Category:Italian wine

2024 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Stemmari Grillo 2022

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2022

Sicily’s Stemmari Grillo 2022 is the blog’s seventh annual Turner Cheap Wine of the Year

Usually, one of the wines on the shortlist for the blog’s Turner Cheap Wine of the Year award is just enough better than the others so that I don’t have much trouble choosing the winner.

Not so this year. All six of the wines were award worthy, and each would have been a fine choice. So how did I settle on the Stemmari Grillo ($8, purchased, 13%)?

Call it a shout out to the late Mack Turner, who the award is named after. He and I  spent more than a few Sunday afternoons drinking this wine, and we were rarely disappointed. And, without fail, he wold always ask,”Where did you get it?” and then we would wax poetic about Jimmy’s, the Dallas Italian grocer that sells this.

What to know about the wine? Nutty. Spicy. Green apple and stone fruit. Fresh. Clean. Drink chilled, on its own or with almost anything except big red meat.

The award’s shortlist is here. Selection criteria are here; I considered wines that cost as much as $15 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.

More Turner Cheap Wine of the Year:
2023 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
2022 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: Scaia Rosato 2020
2021 Turner Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

Wine of the week: Stemmari Grillo 2022

Stemmari grillo bottle
Stemmari Grillo 2022/$8-$15

This Italian white is a great cheap wine from a great cheap wine producer

Those of you paying attention will remember this Italian white made the shortlist for the 2024 Turner award for cheap wine of the year, which will be announced next week.

Which is why I’m using it as this wine of the week. It’s that good.

Sicilian wines have long been a staple of the blog, even after premiumization took terrific $8 and $10 wines and boosted their prices to $12 and $15 without increasing quality (and, yes, I’m looking at you).

But Stemmari, along with a couple of other producers, continued to fight the good fight. The Grillo ($8, purchased, 13%) shows its commitment to the quality wines that most of us can afford to drink. Even Wine-searcher, despite its focus on the most expensive wines in the world, says nice things about grillo like this: “It has become a viable contender for the quintessential Italian table white: light, easy-drinking and often associated with very good value.”

In this, the Stemmari is classic: Nutty. Spicy. Green apple and stone fruit. Fresh. Clean. Which is why, when I go to Jimmy’s in Dallas (which has a Stemmari display), I buy a couple or three bottles. You should, too, when you get a chance.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

Wine of the week: Mionetto Prosecco NV

Mionetto Prosecco bottle
Mionetto Prosecco NV/$8-$15

This Italian sparkler shows why Prosecco has become so popular in the U.S.

One of the most fascinating things that has happened in wine over the blog’s history has been the rehabilitation of Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. Some 20 years ago, it wasn’t that important in the U.S. — or especially well made, either.

Then, one rather large producer in northern California changed all that. It brought La Marca to the U.S., and — as if by magic — the quality of most Proseccos improved and they started offering value around $10. In fact, by most measures, Prosecco is the best selling style of sparkling wine in the country.

The Mionetto ($8, purchased, 11%) illustrates this change perfectly. Is it taut and sharp? Nope. Is it layered and complicated? Nope. Those are Champagne qualities, and Prosecco never aspired to that. Rather, it wanted to be an everyday sparkler, which means soft, sweetish, and easy to drink — Sunday brunch and Mimosas, anyone?

The Mionetto is softer than I prefer, but it has decent enough bubbles for a Prosecco, since the bubbles aren’t supposed to be too bubbly. But it’s not too sweet, there’s some decent lemony fruit, and even a touch of yeast. In all, there is much more going on than one would expect, and especially for the price.

Drink this for a holiday dinner, to toast the New Year. or just because you want something different to drink with Asian takeout.

Imported by FXM USA

Christmas wine 2023

christmas wine 2020
Yes, this is the last time you’ll have to see this picture in the Christmas wine post.

Four recommendations for Christmas wine 2023

For the final time, the blog’s Christmas wine suggestions, whether for a last minute gift, something to drink when you just want a glass over the next couple of weeks, or for a holiday dinner. Keep our wine gift giving tips in mind — and don’t overlook the blog’s 2023 holiday gift guide.

