Here, Ray Isle picks four essential Italian wines.

Classic Wines from Italy

2006 Taurino Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva ($15)

Long before the current ocean of Southern Italian value-oriented wines flooded U.S. store shelves, Taurino’s inexpensive, delicious Salento red was known as a steal. It still is. Made from the local Puglian varieties Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, it’s herbal and aromatic, with plummy fruit.

2004 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio ($50)

If there were a Platonic form for Chianti, this wine would fulfill it: savory and elegant, with aromas and flavors recalling dried cherries and black tea. Introduced in 1962, Il Poggio was the first cru (single vineyard) Chianti Classico ever produced.

2004 Ceretto Barolo Prapò ($88)

Ceretto’s Bricco Rocche bottling may be more famous, but Prapò—at a third of the price—is equally classic Barolo. It vividly shows the Nebbiolo variety’s defining rose-and-dried-cherry scent, taut, fine-grained tannins and lingering finish. Plus, it drinks more easily than Bricco Rocche when young, which is a virtue for those who don’t want to age it for a decade or so.

2006 Ornellaia ($180)

One of the original Super-Tuscan wines (along with Tignanello and Sassicaia), this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot is known for its refined cherry fruit, tremendous depth of flavor and cedar and dark-chocolate nuances.

Wine Advice & Pairings:

American Wine Awards 2009
Lamb Chops with Frizzled Herbs
Frying herbs like rosemary, parsley and sage for less than 45 seconds in a half inch of oil makes them ultracrispy; they are delicious with tender lamb chops.
| Credit: © Con Poulos
Bacon-and-Leek Quiche
Credit: © Quentin Bacon

Anthony Giglio on Southern Italian Wines

50 Wine Classics You Must Try: