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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2007 Cantine Colosi Nero D'Avola**
07ColosiNeroDAvola.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sicily, Italy $12 The Wine House 8/11/10
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a big nose of ripe black fruit, herbs, cherry liqueur and sweet spice. The palate is medium-bodied and round with dusty tannins, medium acidity and a medium-length finish. Quite robust for an Italian wine with almost overripe flavors that mirror the nose along with notes of graham cracker and mocha on the finish. Not a very complex wine, but it still kept me going back to the glass for more. Certainly had more depth of flavor than their IGT version and showed more finesse with food. I don't have a lot of experience with this varietal so I can't say if it shows typicity or not, but the QPR is very good with a lovely label to boot. Have to admit I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. (14% abv)

2006 Cantine Colosi Rosso IGT*
colosi.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sicily, Italy $9 The Wine House 5/31/09
It's hard for me to admit, but I was truly disappointed with this vintage. I know it only costs $9, but for years this has been a go to Italian wine for me and the 06 just didn't do the trick. Sure it's more than drinkable, but it was too one-dimensional for me. It has a great ruby-purple color and ripe attack (for an Italian wine at 12.5%) of bright red cherry and plum, but after that the finish was too short with hints of cooked fruit and coffee that I wasn't a fan of. The tannins and acids were well-integrated, there just wasn't any depth to the palate. Tastes somewhat constructed, like they were pushing it to be more fruity and less earthy. An element missing from past vintages that gave this wine real character for the price. Certainly a fine, everyday pizza night wine, I was, based on past experience, expecting more.

2006 Banfi Col di Sasso*
banficoldisasso.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Tuscany, Italy $10 BevMo 12/28/08
A blend of 30% Sangiovese and 70% Cabernet Sauvignon.
One of the most renowned producers in Italy, this blend is an everyday take on a Super Tuscan. Though it's supposedly mostly Cab, it sure didn't taste like it with a medium-body filled with bitter cherry and strawberry flavors that were fairly acidic. It had hints of smoke and earth, but even after being open for several days it just didn't smooth out like I hoped it would. It was better with food, but still very one-note. I know it's cheap, but there are still better values in this range from Italy.

2006 Paolo Scavino Rosso Vino di Tavola**
scavinorosso.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sicily, Italy $16 Wine Discount Center 8/10/08
A blend of 40% Nebbiolo, 30% Barbera, 20% Dolcetto and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Scavino is clearly trying to compete on the int'l market with this everyday blend. Having tasted his higher end bottlings of Barolo and Barbera I couldn't resist. The wine is a ruby/purple color with medium body and a nose of red and black berries, sweet spice and smoke. The palate had a good balance betweein tannin and acidity, with flavors of blackberry, blueberry and cherry with a nice, savory finish with a touch of oak. A well-constructed, everyday wine that went well with our Italian dinner.

2005 Cantine Colosi Rosso IGT**
colosi.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sicily, Italy $8 Red Carpet 6/2/08
This wine is one of my regular Italian cheapies. One I've been drinking since the 2000 vintage. Upon first sip I was somewhat disappointed in the tight red berry, bitter, earthy flavors and short finish. But give this some air (about 30-40 minutes) and the flavors turned into bright, ripe blueberry notes mixed with earth and sweet spice and a soft finish that made me want more. It's certainly not a complex or elegant wine, but once opened up, it had a great rustic ripeness that was quite appealing. Consistently good QPR year after year.

2005 Donnafugata Nero d'Avola Sedara*
sedara.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sicily, Italy $12 Vendome Liquor 7/22/08
A medium, ruby-colored red with a moderate nose of red fruit, earth and spice that was nice upon opening but almost completely disappeared as the night went on. The palate was all nice berry, brambly fruit with hints of vanilla, coffee and spice that also started round and then became sour and bitter. Usually with Italian wines, these characteristics are reversed. Thought I was going to be pleasantly surprised and grew more disappointed as the night progressed. Was still drinkable, just unremarkable. If you're looking for great Italian QPR check out the Colosi review above.

2005 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa***
zenatovalpol.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Veneto, Italy $25 Vendome 7/12/08
Deep ruby-red in color with a complex nose of dried fruit, licorice, blackberry jam and currant along with hints of smoke, chocolate, coffee and tar that linger on the palate and are sustained by a round and structured body. This wine was an instant pleaser and continued to show different flavors as the night went on with that hint of sweetness from the dried Amarone grapes giving softness to the tannins. This wine is ready to go and is one I'm definitely going to buy more of. Went wonderfully with both the Osso Bucco and Wild Boar and Fig ragu we ate at dinner. It's an amazingly complex wine for the price and shows a riper/fuller side to Italian wine that might go down easier for those used to bold New World wines.

2004 Menhir Negroamaro**

Region Price Tasted Drank
Puglia, Italy $14 @ Wine House 10/1/07
This wine has a deep dark purple color. The aroma of raspberry jam also includes smoky overtones. The palate, exhibits jammy raspberry and red fruit flavors, bright acidity and full tannins. The finish shows some spice and is long and pleasant for a wine of this price point.

2003 Domenico Clerico Arte Langhe**
ArteLange.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Piedmonte, Italy $30 Woodland Hills Wine Co. 3/2/09
A blend of Nebbiolo and Barbara.
A medium, ruby-garnet colored wine with a subtle nose of red fruit, black cherry and earth with notes of spice and mocha. The medium-bodied palate was still tight and tannic, taking over a day to bring out the flavors of cherry, strawberry and plum with hints of earth, smoke, cedar and sweet spice on the fairly lengthy and dusty finish. For a 14.5% wine this just wasn't as smooth and integrated as I expected at this age. Was slightly better with food, but I wanted more oomph and class at this price point.

2003 Le Fabriche Rosso**
fabriche.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Puglia, Italy $15 K&L Wines 6/16/08
A blend of Negromaro, Primitivo and Malvasia Nero.
This wine is medium-bodied with a bright ruby color. The nose was tight at first with notes of earth, dried fruit and cherry. On the palate it was initially somewhat bitter and tannic, but smoothed out over the course of the evening. Flavors were red brambly fruity with some earth and a dusty, rustic finish. Enjoyable, yet nothing special. Glad I got it at a discount.

2003 Mastroberardino Radici Aglianico**
taurasi_radici.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Taurasi, Campania $35 @ Wine House 3/24/08
A full, ruby red wine with a bouquet reminiscent of violets, cherry and berries with more than a hint of pepper that carry over to the palate along with hints of earth and cinnamon. Not as integrated as one would expect for a wine of this age, the alcohol and acid slightly overwhelming the fruit flavors. The relatively short finish is also disappointing for such a full flavored wine. Needs another year or two to settle down or at least some time in a decanter before drinking.

2003 Tormaresca Castel del Monte Bocca di Lupo Aglianico**
buccadilupo.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Castel del Monte, Apulia $29 @ Wine House 3/24/08
A full-bodied, almost opaque ruby wine with a nose full of red fruits, figs, plum, herbs and toast, which initially transferred on the palate to something akin to cherry cough syrup. Once the wine got a few breaths of fresh air, it settled down and integrated a bit, but is still way too rustic and tannic to be enjoyed anytime soon. I know it's alread 5 years old, but another year in the bottle will do it a world of good.


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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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