Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera, despite their discreet natures, are sometimes called the “Italian Mob.” They earned this moniker because of their dominance in the Italian wine industry. Their hierarchy status rarely gets recognition on labels, and the wines take a back seat to the international familiarity of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. But these wines shouldn’t be ignored.
Sangiovese has been associated with the inexpensive raffia-covered bottles sitting on restaurant tables around the world. But at its best, it is the grape behind Chianti from the Tuscany region.
These serious wines are brilliantly concentrated with earthy rich plum and black cherry, and because of their gripping tannins, they have the ability to age to perfection.
Nebbiolo, the famous grape behind the Barolo wine, is grown in Italy’s northwest region of Piedmont.
When compared to other grapes in this lineup, it is by far the most renowned for making aggressive, highly tannic red wines with alluring aromas and flavors — floral, roasted meats and spice.
Last but not least is the Barbera, which has played second fiddle to the Nebbiolo. Barbera grows throughout Italy, but it is in the vineyards of Piedmont that for centuries the most concentrated and complex examples of this grape have been grown. Its style can be fresh and fruity with cherry flavors or a full-bodied intense wine.
- 2009 Cecchi Chianti Classico, Italy (about $15 retail)
- 2009 Da Vinci Chianti, Italy (about $21 retail)
- 2009 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’ Asti, Italy (about $15 retail)
- 2009 Santa Margherita Chianti, Italy (about $30 retail)
- 2009 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico, Italy (about $30 retail)