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Wines Under $20

Back in Tuscany after 600 Years

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I had the opportunity to sit down recently with Sandro Boscaini of the Veneto producer Masi to taste the winery's new Tuscan wine, the 2005 Poderi del Bello Ovile ($20, click to find it). This is produced in partnership with Count Pieralvise, owner of the Serego Alighieri estate in Gargagnago (from which Masi produces some of its best Amarones) and a direct descendent of Dante Alighieri—who was, of course, exiled from Florence in the 1300s. "You shall leave everything you love most dearly: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first," Dante wrote in his Divine Comedy. In other words, take away a man's Sangiovese, and he gets testy about it.

Well, hm, time heals all wounds? I guess after nearly 700 years, sure. Bello Ovile is in the south of Tuscany, across the river Orcia from Banfi's Brunello di Montalcino vineyards (and thus not located in Brunello di Montalcino, which is why it's $20 instead of $70). Medium-bodied, with sweet cherry and crisp tannins—that sort of dried-leaf texture that Sangiovese often suggests—it's an appealing red for a fair price. Sandro Boscaini, in his typically graceful way, observed, "It's a very cordial wine," adding that he feels the wine's cherry intensity comes from five percent Ciliegiolo in the blend—a grape aptly named, as the variety's name comes from the Italian word for cherry.

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