The Italians continue to amaze. Much of the rest of their wine business may be in crisis, with too much expensive wine made to taste too much like it doesn't come from Italy, but the quality and quantity of cheap, dependable, $10 Italian wine is as good -- if not better -- than ever.
Take, for example, the Durano ($10, sample). It's made with sangiovese, the grape used in Tuscany to make Chianti. But since the wine comes from the less fancy Romagna region (tucked in between Tuscany and Piedmont), it's less expensive. And, since it wasn't aged in oak, it's less expensive again.
None of which makes much of a difference in the quality of the wine. This is not rich or complicated; rather, it's fresh and clean, with lots of sangiovese's trademark sour cherry fruit. The finish is a bit rough -- not especially tannic, but with something that's kind of earthy and that some people may not appreciate.
Drink this with any Italian-American dinner or even mediocre takeout pizza (which was the Wine Curmudgeon's choice after an especially complicated and trying weekend). And a tip 'o the Curmudgeon's fedora to the Italian Wine Guy for sending this one my way.