These wines will get you started:

Riondo Prosecco NV ($10, purchased, 11%): Italian bubbly is simple but surprisingly enjoyable — much better than I thought it would be. Lots and lots of bubbles, some vaguely tropical fruit, and not especially sweet. Imported by Terlato Wines International

Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! 2021 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian white is a long-time blog favorite, and especially when it cost $8. It tasted has it always has — tart lemon fruit, one-note, and simple, but always fun. Imported by Heritage Collection 

Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône Reserve 2020 ($12, purchased, 14%): This French red is a fairly typical inexpensive Cotes du Rhone (lots of syrah and heavier in the mouth), but mostly balanced with a bit of spice and the requisite amount of black fruit. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Stemmari Rosato 2021 ($8, purchased, 12%): Italian pink from Sicily made with with the nero d’avola grape. Much going on here for $8; a bit savory, with a bit of berry fruit, and almost stony. Highly recommended. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2022
Christmas wine 2021
Christmas wine 2020
Wine of the week: The Curator Red 2021
Expensive wine 169: Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Photo: “guardian of wine” by marcostetter is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Wine of the week: Monte Antico Toscana 2019

Monte Antico Toscana 2019/$9-$16

This Italian red blend offers quality and value for just $10

This Italian red wine used to show up around Dallas for as little as $5 a bottle, and though it’s not that cheap anymore, it’s still $10 in much of the country.

In other words, just kind of quality cheap wine we have celebrated for almost 17 years on the blog,

This vintage of the Monte Antico Toscana ($10, purchased, 13%) remains an example of the classic, everyday bottle of Italian red wine. About the only thing missing from this sangiovese blend (for those of us of a certain age, of course) is the wicker basket.

Look for sour cherry fruit, but it’s also a bright, almost fresh wine, despite its age, and the tannins are pushed way, way back. This vintage, which is the current one, seems to have a bit more depth than the last one I tasted, which was likely the 2016. There was also a 2018, though I didn’t see it in Dallas.

Highly recommended, and just the thing for takeout pizza when the holiday crush gets overwhelming.

Imported by Empson USA


Thanksgiving wine 2023

Cartoon of turkey with wine glassFour Thanksgiving wine 2023 suggestions

The WC’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I get to cook and share wine and food with the people I care about. How can that not be terrific?

So enjoy the holiday, and especially these Thanksgiving wine 2023 suggestions. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2021 ($11, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is about as consistent as this kind of wine gets (though it’s more Kirkland in style this vintage). But its still well made, with a hint of lemon peel and very clean and dry. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Althea Prosecco NV ($15, purchased, 11%): $15 Prosecco for people who like Prosecco — so a touch sweet, terrific fizzy bubbles, and a bit of lemon fruit. Very professional. Imported by La Cigale Wines

Domaine Laroque Pinot Noir 2021 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): Simple, almost rustic French pinot noir that mostly tastes like pinot noir. Some dark red fruit, a bit more tannin than it should have, a surprisingly pinot noir aroma, and, overall, probably greater than the sum of its parts. Imported by Aquitane Wine USA

Zestos Old Vine Rosado 2022 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): All of the Zestos Spanish wines are worth buying, and in large quantities. This vintage of the rose is more in the Provencal style, with barely ripe berry fruit and some minerality. Imported by Ole & Obrigado

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2022
Thanksgiving wine 2021
Thanksgiving wine 2020
Wine of the week: Santa Julia Malbec Organica 2022
Expensive wine 167: Ameztoi Hondarrabi Zuri 2021

Wine of the week: Mezzacorona Delisa Rosato 2021

Mezzacorona Delisa Rosato bottle
Mezzacorona Delisa Rosato 2021/$9-$15

No, I don’t know why this Italian rose is so delicious — but it is

Big Wine comes in for a lot of grief on the blog, but I am always ready to give it credit when credit is due. And, boy, does Big Wine get credit for this one.

Mezzacorona is one of Italy’s biggest producers, and it makes lots and lots of cheap wine — including too much bland pinot grigio. So when I saw that this rose was made with pinot grigio, I bought it mostly for the novelty.

And I am glad I did. The Mezzacorona Delisa Rosato 2021 ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is just the kind of wine to help us celebrate the blog’s 16th annual Birthday Week. It’s well-made, it’s interesting, and it doesn’t taste like it was designed by a committee.

In other words, a stunning wine, somehow tasting like classic Italian rose (red fruit, savory, and herbal) without any of the baggage that goes with Big Wine.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the Hall of Fame next year. Chill this and drink it on its own, with holiday guests, or at Thanksgiving.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports