Soft Italian Reds for Fall 

As the weather cools and the food choices turn a little heartier, red wine will make a comeback from its summer vacation. But it's still not the time for big Cabs, Syrahs or Zinfandels. You want something a little lighter and food-friendly, with forward fruit, good acidity and lower alcohol. All three of the panel's top picks fit that bill, with their alcohol weighing in at a modest 12.5 percent.

2016 Alois Lageder Pinot Noir, $26

An Italian Pinot Noir? When it comes from cool climate vineyards in northern Italy's Alto Adige, as this one does, it makes perfect sense. This wine opens with classic Pinot aromas, leaning toward darker fruits, earth, mushroom and leather. Beautifully balanced and medium-bodied, the fruit flavors switch over to soft cherry and strawberry, lingering on the long finish.

2015 Ortaglia Tignolo Toscana Rosso, $15.99

The light and lovely red fruit aromas are centered around raspberry and smooth cranberry in this wine. That cranberry comes through on the slightly rustic palate, along with a touch of very dark chocolate and anise. Crisp acidity on the finish begs for food, and this Sangiovese-dominant is perfect slightly chilled.

2015 Villadoria Senatore Primo Rosso, $11.99

A Piedmont blend of Dolcetto and Barbera, vinified separately, goes into this consummate, easy-drinking red. Aromas of plum and berry jam are backed by whiffs of mocha and spicy tea. The velvety flavors are round, ripe and filled with creamy cherry, blueberry, puff pastry and chocolate. Soft tannins add just a bit of grip to the finish. It's a definite bargain.

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