Ya gotta love blind tastings - takes all the bias out of opinions. Case in point - two Italian wines, one costs 10 bucks, the other $25. Quite the difference, cheapo vs. respectable, no contest? Think again. The Pelissero, Piani, Barbera d'Alba, 2006 is from the northern Piedmont region near the French border and aspires to be respectable. Medium depth maroon colour with a slight already bricky edge. Nose of mixed cassis and truffles. Medium bodied, elegant style, the flavours intensify as you swirl it around your mouth. The fruit is ripe cherry and redcurrants. Sharp and focused, made for food such as veal and pork. It's OK, good even, but grossly overpriced at $25.
Now for the surprise - the Farnese, Casale Vecchio, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2008 is from the quite proletariat appelation of Abruzzi to the right of Rome. I have extolled the virtues of these wines for a while now - they are simply unbeatable for value if you like old world wines. The colour of this wine is worth the price of admission alone. Opaque purple - it blackens your tongue and teeth. On the nose there is spice and beef bouillon. Full bodied, take no prisoners palate, this is dense, super-dry and puckering with dusty tannins. Austere and mineral-like (think about licking a slab of granite). Black cherry fruit lingers but in the background. It really needs food - a honking ribsteak would fit the bill. Unbelievable for the money, $10, but stay away if you're a new world wine guy.To support the poor Chileans, rocked by a honker of an earthquake recently, I had to open one of their wines. Did you see the pictures of the damage to the cellars in affected regions? Sstacks, nay, mountains of previously full but now broken bottles that were stored in warehouses. Ugh. At least the vines themselves weren't harmed. The Vina La Rosa, La Capitana, Cachapoal, Shiraz 2008 is truly a shiraz. Dark purple with a rich cassis nose that leaps out of the glass. Fruit bomb deluxe with lush, ripe black plums. Problem is there's no underlying structure or complexity...but then again, it's so easy drinking you just want to keep filling your glass. This is made for quaffing. $17, good wine if you like the style.