Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That's Amore--Italian Style

It's Valentine's Day on Thursday, and if you are still looking for something to pop open with the one you love, one of Italy's largest winemakers, Zonin, has an idea for you.

They've just come out with a new line of wines called "Primo Amore" designed with the younger, just-starting-out oenophile in mind. All of the bottles have bright graphic labels, and they also have screw caps. They are also priced for the budget-minded, at just $6.99-$7.99 suggested retail.

So far there are four bottlings under the "Primo Amore" label, and I'm going to focus today on the white and red that Zonin sent me to sample named for the famous star-crossed lovers: the NV Zonin Primo Amore Romeo and the NV Zonin Primo Amore Juliet. Just like young love, these wines are slightly sweet, fun, and fizzy. They are also low-alcohol, which makes them a perfect option for sipping before or after dinner with some appetizers or some chocolate, and one of them will even go with your main course.

The NV Zonin Primo Amore Juliet is a fresh and crisp wine made up a blend of Garganega and Moscato grapes. With lots of small bubbles and a low, 7.5% alcohol level, this would be a great pre-dinner sipper. Where it would really shine, however, it as a dessert wine. There were nice aromas of apples and flowers that drew you into the glass. Flavors of pear, apple, and peach kept this wine from becoming too sweet. Think of this as a perfect partner to fruit-based desserts, simple biscuits, or on its own. At under $8, this is a very good QPR choice for Valentine's Day, or any day.

The NV Zonin Primo Amore Romeo is made from a blend of Merlot and Malvasia Nero. It is just barely off-dry--not a wine for dessert, in my opinion. Indeed, the label suggests chilling it and having it with pizza or pasta. Pepperoni pizza is made for this wine (I tried it out with sausage pizza, and it was excellent), and it would go equally well with a big Italian sandwich or sub, or spicy antipasti with lots of salami. It is the color of cranberries, and is also effervescent with lots of fine bubbles. There is very little aroma to this wine (unlike the Juliet), and flavors of plum and cherry that are simple and eminently quaffable. For the price, this is another very good QPR wine to keep on hand for pizza night, or to have for parties this spring with big platters of antipasti when the weather gets warm.

Because we all -- ahem -- procrastinate, Zonin also set up a site where you can send the one you love an email with a snippet of classic poetry. The selections include not only Shakespeare and Yeats, but also more modern contributions from Elvis and Oscar Hammerstein. The emails come with a nice heart graphic made out of roses and a simple calligraphic script in red and black.

So now there's no excuse. Send the one you love a little note, buy some flowers, and get some light, sparkling wine. Happy Valentine's Day!

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