Two vastly different Italian red wines highlight our selections this week. The first should appeal to fans of sweet “red blends” from California. While this isn’t my preferred style of wine, the Italians know how to manage sweetness in their reds. The second is a traditional-style sangiovese from Tuscany. The first is plush velvet, the second taut and clear as a high C struck on a tuning fork. We also have a classic rioja from Spain singing the glory of the Old World, a riveting white from the Greek islands sending us on a thrill ride down a mountain into the sea, and a soft, flowery caress of a sauvignon gris from Chile.


Mezzacorona Di Notte Red Blend 2018


Dolomites, Italy, $10

“Di notte” means “of the night,” which leads to a dark, brooding label and also a dark inky wine. The blend is based on teroldego and marzemino, two grapes native to the Dolomite Mountains region in northeastern Italy, plus merlot. What’s really notable about this wine is its pronounced sweetness, though you would not expect that from the label or the wine’s marketing. I suspect the winemakers researched the “red blend” category to see why Americans were downing so much syrupy treacle and said, “We can do better!” And they have — despite its sweetness, this wine maintains balance much better than most in the cheap “red blend” category. Consider this with dessert even — brownies or chocolate cake might be a good match. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.

Imported by Prestige Wine Imports, distributed by Breakthru: Available in the District at A-1 Wines & Liquors, Bloomingdale Wine & Spirits, Michigan Liquors, Rodman’s, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shoppe, Thomas & Sons Mini Grocery. Widely available in Maryland. Available in Virginia at Endo Sushi in Arlington; Publix (Fredericksburg, Stafford); Rio Hill Wine & Beer in Charlottesville; Total Wine & More (Alexandria, McLean); Yelping Dog Wine in Staunton.


Orealios Gaea R Robola of Cephalonia 2020


Cephalonia, Greece, $15

This bracing white wine is delicious on its own, but even more so with a dash of imagination. It is produced by a cooperative of 300 grape growing families in the Omala Valley on Cephalonia, an island in the Ionian Sea west of the Greek mainland. The steep rocky slopes of Mount Ainos lead down to the sea, creating a terroir that combines rock, sea and sky. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Imported and distributed by Salveto: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Iron Gate, MacArthur Beverages, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. Available in Maryland at Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese, Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington; Can Can, Greek on Cary, Ellwood Thompson’s, J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese, Libbie Market, Yellow Umbrella Provisions in Richmond; Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church; Food of All Nations, Fleurie, Tavola, the Wool Factory in Charlottesville; Puck’s Market in Henrico; Sonoma Cellar, Unwined (Belleview, King Street) in Alexandria; Washington Street Purveyors in Lexington; Wine House in Fairfax; the Wine Outlet (Great Falls, McLean, Vienna).

Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris 1912 Vines 2929


Colchagua Valley, Chile, $18

Sauvignon gris is a color mutation of sauvignon blanc that produces a less aggressively grassy, more floral wine than its better-known relative. There’s apparently some planted in France, where it’s not allowed in the Loire Valley, prime sauvignon blanc territory. I’ve tasted sauvignon gris from three wineries — Chile’s Casa Silva and Cousiño-Macul and Virginia’s Boxwood Estate. I love the aromas of lilac and jasmine and the soft texture caressing my palate with flavors of passion fruit and guava. Certified sustainable. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Imported by Vine Connections, distributed by Breakthru: Available in the District at Basebowl Ramen, Grand Cata (La Cosecha, Shaw), Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Amendment 21, Bo Brooks Lighthouse Liquors, Little Havana, Red Brick Station in Baltimore; Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis; Fallston Liquors in Fallston; Friendship Wine & Liquor in Abingdon; the Grill at Harryman House in Reisterstown; Patuxent Wine & Spirits in Lusby; Shawan Liquors in Cockeysville; State Line Liquors in Elkton.


Bodegas Olarra Cerro Añon Reserva 2017


Rioja, Spain, $19

Rioja reservas are required to be aged at least one year in barrel and cannot be released to the market until at least three years from the vintage, so they tend to show structure and a degree of maturity. The Cerro Añon Reserva is tempranillo spiced with some mazuelo and graciano, traditional Rioja grapes. It is aged 20 months in barrels, most of which are American oak, then an additional 18 months in bottle. The result is a classical-style rioja with deep fruit and strong oak influence. On first sip, it seems to be assessing your worthiness to drink it, but with a few hours of air — even the next day — it unfurls flavors of orange and tangerine over blackberries and plums. Carve the jamón and cue up Andrés Segovia on Spotify — this is classical Spain in a bottle. ABV: 14 percent.

Imported by Tri-Vin, distributed by DMV: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Classy Corks Wine & Spirits, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, S&S Liquors, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, in Gaithersburg; Dunkirk Wine & Spirits in Dunkirk; Eastport Liquors in Annapolis; Frederick Wine House, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville; McHenry Beverage Shoppe in McHenry; Parkway Deli & Restaurant, Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton; Town Center Market in Riverdale Park; Wemyss Liquors in St. Leonard.


Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano 2018


Tuscany, Italy, $20

Montepulciano’s wines have typically been overshadowed in the Tuscan hierarchy by brunello di montalcino and chianti classico, which means they can be relative values. Avignonesi is an old estate whose current ownership has spent the past decade modernizing the winemaking, emphasizing organic farming and bottling several single-vineyard Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Those are, of course, few and expensive. But Avignonesi has not neglected the lower end of the price scale. Its Rosso di Montepulciano, made from younger vines and aged less than Vino Nobile, is bright in acidity and light in body, but intense in flavor of tart dried cherries and cocoa. The similarly priced Da-Di sangiovese with a Toscana designation is also quite good, in a juicy international style. Certified organic grapes. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Imported by Tabaccaia USA, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor, Calvert Woodley, Rodman’s, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Market, Bradley Food & Beverage, Cork 57 Beer and Wine, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda; Bin 201 Wine Seller in Annapolis; Corner Market, Woodmoor Supermarket in Silver Spring; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, in Gaithersburg; Frederick Wine House in Frederick; Hop N Grape in North Bethesda; King Farm Beer & Wine in Rockville; Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese, the Italian Store (Lyons Village, Westover) in Arlington; Cheesetique (Alexandria, Shirlington); Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church.

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

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