Italian wines are among the best when it comes to quality at a fair price in the retail market and on restaurant wine lists.
The best bargain I’ve come across in recent memory, unbelievable bang for the buck, came during a recent dinner with friends at Pietro’s Restaurant in Lodi, an area favorite for outstanding Italian food and wine.
Pietro’s terrific wine list included this gem: the Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva DOC 2009, for a mere $25.
Italy’s version of Wine Spectator Magazine gave this wine 95 points and its highest award, Tre Bicchieri (three out of three glasses). Amazingly, this medium-bodied red wine retails for $10.
Cantele is the producer, Salice Salentino is the area where the grapes are grown. The region is Puglia, down by the heel of Italy’s boot. The grapes are Negroamaro, “bitter black,” which describes the finish this varietal typically has. But Cantele curbs the bitterness on the finish, making it accessible and less rustic, aging 12 months in smaller oak barrels.
There’s tons of fruit, ripe plums, dark cherries, some herbal and earthy notes, with a speck of tar. It has definition and focus. After 20-30 minutes, it opened up, revealing even more fruit and refinement. It went perfectly with our charcuterie and cheese plate, my wife’s Bolagnese, my buddy’s steak and my veal Milanese.
Great find at a great place, creating a great memory.