — begins at the $40 dollar mark and what you get for your money is nothing — less than spectacular. Powerful yet nuance driven wines with flavors that — wrap around the palate like a fine weaving of fruit and spice sensations. — Woody with soft leather and anise spice drops make this wine a thing of — beauty. The vintages from 1995 to today are award winners.

Brunello di Montalcino- The great Tuscan! Made from a — variation of sangiovese grapes this profound red wine is the Italian dream — wine. Powerful yet magnificently honed in subtle nuance and long warm — finish, this is the Ferrari of the wine offerings. The 1997 vintage of — the century Brunellos are selling quickly and start at a whopping $70 — bucks a bottle! I can think of no better wine in the world than these — history laden, one of a kind Tuscans.

Montepulciano d' Abruzzo- Back to planet earth! For every — day drinking try out these little offerings from many fine producers. — You can find these lovely little reds for as little as $4.99 per bottle — and they are delicious! The great Montepulciano run in the $15 dollar — mark and are giants!

Primitivo- The Italian zinfandel with volcanic soil and — attitude. You can find these wines for anywhere from ten bucks to twenty — bucks and they are well worth the price. Look around the region "Puglia" — the toe of Italy. Lovely wines, affordable and memorable.

Valpolicella- Once a derided little wine of high acid — and little breading. Today these wines are steals! Soft, warm and generous — with mouthfilling flavors and long silky finishes. Get to the twelve dollar — mark and be surprised.

Nice wines.

Chianti- Today's Chiantis are nothing like the Chianti — you tasted even five years ago. Once sold in straw flask bottles, the — wine now sells in the traditional Chianti Bordolais bottle and how this — wine has changed! Go with the $12 dollar and up Chiantis. These wine are — better bred wines with great flavor sensations and powerful sangiovese — laden fruits of every description. The Chianti Classico is from a smaller — designated growing area and these wines can be profound indeed! The Riservas — are yet another step in the evolution of greatness and elegance. If you — have never tasted a fine Chianti, you are in for a great surprise and — a lifelong friend.

Nero d'Avola- Sicilian wines! Sicily has begun an explosion — of superb red wines. The major grape to look for is the lovely, soft, — Nero d'Avola. If you are a merlot drinker but want something with more — heat and passion, go for this century old grape with a huge Italian following. — You can find this grape almost everywhere in the under ten dollar mark. — A great find! Remember, Italian wine are a natural with all kinds of cuisine. — Have fun, be creative and enjoy the wine jewels of this wonderful country!