Rome is eternal. Tuscany is terrific. But there is a lot more to Italy, and every region has its trademark wines.
Picture yourself in the Pulia region, a long peninsula at the southeast tip of Italy between the Adriatic and Ionian seas. If Italy is shaped like a boot, Pulia is its heel.
Imagine an outdoor cafe in a small town of sun-blasted, whitewashed buildings, with sandy beaches stretching to the sea. Lunch arrives — antipasto platters of boiled octopus, raw calamari, tomato bruschetta, then a “second plate” of pasta with rabbit sauce and finally, the main course of skewered lamb, sausage and veal.
Taste the potent, inky reds they serve with them. These wines, from the Salento province in southernmost Pulia, are from native Italian varietals including negroamaro, primitivo and aleatico.
Next day, picture yourself in a bustling trattoria in the shadow of the cathedral in the ancient city of Assisi in Umbria, southeast of Florence and Tuscany. Winemaking here dates back to Roman times, and the sagrantino grape was born here, probably a natural cross of other local red grapes.
The waiter brings you a two-pound T-bone steak, and proudly pours the region’s locally famous red, Sagrantino di Montefalco, with all the tannin and heft to handle the well-marbled beef.
No trans-Atlantic travel in your future? Here’s help trying those matches at home.
• 2005 Arnaldo-Caprai “Collepiano” Sagrantino di Montefalco , DOCG Umbria (100 percent sagrantino): deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of red raspberries and cinnamon, full-bodied and rich, firm tannins, long, smooth finish; $50.
• 2010 Li Veli “Primonero” (50 percent primitivo, 50 percent negroamaro), Salento IGT: deep purple hue, aromas of roses, flavors of black cherries and spice, soft and rich; $10.
• 2010 Li Veli “Passamante” (100 percent negroamaro), Salice Salentino DOC: Deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of ripe red plums and spice, smooth and rich; $12.
• 2008 Le Veli “Pezzo Morgana” Reserva (100 percent negroamaro), Salice Salentino DOC: deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of dried red fruits and brown sugar, long finish; $20.
• 2006 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino , DOCG Umbria, (100 percent sagrantino): deep purple hue, hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and black raspberries, big, ripe tannins, long finish, $37.
• 2006 Tenuta CastelBuono Montefalco Sagrantino , DOCG Trento, Italia: deep purple hue, aromas and flavors of black raspberries, espresso and cloves, firm tannins; $37.