When it comes to reds, sangiovese rules in Tuscany. It's the primary grape behind that region's best known wine, chianti, and it also dominates blends from Montepulciano. In neighboring Montalcino, in order to be sold as Rosso di Montalcino, the wine must be 100 percent sangiovese. Both regions, in the south of Tuscany, are much smaller than the widespread Chianti region. Rossos are their value-priced, entry level wines. In the panel's most recent tasting, three wines from each Italian region went up against each other. Here are the top three.
2010 Altesino Rosso Di Altesino, $22
Although this wine is from Montalcino, it cannot be labeled as such since it includes 20 percent cabernet and merlot. Still, stylistically, it's true to the region with earthy, meaty aromas wrapped around smooth blackberry and spice. That meaty quality carries through on the palate, blending nicely with bright berry and plum fruit. A touch of minerality comes through on the finish.
2011 Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino, $31
This is an exceptionally well-made and beautifully integrated wine, which means its components are difficult to pull apart. There's a lovely hint of caramel on the nose, coloring crisp cranberry and ripe boysenberry aromas. On the palate, it's an elegant mix of red fruit flavors with Bing cherry, raspberry and a subtle touch of strawberry.
2011 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano, $15.99
Old World aromas meet a New World flavor profile in this wine. On the nose, dark berry fruit is mixed with a combo of leather, earth, mineral and spice. The flavors are round and supple, opening with ripe berry and tangy cherry, backed by spicy mocha, anise and creamy plum. Find bright acidity and velvety tannins on the long finish.