Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck

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When Piero Antinori produced the first Tignanello in the 1971, it was a real kick in the ass to rule- and tradition-bound Tuscan winemakers, most of whom had long been make Chianti in accordance with government regulation. At first 100 percent Sangiovese, later blended with varying amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, this debut "Super Tuscan" (so named by wine writer Robert Parker) created a whole new style (and profit center) of Italian wine. 

Tignanello is an extraordinary wine that manifestly does not suck, but at around $100 a bottle it's not exactly cheap. On the other hand, Antinori's latest venture in unconventional varietal blending in a once-unlikely region is a very good wine indeed. And it sells for 10 bucks or less. 

It's Tormaresca Neprica (NEgroamaro, PRImitivo, CAbernet Sauvignon) from Puglia, a region whose wines historically have made up in quantity what they lacked in quality. The 2008 Neprica, though, is a damn fine quaff, showing off the complexity of aromas and flavors of its blend of grapes. Cherry and strawberry fruit is in there, with earthy, dusky edge that suggests grapes growing in dirt. There's sweet spice and black pepper and hints of fennel too, all ending in a tart, berry-ish finish.  

As with most Italian wines, it tastes even better with food, like spaghetti Bolognese or bistecca Fiorentina or just a simple roasted chicken. No matter what you call it, you'll have a hard time finding a wine that delivers more character and satisfaction for the money.
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