This exceptional Italian red wine can be yours for under $20 a bottle
As it's Valentine's Day, we have an Australian grenache that successfully combines love-themed branding with good-quality wine. An exotic Italian white would also be a good choice for a romantic dinner, or you could revisit an Italian vacation with a trattoria-style red. We also have two outstanding grüner veltliners from Austria to complete the lineup.
Ratings: Three stars: exceptional; two stars: excellent; one star: very good.
Da Capo Grignolino d'Asti Renard 2017
Three stars, Piedmont, Italy, $19; great value
Grignolino is the type of cheap wine you find in a roadside trattoria during your Italian vacation that makes you wonder, "Why can't we get this at home?" Grignolino may not be considered a serious wine, but the folks at Da Capo take it seriously and bring us this delightful bottling that just might transport you back to that Italian sojourn, at least in memory. Bright red fruit flavors and a laser beam of stony minerality give this wine energy and clarity of flavor. Like a tuning fork on a perfect high C. Unfortunately, by the time the wine reaches our retail shelves, it's not an inexpensive quaff any more. And proposed tariffs would make it more dear. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Weingut Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2018
Three stars, Kamptal, Austria, $35
Willi Bründlmayer's grüner veltliners seem to gush from a pure mountain spring, with clean, energizing flavors that are ever so slightly floral. Certified sustainable. Alcohol by volume: 12.5 percent.
Le Marie Blanc de Lissart 2017
Three stars, Italy, $22
This is a wild -- and wildly delicious -- dry white wine from northwestern Piemonte in Italy. The grape is called malvasia moscato, and it combines the exotic, floral characteristics of both the malvasia and muscat grapes into a raucous dance party of flavors. My notes show pine needles, tropical mango, orange blossom, white tea and jasmine, great concentration, freshness and length. ABV: 13 percent.
Zonte's Footstep Love Symbol Grenache 2017
Two and a half stars, McLaren Vale, Australia, $20
Australia's grenache is seen most often in the Rhone-style blend known as GSM, for grenache, syrah and mourvedre. Here it takes a solo turn. The label evokes the free love hippie lifestyle of the 1960s, with a drawing of a van decked out in peace symbols, hearts and flowers. If that doesn't set a mood for you, the wine should, with its flavors of tart cherries, tea and spice. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner 2018
Two and a half stars, Kamptal, $16; great value
Grüner veltliner tends to feature flavors and aromas of white flowers and talc, with a minerally backbone underneath. Fred Loimer's grüners skew a bit to the earthy mineral side. Certified organic. ABV: 11.5 percent.