By CHRISTOPHER WATERS, QMI Agency
Having never been one for making resolutions, I felt a twinge of regret when I came across an old interview with celebrity chef Mario Batali. The Food Network star and impresario who oversees a constellation of cutting-edge Italian restaurants spoke to the New York Times in 2005 about his annual New Year's resolution.
"To have more fun next year," Batali told a writer for the Times' Style Magazine, before adding that he makes the same pledge every year.
Suddenly, there it was. A clean slate vow I can get behind.
Anyone who has seen the Falstaffian Batali on television knows he lives life with gusto.
Taking a cue from Batali's heritage, my first step towards living up to the "more fun" mantra was gathering an armful of Italian red wines for a quick refresher course on what's available.
Refresher is the right word because one of the things that defines Italian reds in my books is their yin-yang combination of sweet and savoury flavours that get your mouth watering. These are reds with a spark of vitality that really refresh your palate.
There's also a certain restraint to the flavour profile, especially when compared with red wines from other parts of the world, such as Australia, Argentina or Chile. As such, they typically need food to show their best.
The trio of wines suggested this week includes some of the best performers from my impromptu tasting on a price versus quality ratio, but these aren't the last word on the subject. The Italian aisles at your liquor store include some of the most distinctive, best value wines on offer. There's a lot of fun to be had there if you're willing to be adventurous.
WINES OF THE WEEK:
Tentimenti Ruffino 2007 Il Ducale
4 stars out of 5
BC $19.99 (872572) | AB $18.99 | ON $18.95 (027797)
Ruffino's Il Ducale is a winning combination of Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah that projects the best attributes of the grapes involved. Fragrant and spicy Sangiovese works well with the meaty and peppery nature of Syrah and the plush texture of Merlot.
Monte Antico 2007
3.5 stars out of 5
BC $16.99 (587113) | AB $15.99 | ON $14.95 (069377)
A blend of Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this has a high-toned fragrance that calls to mind potpourri. Good concentrated fruit, plenty of complexity and nicely balanced structure makes this a winning match for a wide range of dishes.
Azienda Vinicola Zenato 2008 Rosso
3.5 stars out of 5
ON $11.95 (208579)
Family winery Zenato, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, is best known for its ripasso and Amarone portfolio, but has enjoyed success with more affordable reds as well. This attractive blend reveals an approachable, velvety-smooth texture.