Italian Wine Advent Calendar, Week 1

There are so many wines to open as the next set of holidays approach, and there are so many choices! It’s hard to know where to start, much less select some bottles, especially when Italy is under consideration. However, I taste dozens of Italian wines each month, so here’s my go at it. These suggestions are based on my notes for wines tasted in the last four months (meaning they should generally be in retail stores now), in quasi-Advent Calendar style:

November 27, Sunday: Castello di Fonterutoli 2006 Siepi– because it’s Sunday, a day for a serious wine and the official start of Advent. Split down the middle between Merlot and Sangiovese, this wine throws off loads of eucalyptus notes and is full-bodied but moderate in extraction. It finishes very long and very dry, hence, it’s a wine for the table.

November 28, Monday: Maculan 2008 Madoro– a red passito wine made from a local grape named Marzemina and the world-renowned Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes, it’s just a small sip of something sweet that we need to change our perspective, especially as the holiday spirit grinds into high gear.

November 29, Tuesday: Di Majo Norante 2008 Ramitell Rosso– this juicy and slightly sultry southern blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico is great for pizza night…both of which might be just the trick for getting all the holiday decorations in place at last! If you take to this bottling, consider it as a “go-to” or "house wine" for holiday parties just around the corner.

November 30, Wednesday: Vietti 2010 Roero Arneis– THE Arneis. Ceretto and Giacosa make nice versions of this floral white indigenous to the northwestern region of Piedmont, but it's Vietti's bottling I most love. It's not as easy to find as the others but the search is worth it. It also costs a few more bucks more…just skip a few stocking stuffers to balance the budget.

December 1, Thursday: Sardus Pater 2007 Is Solus– an incontestably cool Carignano wine (aka Carignan in France and Cariñena in Spain) made from 70 year old vines. I love how this wine is an expression of time and place with balanced alcohol and extract. Brilliant. If you can simultanesouly find AND shell-out for the big brother Is Arenas, don’t hesitate. Just let us know if it's as delicious as we imagine….

December 2, Friday: Drusian [Vintage] Prosecco Superiore Millesimato Dry– this is one of my forever-favorite Prosecco. Most Prosecco is non-vintage, which makes this bottling highly unique (note for holiday gifts!) In addition, it’s on the low-dosage side (please, pardon the wine-geek speak), meaning it is rather dry. This makes it one of the best Proseccos I’ve ever tasted for pairing with food; nonetheless, I still love to enjoy this wine without any accompaniments.

December 3, Saturday: Perrini 2010 Primitivo– this deeply colored Puglian red is a kissing-cousing of Zinfandel. There’s not a speck of oak on this wine, and its ample body means it’s sure to be a crowd-pleasing sipper. Stock up; it will keep for the following year if your holiday crowd doesn’t drink it up. Just don’t bet on that last part!