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10 Italian Red Wines for a Holiday Meal

Chef Scott Conant shares his picks for 10 fantastic Italian red wines that are perfect for holiday meals and gift giving.
2008 Tormaresca Neprica

© Theo Morrison

2008 Tormaresca Neprica ($12)

The Antinori family owns winery estates all over Italy—from its cornerstone of Tignanello in Tuscany to lesser-known wineries, such as Tormaresca in the Puglia region. Using the native Negroamaro grape, Tormaresca produces fantastic, inky, concentrated reds like this affordable Neprica bottling.

2009 Tedeschi Lucchine Valpolicella

© Theo Morrison

2009 Tedeschi Lucchine Valpolicella ($14)

Tedeschi is best known for its rich Amarones that can age for at least 20 years, but its superjuicy, approachable Valpolicella, aged entirely in stainless steel tanks, has bright cherry fruit and is terrific for drinking right now.

2006 Marco Felluga Merlot

© Theo Morrison

2006 Marco Felluga Merlot ($17)

If everyone drank Merlot from Marco Felluga, the grape probably wouldn't have such a bad rep. Felluga uses old oak barrels to age this earthy Merlot in cool-climate Friuli, resulting in a wine full of rich, pure cherry fruit—with none of the chocolaty, syrupy characteristics that Merlot often develops.

2008 Morgante Nero d'Avola

© Theo Morrison

2008 Morgante Nero d'Avola ($17)

Vibrant Nero d'Avola is Sicily's most widely grown red grape. The Morgante family, on the south side of the island, called on famed consulting winemaker Riccardo Cotarella to oversee the production of this ripe, peppery red.

2008 Roagna Dolcetto d'Alba

© Theo Morrison

2008 Roagna Dolcetto d'Alba ($19)

Often overshadowed by Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco, Dolcetto is one of Piedmont's most food-friendly wines thanks to its nice acidity and low tannins. This lively, floral bottling from Roagna, an organic (though not certified) winery, highlights the grape's best characteristics.

2007 G. D. Vajra Barbera d'Alba

© Theo Morrison

2007 G. D. Vajra Barbera d'Alba ($24)

The 2007 vintage in Piedmont was quite warm, which in some cases led to wines with high alcohol levels and sweet fruit notes. But this bottling from winemaker Aldo Vaira retains its bright acidity, making it particularly good with food.

2008 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso

© Theo Morrison

2008 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso ($30)

Eugenio Campolmi was a pioneer in planting grapes in Tuscany's coastal Bolgheri region; after his death several years ago, his wife, Cinzia Merli, took over the winemaking (along with Luca D'Attoma), continuing to make dense, black-fruited wines that age beautifully.

2006 Cecchi Coevo

© Theo Morrison

2006 Cecchi Coevo ($58)

This first vintage of Cecchi's concentrated Coevo (which means "contemporary" in Italian) is 50 percent Sangiovese, blended with international varieties. Future bottlings will only be made in the best, most forward-looking vintages—at this point, there will not be a 2008 Coevo.

NV Damilano Barolo Chinato

© Theo Morrison

NV Damilano Barolo Chinato ($68)

Barolo Chinato is an "aromatized" Barolo dessert wine, meaning it's been infused with herbs and spices. This wonderful version from Damilano features aromatics like rhubarb, orange peel and cardamom and makes an excellent digestif.

2005 Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato

© Theo Morrison

2005 Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato ($100)

Barolo is the quintessential (albeit pricey) red for gifting during the holiday season. At its best, it's luxurious, velvety and great for cellaring. A top producer of Barolo, Giuseppe Mascarello consistently hits these marks. Definitely splurge-worthy, this complex wine has notes of herbs, earth and black cherry.

Published December 2010
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