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Two outstanding LCBO Italian red wines that won’t break the bank

As many of us are still dealing with the Credit Card Christmas that keeps on taking, I thought it would be useful to highlight two red wines that fit right into our budgets. Better still, they are regular list wines found at the LCBO year round.

For those enthusiasts of Italian wines my selections will be familiar to you and in fact if, in the past, you’ve had the Farnese Vini brand of wines you should be advised that it has now become Fantini Group.

The two wines/grapes explored here both have their roots in Tuscany and both Sangiovese and Montepulciano D’Abruzzo have, at times, been confused for the other. Both grapes also enjoy wide dispersal throughout the country with Sangiovese planted in more than 60 of Italy’s 100+ provinces and Montepulciano D’Abruzzo coming in second at more than 20.

Fantini Sangiovese IGT 2020 750 ml 13% Alc. $9.05 LCBO #512327

While the seat of Fantini is in the eastern coastal city of Ortona in the region of Abruzzo, the grapes for this bottling come from further south in Puglia, Italy’s “heel”.

On its own Sangiovese (etymology: sanguis Jovis- Blood of Jupiter) is a fairly simple wine and is the reason why in Chianti, it’s most famous iteration, small percentages of other grapes (most notably white grapes) have been allowed to be added to the fermentation.

The Fantini shows a beautiful garnet colour with a little coffee and toast on the nose from the small percentage of the wine (approximately 20%) that was aged in oak. The coffee makes a brief appearance on the palate followed by plum and blueberry before racing to an abrupt finish. Pairing it with tomato-based pizza and pasta was not successful as I found the acidity lacking which is not what one normally expects of Sangiovese. At this price however it is a stunningly attractive bottle and a very good buy that would go well with less sharp and nuttier cheeses, an assortment of breads and spirited conversation.

Buy it here at the LCBO.

Citra Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2019 750 ml 13% Alc. $9.95 LCBO #446633

This Citra wine has been on LCBO shelves for decades and I’m leaning towards saying that, taking vintage variation out of the equation, the winemaking has only improved.

Now this is a wine that did pair very nicely with the aforementioned pizza and pasta. It has classic cherry notes on both the nose and palate followed by wild herbs and a hint of black pepper and stands up to fattier foods.

If you’re feeding large groups at a Sunday pasta dinner, this wine is a terrific value and will make your friends forget the rather rudimentary label on the table. If you can still find the 2019 at the shops, give it a try and remember that this lighter bodied red is also ideal chilled for 20 minutes and then served at the upcoming summer BBQ.

Buy it here at the LCBO.