Tasting a group of red wines from central and northern Italy is always a pleasant adventure, like revisiting the countryside where you grew up. It’s familiar territory, yet there are constant little surprises and reconstituted memories. Here are 11 good to very good red wines to savor — sangioveses from Tuscany and Romagna, corvina-based Valpolicellas from Verona, and a merlot from Abruzzo. Pull up a glass and enjoy.
2011 Poliziano "Lohsa" Morellino di Scansano ($15). Pleasant, exotic, savory aromas almost of garrigue with dried blackberry and fresh huckleberry fruits mingled together. Very enjoyable wine from the emerging Tuscan coastal areas of Maremma.
2010 Jacopo Biondi Santi "Braccale" Toscana IGT red wine ($18). An interesting and enjoyable combo of flavors — dark cherries, barrel notes and a hint of balsamic or red vermouth.
2010 Silvio Nardi rosso di Montalcino ($23). Ripe, full flavors of cherry, black raspberry and cassis, yet it is not over-extracted. Moderately lean finish. Quite nice.
My Pick of the Litter: 2008 Banfi brunello di Montalcino ($55). Lightish body but with firm flavors of dark cherries, tobacco, a hint of caramel and some creaminess. A delightful, complex wine that is not overpowering in its tannins.
2008 Silvio Nardi brunello di Montalcino ($54). Good intensity of ripe fruit, but lots of dried-herb savoriness and sangiovese tanginess.
2007 Silvio Nardi "Manachiara" brunello di Montalcino ($77). This single-vineyard brunello is dark and brooding and very savory with lots of attractive wood notes, blueberry moodiness and raspy tannins.
2011 Da Luca Romagna sangiovese superiore ($11). Although they don’t get the headlines that Tuscan sangios do, sangiovese wines from Romagna are often bargains with a slightly different taste profile. This one has dark cherry flavors and typical varietal raspiness in the finish with light tannins. Not complex, yet a very nice wine.
2010 Sartori amarone della Valpolicella ($41). Not a particularly complex wine, but one that has its basic profile — intense but not concentrated dark cherries with a hint of pencil lead — down pat. For a big wine, a very good sipper.
2010 Sant’Antonio "Selezione Castagnedi" amarone della Valpolicella ($45). A real mouthful and a very satisfying one — tight, savory with lots of herbal notes, intense and powerful, yet still lean on the palate. Flavors of cherries, a touch of violets and a few raisiny notes.
2010 Sant’Antonio "Monti Garbi" Valpolicella superiore ripasso ($19). I’m not sure that the ripasso process — using some leftover skins from amarone fermentation for the new fermentation — adds much here. The wine is lean with cherry flavors and hints of green stemminess.
2012 Stlto Terre di Chieti IGT merlot ($10). From Abruzzo, this easy-drinking merlot has a gamy-like fruitiness of cherries and raspberry, chalky minerality and very light tannins.