Wine values exist in many countries, but perhaps no nation produces as many reasonably priced wines of very good quality as Italy. The reasons for this? There are many, but perhaps the primary cause is the fact that most wines in Italy are made with indigenous varieties, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, meaning that these wines are not as familiar to consumers as those produced from international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Given the relatively unknown status for many Italian wines, producers simply cannot charge too much.
While we often think of value wines as those priced less than $25 a bottle, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a value at $50 or even more. Examples here would include some offerings of Barolo that come in at one-third to one-half the price of many famous examples. Limited availability and fame often drive up the cost of some Barolos, but thankfully, there are some producers that craft very good to excellent examples that are reasonably priced.
I could list hundreds of special value wines from Italy, but for now, I’ll highlight a few specific wines, from Campania in the south to Piedmont in the north and several regions in between.
(Note: retail pricing depends on several factors, such as local taxes as well as distributor and retail markup. Prices listed here are from wine-searcher.comToday In: Business
Campania – Producers in Campania are best known for crafting wines from indigenous varieties such as Greco and Fiano (white) and Aglianico (red) among many others. The best examples of these are among the finest wines in all of Italy, and while those are a bit more expensive, there are many examples of wines from these three varieties that are very reasonable priced.
At Feudi di San Gregorio, proprietor Antonio Capaldo has several excellent values including Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino, both priced at a suggested retail price of $22. He also produces single vineyard versions of these wines which are naturally more expensive, given their smaller production. But the classic Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio are excellent, medium-bodied whites that pair well with a variety of foods, from lighter fish to many poultry dishes. (Other excellent values of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino are also produced by Donnachiara – between $18-$20 – and Villa Raiano – their 2018 Greco di Tufo at $20 is an exceptional value.)
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a medium-bodied, flavorful, lightly spicy red called “Rubrato,” which is made from the Aglianico grape, the most important red variety in the region. Priced at $18, this is an exceptional value; pair this with most red meats or even game such as venison. Also look for the Irpinia Aglianico from Donnachiara ($21) and the Mastroberardino “Re di More” Aglianico ($22).
The most famous wine of the March region is Verdicchio from two territories: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. These are among Italy’s greatest white wines, as the best wines made from the Verdicchio grape offer tremendous complexity and can age far beyond a decade.
Given that, as well as the reasonable prices of these wines, you would think that sommeliers and wine buyers would jump at the opportunity to purchase and promote these wines. But it hasn’t happened. Whether it’s the long name or the fact that Marche isn’t talked about much, the situation is still the same – Verdicchio is criminally under represented on most wine lists and retail shelves in America and other countries.
Yet, it would be difficult to find a better white wine priced at $20 or under than Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore. Two stellar examples are from Villa Bucci ($20) and Andrea Felici ($17). These are medium-full, dry whites with beautiful perfumes of melon, pear and yellow flowers and offer notable complexity for their price tags. Best of all, the current releases of these two wines are from the outstanding 2018 vintage. Don’t miss these wines!
There are so many wines produced in this famous region – it’s difficult to know where to start. For now, let’s go with the wines of Morellino di Scansano. Produced in an area near the sea in southwest Tuscany, a Morellino di Scansano is made primarily from Sangiovese, while a producer has the option to blend up to 15% of other red grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Ciliegiolo and a few other varieties.
There are riserva versions that cost more and tend to age longer, but look for the entry level examples of Morellino di Scansano for value, especially from Fattoria le Pupille ($17), Fattoria di Magliano “Heba” ($18) or Poggio Argentiera “Bella Marsilia” ($14, an exceptional value). These are beautiful Tuscan reds that are enjoyable when released, and can also be consumed up to five to seven years after the harvest.
One other red from Tuscany I’d like to highlight is the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Poliziano. Vino Nobile rarely receives the respect it deserves, as it is in a region where Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, along with the wines of Bolgheri, garner much of the praise for Tuscan reds.
But Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is an excellent, sometimes outstanding wine, especially when crafted by Poliziano. Proprietor Federico Carletti offers single vineyard offerings of Vino Nobile most vintages, but don’t overlook the entry level offering. The current 2016 release ( an exceptional vintage for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) displays aromas of dark chocolate, black cherry and a hint of coconut; the wine has impressive ripeness, along with beautifully balanced tannins, very good acidity and excellent persistence. At a suggested retail of $30, this is a noteworthy value from Tuscany!
We don’t often think of Barolo as a value wine, but there are several excellent examples. Being a wine of aging potential adds to the value of Barolo, and today more producers are concentrating on single vineyard offerings of Barolo, which of course means an even higher price tag, given their limited production.
So look for a classic Barolo, one produced from Nebbiolo grapes from several vineyards or communes. One of the best is from Poderi Oddero, located in Santa Maria, a frazione of La Morra, on the western side of the Barolo zone. For decades, this was the only Barolo produced at this estate, made under the care and loving touch of Giacomo Oddero. This Barolo was and still is a marvelous testament of the class and breeding of this iconic red; a wine that is rich with beautiful cellar potential, but one that has lovely charm and finesse, and in many years, can be enjoyed within a year or two of release.
Today, Giacomo is 93 years old and has given reins to his daughter Cristina. She introduced single vineyard Barolo at the winery back in the 1980s; today there are five cru Barolo at Oddero. Yet she continues to produce a classic Barolo by blending fruit from several vineyards – in this case from the communes of La Morra and Castiglione Falletto – as in the manner of her father. “We still continue to produce classic Barolo,” Oddero explains, “because we believe in this tradition of this region. We don’t want to forget, we don’t want to abandon this approach.”
The current 2015 Oddero Barolo is especially memorable and a signature representation of what this wine is all about. Medium-full with rich, but graceful tannins, this has excellent varietal character and balance, with good acidity that assures this wine will drink well for another 7-10 years, perhaps longer. All of this for an average price tag of $46! This is a great value!