New York, the mid-Atlantic, and New England wouldn’t be the same without the red-sauce Italian-American restaurants we know and love. Here are some new wines to try with chicken parm, antipasti, and Sunday sauce, whether you’re having it out or making it at home.
Remember those chubby bottles of red wine from the ’80s and ’90s, bulbous bottoms wrapped in straw packaging that were ubiquitous at all red-sauce restaurants? (They’re called fiascos, if you can believe it…) We’re nostalgic for them too, but like all ‘house wines’ in our favorite local places, you’re never quite sure what the caliber of the wine inside them was going to be. To that end, we’re offering a selection of some of our favorite bottles from regions in both Italy and the US that you’ve not heard of before—certainly new expressions of even those familiar grape varieties. These wines are a little fancier than your typical ‘house red,’ to be sure, so maybe they’re for the special occasion when you’re taking Mom and Dad out for their anniversary or for your cousin’s graduation. The linking thread throughout the wines is freshness: an over-heavy Italian red, or one treated to too much wood in the form of brand-new oak barrels, can be a bit oppressive, when the basis of red-sauce dishes is the acidity of tomato. The trick is to match tomato acid with a wine of the same baseline acidity—that will highlight the fruit, herbal quality, and roastiness of your favorite dishes and sauces, instead of aggravating them through too much contrast. Start pounding out that cutlet now!
Caspri Toscana Ciliegiolo 2019
An Alsace native and former sommelier, Bertrand Hapsinger of Fattoria di Caspri is known locally as Mr. Senza (Italian for 'without'), referring to his absolutely non-interventionist approach in the vines and cellar. This remarkable estate in the south Tuscan hills includes seven hectares of olives and is surrounded by forests, ensuring protection for the nine hectares of biodynamically farmed vineyards. This bottling of the local variety Ciliegiolo is fermented in open-top, neutral barrels, then aged for around a year in wood before bottling. Mouth-watering fruit, like pure red cherry, a touch of rosemary, and sparkling dusty minerality. It's a truly vibrant wine.
Crealto Grignolino 'Marcaleone' 2019
This wine comes from low-yielding, 55 year-old vines planted in a steep, well-exposed vineyard that enjoys constant breezes from the valley below. Light in hue, this Grignolino is a great example of the charms of this lesser-known Piedmontese native variety: tart cherry, berry, and spice notes, with notable tannin and high acidity.
Buona Notte Columbia Valley 'Andiamo' 2020
A Merlot from exciting young winemaker Graham Markel, sourced from the steeply sloped Hillside Vineyard on the backside of The Dalles, Oregon. Here, deep alluvial soil translate into purple and black fruit and good Gorge dustiness in this wine. Aged in neutral barrels for around seven months, there's great acidity here, despite whatever sad preconceptions you have about this grape variety. Pair with cured meats, croquettes, snacks.
Valfaccenda 'Valmaggiore' Roero 2017
The family estate of Luca Faccenda, historically known as Valle Faccenda, can be traced back to 1749. Luca, an enologist and his partner Carolina, an engineer, started making natural wines on the steep, sandy hills of the Roero subregion in 2010 as Valfaccenda, breathing a new vision into the old family domaine. This cuvée 'Valmaggiore' is a single-vineyard bottling, with the heart of this plot of Nebbiolo dating to 1947. Full-bodied, supple, with a lightly silty tannic structure, this is a richer Nebbiolo and will please those who drink Barolo.