Italy is a great mosaic of wine styles and wine regions. These 12 wines come from five respectable wine brands of northern Italy.
2010 Castello Banfi "Belnero" Toscana IGT ($29). A lovely blend, especially for the price — mixture of creamy black raspberry and raspy blackberry flavors. Very smooth, medium body, but not a pushover at 14.5 percent alcohol. Good for sipping and with food.
2009 Allegrini "La Grola" Veronese red ($26). Can this wine be only 13.5 per cent alcohol? It’s a wonderful pour, a lot like a ripasso — loads of plummy fruit with seductive notes of balsamic and raspy, citrusy finishing texture. Traditional yet edgy, with smidgeons of syrah and sangiovese to round out the local varieties.
2009 Allegrini Veronese "Palazzo della Torre" ($18). Ripe and juicy cherry flavors up front followed by a tangy, gamey finish. Mild tannins, good structure.
2011 Allegrini Valpolicella ($17). Chunky dark fruit, little cream, touch of spice, chocolate shavings. A good example of how good a basic valpolicella can be when attention is paid.
2012 Cleto Chiarli "Vecchina Modena" lambrusco du Sorba secco ($17). I had this recently at an eight-course BYOB dinner with a pork-belly dish. Great pairing. The wine has a light fizz with tobacco-y dark cherries fruits and lots of acidity.
NV Cleto Chiarli "Enrico Cialdini" lambrusco secco ($15). Dark, marinated cherries with crisp, bitters finish and light bubbles. Great with salmon filet.
NV Cleto Chiarli "Grasparossa di Tasteventro Centenario" lambrusco amabile ($12). A mildly sweet but well-balanced, low-alcohol (8 percent), frizzy wine with dominant tastes of elderberries tempered by savory notes of wet dried herbs. Definitely a food wine, not just for Italian pork dishes, but also as an accompaniment for dim sum.
2009 Biserno Bibblona ($160). Just a fabulous wine from the Antinori brothers. Ripe, rich, creamy, purple fruits with great depth. Rounded like a rolling wave. Hint of brulée just before finish. Great body.
2009 Il Pinto di Biserno ($68). A little more traditional ins tastes and structures that the first wine — a tangy rogue with good fruit and intensity that still carries the blood lines.
2011 Aia Vecchia Maremma Toscano Vermentino ($12) How did this white wine slip in with all these big-shouldered reds? Chalky green fruit flavors, some firm apples, moderate body, fragrance in the finish with a lingering taste of green apple skins.
2010 Aia Vecchia "Lagone" Toscana IGT ($15). This wine represents the brown side of red — lots of forest floor, carbon notes, dried plums, moderate tannins. Nice savory wine, but not as complex as it sounds.
2008 Aia Vecchia "Sor Ugo" Bolgheri superior ($35). Ripe mixture of fruit, oak and light bitters or pepperiness — a Right Bank-style of wine if it were in Bordeaux. Red cherries and a little red Italian vermouth. Comes across as old-school Italian, even though it’s a French twist of varieties — cabernet, merlot, and petite verdot.