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Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2019

Sardinia, Italy, $13

Originally founded by two Piedmontese businessmen, Sella & Mosca is situated in the northwest corner of the island of Sardinia. With over 1,200 acres of vines, it is now the second largest contiguous vineyard in Italy and one of the largest wine estates in Europe. Their wines are produced exclusively from estate-grown grapes. Although international grapes are also grown here, the winery continually works toward the valorization of native grape varieties.

Sella & Mosca La Cala takes its name from a stunning stretch of Sardinian coastline. It is crafted completely from the native vermentino grape, Sardinia’s flagship white variety. The wine appears straw yellow in color with green highlights. Intense aromas of white flowers, broom, pears, and Meyer lemons combine to create a heady bouquet. Pear persists on the palate, accompanied by apricot, tropical fruits, and chamomile tea, entwined with slightly briny notes of petrichor. The notable oily texture characteristic of this grape is most evident on the finish. The wine showcases excellent amplitude, balanced by refreshing acidity. An excellent partner for pasta dishes that feature herbs, vegetables or seafood, pair with pasta primavera or shrimp scampi with linguine. For a truly outstanding experience, try this wine with hard-to-pair pesto.

This versatile vermentino is a pasta-pairing workhorse with a modest $13 price tag.

Cesari Mara Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2017

Veneto, Italy, $20

Gerardo Cesari founded his winery in 1936 with the goal of producing an Amarone that could compete with the greatest red wines in the world. His wine soon became one of the first Italian wines to be exported to all five continents. Often referred to as a “baby Amarone,” Valpolicella Ripasso is produced by putting Valpolicella through a short re-fermentation on the leftover skins and yeast cells of an Amarone. This second fermentation produces a wine with more body and overall complexity than basic Valpolicella.

Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso, named after the family matriarch,is a blend of Veneto grapes led by corvina. The wine has a deep cherry-red robe. The nose effuses floral and herbaceous aromatics with notes of red licorice and the merest suggestion of dark red fruits. After opening on a delectable note of charred wood, a confluence of flavors occurs on the palate, with smoked meats, blackberry brambles, and potpourri converging to create a tantalizing savoriness to this complex wine. Soft tannins add to the velvety smooth body, and bright acidity is present throughout. The wine finishes on a tangy note of red-pepper jelly. This is the perfect accompaniment to a diverse array of pasta dishes, including bean-based pasta e fagioli, or meat-based Bolognese, but its secret power lies in its ability to complement spicy sauces, such as arrabiata and puttanesca.

For $20, this impressive wine will be the star of your pasta night. Nobody will put this “baby” in the corner.

Franz Haas Pinot Nero 2015

Alto Adige, Italy, $44

The Franz Haas Winery has been producing wine in Italy’s northernmost region of Alto Adige since the late 1800s. While the challenging pinot noir grape (known here as pinot nero) only accounts for a small portion of the vines grown in this cold, continental area, the stellar examples of wine being produced from these grapes are quickly gaining wider recognition.

Franz Haas Pinot Nero comes in a Burgundian bottle with an eye-catching label and seldom-seen-in-Italy screwcap. This vibrant wine produced from 100 percent pinot noir grapes is bright ruby red with an intense amber meniscus that glows in the glass. Aromas of violet and rose, raspberries, and a hint of vanilla are evident on the nose. A mouth-watering acidity arouses the palate, paving the way for notes of wild blueberries, fresh red plum juice, and cola. This crisp and lively wine concludes on an allspice finish. There’s a certain linear precision that allows each element to sing while producing a harmonious whole. This wine would pair well with pasta dishes that incorporate cooked tomatoes, creamy sauces, and game meats. Try with pappardelle ai funghi, pasta al ragù di cinghiale, or simply savor with spaghetti and marinara sauce.

At $44, this is a special treat for any wine lover, but it’s an absolute must-try for the pinot noir enthusiast.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appears in the October 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.