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Personally, I think I’ve got a pretty good approach to finding great Italian value wines. It boils down to a few key principles: Choose local varieties, rather than international ones like Cabernet and Chardonnay; head to lesser-known regions, rather than paying a premium for well-known names; and if you end up in a famous region, go for the less-famous types of wine.
But suppose there were some sort of Italian-wine super-genius out there, with value-picking skills I couldn’t even conceive of? It would be like thinking you were hot stuff at tennis, then finding yourself facing off against Roger Federer. To find out, I decided I should go mano a mano—or vino a vino—with Joe Bastianich.
- Joe Bastianich’s Energizing Italian Recipes
- Joe Bastianich's Wine Class
- Joe Bastianich's Eataly Wine Picks
- Molto Joe | Joe Bastianich
- Interview with TV Chef Lidia Bastianich
- Best Pairings for Italian Wines
- Italian Grapes from A to Z
- The Ultimate Wine Geek Road Trip: Italy
- Winemakers’ Amazing Lunch on the Italian Riviera
- From Villas to Vineyards: The Best of Italy Now
- 10 Best Bargain Wines in the World
- Best Online Wine Shops
Joe was the perfect opponent. He’s written two books on Italian wine (most recently Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines); owns wineries in Friuli, Tuscany and Piedmont; and, with this issue’s guest editor, Mario Batali, owns several of the country’s most acclaimed Italian restaurants, including Del Posto in Manhattan and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. He’s been an expert wine-bargain hunter since he opened his first restaurant, Becco, in 1993; it has a list devoted to amazing values. My plan was simple: See if Joe was game for an Italian-value-wine smack down. He’d pick six bottles priced at $15 or less, I’d pick six, and then, it occurred to me, I could ask his mother, chef Lidia Bastianich, to decide the winner.