No Spitting Allowed: Short Journey Across Northern Italy

When I started regularly drinking wines decades ago, I probably enjoyed more wines from Northern Italy than from France. Even when they were fairly simple wines, they had a nice basic fruitiness — never opulent — and a citrusy finish that reminded me of drinking water from a tine can. Sort of a "rusty" sensation, but not in a bad sense.

Recently, I tasted an assortment of medium-priced wines from the region, and they brought back some of those memories.


2009 Cecchi "Natio" Chianti

A very light wine from organic grapes. The flavors are cherry and citrus with that sangiovese raspy finish. Not long on the palate.

Verdict: It has good intentions, but is a tad faint-hearted. ($14)


2008 Checci Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva

Light, lots of citrus and cherry with chalkiness. Not really complex, but with enough good acidity to make it a nice food wine.

Verdict: A little bit bolder than the "Natio," but still flying under the radar. ($27)


2009 Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba

Tangy elderberry and blackberry flavors with the fruitiness lingering long on the palate. But in spite of the fruitiness, the wine remains lean and raspy.

Verdict: A very good food wine that tastes like a merlot but with raspy, citric acidity. ($19)


2006 La Valentina "Spelt" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

It has the ripe flavors of marinated Bing cherries with a tangy, spicy mid-taste and an added popup cloud of fruitiness on swallowing. Good tannins and acidity.

Verdict: A lively wine that marries the best of rich balsamic flavors with very ripe cherries. ($22)


2008 La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

When I first tasted, I liked the aromas and flavors — gamey notes, touches of violet perfume, some brown flavors to add complexity — and thought it enjoyable, but awfully light. I came back to it later after it had the chance to gulp some air, and it had more presence and intensity. Same flavors, more intensity.

Verdict: Decanting had me recanting.  ($14)


2007 Sartori Valpolicella Classico Superiore

A mellow wine with dark raspberry flavors and a creamy, almost cheese whey or plain yogurt finish. Quite nice.

Verdict: If this were a dessert, it would be raspberry Jell-O mixed with cream cheese. ($14)


2010 L'Ardi Dolcetto d'Acqui

A very vinous, winey nose with simple flavors of both merlot and sangiovese.

Verdict: Innocent, but perhaps too much so. ($9)