Mediterranean meals, featuring fresh vegetables liberally laced with olive oil, garlic and spices, require a high acid wine but have flavors too powerful for most whites. Fortunately, most Italian reds--Barbera, Chianti, Salice Salentino--meet the requirements quite well. Ribollito (literally re-boiled vegetables) is a hearty stew made with garlic, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, cannelini beans and kale poured over yesterday's whole grain bread--everything the doctor ordered but with flavors powerful enough to drive you up the wall. It's perfect with Barbera but also goes quite well with any Southern Rhone or the Salice Salentino from Agricole Vallone I opened tonight.
At age nine, this wine has reached maturity and is holding well. It's a deep, dark garnet and has dark smells of licorice, mushrooms, purple flowers and warm, macerated grape skins. Like many Italian wines, it's pushing volatility, but that's part of the charm. The same dark, rustic notes are on the palate, plump and ripe. Cosmo Taurino makes the best known Salice Salentino, widely available for about $12. This one from Agricole Vallone is better than any I've had, in part because, at age nine, it's reached a good stage of maturity.