I’m looking for a good red that is “soft,” which for me means that it hits my mouth gently and is lovely, not harsh. What should I be drinking?—Harrier Goldstein, Watertown, MA
“Soft” is a great adjective, but if you want to up your game at the wine store, what you could say you’re looking for is a red that’s relatively low in tannins (which are astringent) and not very high in acid (which can be sharp). For a good, soft red, I suggest a wine made from Zinfandel, Cinsaut or Grenache. One of my go-tos is the 2014 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel ($26).
What do you think is the best and most underrated wine region in the US? —Melissa Langer, Los Angeles
I’d vote for the area around Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the top wineries (such as Barboursville, Stinson, Michael Shaps and King Family) will impress even the biggest wine snob. Plus, there are plenty of good restaurants—like Fleurie, in Charlottesville (fleurie restaurant.com)—and hotels. I enjoy staying at Veritas winery’s lovely renovated farmhouse B&B (veritasfarmhouse.com).
I love Barolo, but it’s so pricey. Are there any less-expensive wines like it? —Jessica Lynn, Somerville, MA
You’re right, Barolo’s expensive; a good bottle will cost you $70 or more. But many of the wineries that make Barolo, even some of the very greatest, grow more Nebbiolo grapes than they use for their top wine (or farm Nebbiolo in vineyards that lie outside of the demarcated Barolo zone). These grapes typically end up in a category of wine called Langhe Nebbiolo—essentially, Nebbiolo from the much broader and less prestigious Langhe region. Is all of it great? No. But the wines typically cost from $20 to $35 or so, and from top producers like Cavallotto, Paolo Scavino and G.D. Vajra they can easily be mistaken for Barolo itself.