A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Red Sicilian Blend

Italy produces many fine wines. We have reviewed approximately two dozen fine Italian wines, coming from eighteen and soon nineteen of the twenty regions of Italy. Sicily is Italy's top wine region both in terms of acreage devoted to the wine grape, a whopping third of a million acres, and total production, over two hundred million gallons. In fact, if Sicily were an independent country it would rank seventh in the world for wine production. Now quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. The wine reviewed is a blend of the indigenous Nero d'Avola and the international Cabernet Sauvignon, both red grapes. Nero d'Avola wines usually are fairly inexpensive but I was quickly able to locate a $80 bottle on the web. Cabernet Sauvignon produces some very expensive wines, for example the California Opus One that costs hundreds of dollars for the best vintages. Enough of that; let's see if this bottle is a good choice for dealing with these hard times.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Montalto Nero d'Avola Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 14% alcohol about $8

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Deep red violet color; dark fruit and spice aromas and flavors; dry, medium to full bodied, long, smooth finish. Serving Suggestion: Roast lamb or beef, meat pastas, and grilled meats. And now for my  review.

At the initial tasting the wine was thin but long with moderate acidity and a touch of oak. The initial meal involved homemade shepherd's pie. There was dark fruit. The red blend washed the food down pleasantly. It was robust. Simple food, simple wine. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I added some Turkish Harissa, a hot pepper sauce and the wine followed, picking up some spiciness.

The second meal included meat balls and recooked steak,  slow cooked with potatoes. The Nero d'Avola/CabernetSauvignon was now powerful; it definitely packed a punch. I could taste the oak. The length was good.

The final meal was a middle-eastern specialty, kube, also called kibbe, ground meat in jackets made from ground bulgar, in a spicy tomato sauce. It was strange, at the first sip the wine was thin, almost watered. But as I drank more the power built. There was some oak and dark fruit with moderate acidity.

I finished the tasting with two cheeses. The first cheese was a provolone. The wine was balanced with good tannins and moderate acidity. But it was short. A marbled cheddar cheese flattened the wine somewhat. After the cheese the fruit came back.

Final verdict. If you feel like washing down simple meals with a simple wine this is an option. But I prefer to keep looking.

Levi Reiss is the author or co-author of ten computer and Internet books, but really would rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his global wine website is http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines