The Banfi Col di Sasso is another in the produer’s long line of quality $10 wines
Banfi’s $10 wines, even in these uncertain times, are a hallmark of consistency and quality. We’ve waxed poetic about the Hall of Fame Centine wines, and the Col di Sasso is of the same type.
The Banfi Col di Sasso 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is an Italian red blend made in the Super Tuscan style; that is, it uses sangiovese combined with international grapes liker cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The 2017 has just sangiovese and cabernet, and though the proportion isn’t listed, it’s probably more of the former than the latter.
That’s because Banfi’s red wines are typically softer than the normal $10 Italian – less tart and with rounder tannins. This isn’t a bad thing, but a house style that the company has refined over the years and that it puts to good advantage.
Look for a bit of spice, full black cherry fruit, and a clean finish. Again, this is not Chianti, with its trademark bright acidity, or a high-end Super Tuscan, plush and California-like. Rather, it’s the kind of wine for a midwinter dinner – spaghetti and meatballs, perhaps?
What better use is for a quality $10 wine these days?
The Principessa Gavia is a white Italian wine that’s just the thing for Thanksgiving
Big Wine doesn’t always fare well on the blog, and neither does Italy’s cortese grape. The latter shows up in lots and lots of equally lackluster white wine from the Gavi region, which is why a Gavi has been the wine of the week just three times in 12 years. And the former makes lots and lots of lackluster wine to sell on supermarket shelves
First and foremost, it’s Italian in style, and not wine made to please American wine drinkers. In this, it shows off the cortese grape without dumbing it down. That means stone fruit, floral aromas, and an almost fruity yet clean finish. That combination is not easy to pull off. Perhaps most impressive, it has an almost hidden acidity – you notice it, but then it’s gone, and doesn’t cover up the rest of the wine.
Highly recommended, and just the thing for Thanksgiving.
The 2017 Centine Toscana is even a little more Italian, so less ripe fruit than the previous vintage and more earthiness. As always, it’s terroir driven, with slightly tart cherry fruit, a pleasant, chalky finish, and appropriately soft tannins. In other words, it tastes like sangiovese from the Tuscan region of Italy, and not a winemaking-driven product from a marketing company focus group trying to figure out how to make a sort of sweet and very smooth Italian wine.
Pair this with summer barbecue – sausages, of course, but also smoked chicken and burgers. And maybe even pizza on the grill for the adventurous. And if the weather allows it, this is a delicious wine with any red sauce.
Banfi’s Centine Bianco is the Hall of Fame quality white wine that complements the producer’s top-notch cheap reds
Banfi’s red Italian sangiovese blend has been a member of the $10 Hall of Fame for a couple of years, but I didn’t know there was a similar white, the Centine Bianco. It’s a good thing for those of us who love quality cheap wine that I found it.
The Centine Bianco ($10, sample, 13%) is a blend of pinot grigio, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc; that the last two are hardly Italian doesn’t hurt the wine at all. This speaks to Banfi’s skill at creating inexpensive wine, that it can make them taste Italian even when the grapes aren’t especially so. Would that more big producers made the effort.
The Centine Bianco is crisp and refreshing, but without the off-putting acidity of badly-made Italian cheap wine. In this, it has tropical fruit flavors instead of the sour lemon candy that passes for fruit in mass-produced pinot grigio.
Highly recommended, and almost certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 12 months.
? Paso a Paso Verdejo 2011 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Still decent $8 white wine from Spain with sour lemon fruit, but not as nicely done as the 2010. It’s not as fresh, and is a little thinner, especially in the middle.
? Ferrari Brut NV ($25, sample, 12.5%): Italian sparkler made with Methode Champenoise ? tight bubbles, quality apple and lemon fruit, and a clean finish. But it inhabits that middle ground between cava and cremant and Champagne, so not the value of the former and not the quality of the latter.
? Livio Felluga Friulano 2011 ($30, sample, 13.5%): Very nicely done Italian white made with the little-known friulano grape, with subtle flavors of lime and green apple and a nutty finish. Still young, but price is problematic.
? Grahm sells Pacific Rim: Randall Grahm has sold one of the last parts of his $10 wine empire, the Pacific Rim white wine brand, to the family that owns Banfi Vintners, a leading U.S. wine importer, and Italy’s Castello Banfi winery. No sale price was disclosed. Grahm, the impresario of California’s Bonny Doon, broke up his $10 wine operation in 2006, selling the Big House and Cardinal Zin labels and splitting Pacific Rim off from Bonny Doon. Pacific Rim, based in Washington state, is best known for riesling, but also does gewurtztraminer and chenin blanc.
? Not enough qualified sommeliers? That’s the opinion of top sommelier Jordan Mackay, who says demand for the wine experts in restaurants has outgrown supply. “Inexperienced sommeliers are winding up in jobs that they’re simply not ready for,” he wrote on Zester Daily Web site. This has hurt restaurant wine sales and reputations, he says, and isn’t so good for the rest of us: “And, diners, for a while, be warned that you may face young somms intent on selling you the wine they like (instead of the one you’re asking for).”