Suggestions for moderately priced regional wine to accompany dinners in Venice, Florence and Tuscany?
In searching past Chowhound postings, I see many references to wine but I have not come across postings that discuss moderately priced wine choices. If you know of such a posting, please provide a link. I am well aware that asking for wine recommendations may be considered by some to be akin to asking, "'what food do you like?" I fully understand that prices for a particular grape variety can fluctuate widely from year to year. Nevertheless, I am hoping to get a few recommendations to help us with wine lists at Chowhounder recommended restaurants. If it helps, in making a recommendation, I generally enjoy merlot and syrah or sauvignon blanc. I am partial to reds but I am open to any recommendations that would be well paired with seafood, fish or pasta in the range of 25 Euros/bottle or less.
As you have suspected, it is rather a broad question, but I'll give you two very valuable tips:
1. Forget about grapes when thinking about Italian wines, instead look out for & orient yourself with regions, better yet, appellations.
2. Eat & drink regional and you will not go wrong 99% of the time.
Quite often the house wines are pretty good and ask for recommendations. Re Tuscany - If you are looking for reasonably priced wines rather than Brunello - look for Rosso di Montalcino and Rossi di Montepulciano, Morello di Scansano can also be good and not too expensive. Good names to look out for Fontodi, Brolio, Volpaia and of course the ubiquitous Frescobaldi and Antinori - alll have more expensive and less expensive wines.
its good to know what the regional appellations are so you can recognize them on the menu. But , unless there are special wines I want to sample,I always prefer to ask for a recommendation from the restaurant. since they know their lists and the good regional wines that may not be obvious choices. It also is possible then to samplewines that you will not see at home. Of course you should give your price range and the type of wine you want. But having a discussion with a recommendation is the most satisfactory way.
The good news is you should find that the wine list mark-ups in restaurants in Italy are much, much less than what you see in the U.S. In Italy, wines in restaurants seem to be priced perhaps 25%-50% above their wine shop or supermarket retail price, whereas in the U.S. wines in restaurants can easily sell for double or triple their retail price.
I would also suggest taking a look at Fred Plotkin's book ("Italy for the Gourmet Traveler"). In addition to beginning each chapter with a discussion of the various regional foods in Italy, he also talks about the regional wines.
It would also not hurt to purchase and sample a few Italian wines where you live to try them and see what appeals to you. For reds wines, try a chianti from Tuscany, a barbera from the Piemonte, a merlot from the Veneto, etc. For whites, try a Soave or a Pino Grigio or a Verdeccio.
So...I second VR and will add, at the risk of being a bit dramatic, forget the lists, forget what you like/normally drink, and forget having to prepare at all other than out of curiosity.
Any osteria/trattoria/ristorante with a half decent cantina will be able to suggest either regional wines (which will pair well with local fare), or, if you prefer, something fuori zona, outside the area. (Steer them away from suggesting Pinot Grigio and Chianti only because they know you've heard of those.) Use the occasion to be adventurous as you feel like -- and don't worry, this never implies excessive cost.
They'll suggest what might suit the moment -- and the food.
When I make it to Vini da Gigio, fpr example, I let Paolo pick the wine and don't even specify red or white, let alone the region, producer or variety. I'll never forget the lovely Sardegnian Cannonau "Mariposa" from Panevino; did its level best to imitate a Pino Nero, and I never would have picked it from any list myself.
The point is they know their wines: tell them you are curious and are looking for surprises that you'd never find back home; then see what they bring.
Also, in Venice there are loads of bàcari, cafes and bars -- Al Mercà, Sbarlefo, Do Mori, Do Spade, già Schiavi just to name a few -- where you can begin to familiarize yourself which lots of regionals (Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia GIulia) and others and test drive ad infinitum.
(OK, after all that, do try a Kerner if you run across one -- a variety cultivated in Alto Adige before it turns into Austria, -- and a Lugana at aperitivo time or with fish -- it's a Veneto/Lombardia DOC that will charm you to death.)
Vini da Gigio
Fondamenta di San Felice, Cannaregio, 3628, Venice, Veneto 30121, IT
Thank you all for your suggestions. Great suggestions as always. I did purchase Fred Plotkin's book. It arrived yesterday and I am trying to read as much of it as possible before my trip (leaving tomorrow) as it is unfortunately too big to pack in the only piece of luggage (a carry on) that I am taking with me. I will most definitely approach both wine and food choices with curiosity and will focus on regional offerings (not too sure about the tripe though...we will see.) I will ask for recommendations, too, where I can communicate effectively enough. I am very excited about the trip. The time I have spent reading postings on Chowhound has given a most welcome added dimension to my insight into Italy than I would otherwise have had. I will post my impressions/reviews upon my return.