Discover more from EVERYDAY DRINKING
Everyone Loves A Liter
A new crop of affordable Italian reds, in big bottles, for easy summer drinking.
Wine People always seem to be advocating for “large format” wines. It’s one of those evergreen wine articles, always headlined something like, “Bigger is Better: Why You Should Be Drinking More Magnums.” Based on the quotes in this type of article, nothing would make a sommelier happier than if you ordered a magnum (1.5 liters) or maybe even a double magnum (3 liters). These stories also usually point out the arcane measurements of jeroboam (4.5 liters), salmanazar (9 liters), and nebuchadnezzar (15 liters). I often wonder if any millennial somms have named their children after one of these measurements? “Let’s use our indoor voice, Jeroboam.”
Within the wine bubble, magnums are often pitched as “sensible” or “economical” choices, and suggest that large-format wines age better than standard bottles. This kind of wine advocacy often is self-fulfilling. Maybe you remember that, as we started to see pro-magnum articles, half-priced magnum happy hours and specials seemed to become a thing in big-city wine bars.For a hot minute there, people were definitely working hard to make magnums happen.
And yet. Here I am today, adding my own contribution to the large-format subgenre of wine writing. My advice is simple and basic. Buy a liter of cheap Italian red. But make it a step up from Carlo Rossi.
This summer, I’ve been living near the beach at the ol’ Jersey Shore. When I am here, it is almost cliché how simple my life becomes. I write outside at a picnic table. I walk on the beach. I meet friends on the beach at 5 pm for drinks, usually things in a can. We eat Jersey corn and tomatoes and blueberries and peaches from the farm market. We make simple pastas, roast red peppers, eat cheese, and grill things. Thursday night is half-priced pizzas from the place across the street. This is not a time for complicated wines.
Which is why I’ve been happy to find a new generation of Italian reds that are fresh, drinkable, well made, lower alcohol (between 12 an 12.5 percent abv), and affordably priced. I’ve been really happy with a trio of them—all available in liters, which will make large-format advocates happy, too. These fit the definition of everyday wines.
My first foray in Italian liter love was with a bottle Ercole Barbera del Monferrato, which I buy in my local store for around $15. It’s made by a small, independent co-op in Piedmont from 30- to 50-year-old barbera vines (with most of the growers certified organic), and fermented and aged in concrete. This is the kind of wine that makes think: If I don’t like this, do I really like wine at all?
I’m not alone in loving this one. I recently bonded with one of my favorite wine personalities, Andrea from Mas Vino Please, over our shared appreciation of Ercole Barbera de Monferrato. (Check out her newsletter!)
With Ercole as my gateway into the world of Litro Italiano, I also took a chance on Passione Natura’s basically named Un Litro di Rosso, made with montepulicano from Abbruzzo (though outside the Montepulicano d’Abruzzo DOC). Soft and supple, with juicy acidity, this one is dangerously drinkable.
Un Litro di Rosso is part of importer Carlo Huber’s “small batch liter” series. Yes, the label, with its wolf illustration, looks like your ex-girlfriend’s lower-back tattoo. But honestly, how can you resist it? This organic wine will become your spirit animal.
Finally, with a slight step up in price to $19, is Ampeleia Unlitro, a Tuscan red from coastal Maremma that’s a rather non-Tuscan blend of grenache, carignan, mourvèdre, sangiovese and alicante bouschet, aged six months in cement. Bright, popping, slight tingle of near effervescence, with tart cherry with an underlying earthiness, a touch of natty in the very best way.
It’s made on an estate owned by Elisabetta Foradori, one of Italy’s legendary low-intervention, biodynamic producers, whose teroldego wines I have always loved. Ampeleia Unlitro is among my favorite wines from the past few months, affordable or not.