2012 Picks: *51* Top Italian Wines for Under $20

Michael starts the New Year off with his go-to list of the best Italian wines of 2012 for under 20 bucks.  This is the first in a series of posts on Italian wines awarded the prestigious 3 Bicchieri (three glasses) rating by Gambero Rosso for 2012.

Keep this list handy and bookmark it for future reference, and don’t forget to Like us!

Find a copy of Vini d'Italia 2012Italy’s best wines on the cheap.

Looking for great Italian wines for under 20 bucks?  There’s no need to spend $50+ to find a great bottle of wine if you’re willing to get off the beaten path and try some smaller producers in regions outside of the classic biggies of Barolo, Chianti, and Brunello.

Most Americans are looking for good wine value these days, shunning the expensive stuff and focusing on wines under $20.  The good news is that for Italian wine lovers, there’s an emerging sweet spot for delicious and interesting Italian wines in the $14 to $20 range.

Gambero Rosso, the Italian foodie club, recently released their annual Vini d’Italia wine reference guidebook (and the translated-to-English version Italian Wines in mid-2012).  Their trusted panel of Vino Italiano experts tasted over 20,000 wines from 2,350 producers (yes, that many) and awarded just 375 wines with their prestigious 3 bicchieri (“three glasses”) rating for 2012.

What do many of these lucky Italian wine producers do when they find out their wines have won a 3 bicchieri rating?  Well, they raise their prices, of course!  Unfortunately, this puts many of these stellar wines out of reach of most lovers of Vino Italiano.

Here’s the good news: not all of the winning Italian wine producers instantly raise their prices, and there are many delicious 3 bicchieri wines that stay around the $20 price point (“sotto €15” as they say in the guidebook).  For 2012, there are exactly *51* of these 3 bicchieri winners that are well within reach of Italian wine lovers like us.

Over 50 remarkable vini you’ve gotta try.

Lilliano Chianti Classico 2009I’ve listed below all 51 of the 3 bicchieri winners of 2012 that go for $20 or less, organized by region with a link to wine-searcher.com so you can find them online.  Here are a few highlights (and personal favorites):

  • For Chianti fans, Tenuta di Lilliano outside of Castellina in Chianti makes a top quality Chianti Classico 2009 for just $16 (only $14 by the case at Saratoga Wine Exchange).  This Chianti is a great value, check it out.
  • Ca' Rugate Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009The fresh, bright fruit in the Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009 by Ca’ Rugate (just west of Verona in Montecchia di Crosara) goes great with fish and fowl.  It’s a little tougher to find,  but worth the hunt (a wee bit higher at $22 as of this writing from Zachy’s).  Ca’ Rugate makes some great wines at reasonable prices, and this gem is no exception.
  • How about a little Lambrusco?  Forget that super sweet, Chiarli Lambrusco Vecchia Modena Premium 2010headache-inducing plonk you drank in the 80’s (ok, that was me) and try this fantastic Lambrusco Vecchia Modena Premium 2010 by the proud folks at Chiarli 1860 in the outskirts of Modena.  This little gem has wonderful, rich fruit with floral and spicy notes on the nose and palate – and only $14 a bottle at the Ultimate Wineshop.

Finding these 3 bicchieri winning wines.

Importers come and go, and some of these celebrated wines are produced in small quantities, but you should still be able to find many of them online or in shops that carry a decent selection of Italian wines.  Here are a couple of ways you can hunt down these search-worthy wines:

  • Ask your local wine shop if they can get it in from the distributor or importer.  Your wine shop may not be familiar with some of these producers, and they’ll have to do some research – but if they want your business, they’ll put in the effort.
  • Check wine-searcher.com, which is probably the most comprehensive search engine for wine globally.  I’ve enabled wine-searcher.com search links below to get you started, but since retailers often do not list full (proper) wine names on their websites, you’ll have to play around with the search phrase to find all retailers that carry it.
    • Example: searching for Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009 only turns up 1 retailer (Zachy’s), but searching for Rugate Soave Monte Alto 2009 turns up 2 retailers.  To find the most options (and best prices) when searching on wine-searcher.com, use the fewest words necessary such as the producer name (Rugate), the wine name (Soave Monte Alto), and the year (2009).
    • Consider the Pro Version: If you’re like me and buy a lot of wine online, I highly recommend subscribing to the Pro Version of wine-searcher.com.  It’s $39 a year and lists 2 to 3 times more retailers than the standard (free) version – well worth the money.
  • If you have trouble finding a wine, leave a comment below and I’ll try and help you find it.  If you really want to try a wine listed and it’s not imported into the US yet, I may be able to place a special order for you straight from the wine producer’s cantina.

And the winners are…

Here’s the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia 2012 list of 3 Bicchieri winners that retail for under $20 (“sotto €15”).

If you’d like to get your very own personal copy of the Vini d’Italia 2012 Guidebook,
click here to contact me.

Note: The wines are listed by region, from North to South, with the producer name in bold followed by the full official wine name.

Valle d’Aosta
  Elio Ottin Valle d’Aosta Petite Arvine 2010 search
  Le Château Feuillet Valle d’Aosta Petite Arvine 2010 search
  Orsolani Erbaluce di Caluso La Rustìa 2010 search
  Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure 2010 search
  Cantina dei Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema Carema Etichetta Bianca 2007 search
  Castello di Uviglie Barbera del Monferrato Superiore Le Cave 2009 search
  Poggio dei Gorleri Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Cycnus 2010 search
  Laura Aschero Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino 2010 search
Alto Adige
  Gummerhof – Malojer A. A. Lagrein Gries 2009 search
  Stachlburq – Baron von Kripp A. A. Valle Venosta Pinot Bianco 2010 search
  Erste+Neue A. A. Lago di Caldaro CI. Superiore Puntay 2010 search
  Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009 search
  Suavia Soave Classico Monte Carbonare 2009 search
  Cavalchina Custoza Superiore Amedeo 2009 search
  Santi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Solane 2009 search
Friuli Venezia Giulia
  Ronchi di Manzano COF Friulano 2010 search
  Ronco del Tassi Collio Bianco Fosarin 2010 search
  Il Carpino Collio Bianco V. Runc 2010 search
  Ronco del Gelso Friuli lsonzo Malvasia 2010 search
Emilia Romagna
  Tenuta Pertinello Colli della Romagna Centrale Sangiovese Pertinello 2008 search
  Gianfranco Paitrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Leclisse 2010 search
  Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena Premium 2010 search
  Ermete Medici & Figli Reggiano Concerto 2010 search
  Orsi – San Vito C. B. Pignoletto Classico V. del Grotto 2009 search
  Villa Venti Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Primo Segno 2009 search
  Tre Monti Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Petrignone Riserva 2008 search
  Tenuta di Lilliano Chianti Classico 2009 search
  Mattia Barzaghi Vernaccia di San Gimignano Zeta 2010 search
  La Lastra Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva 2009 search
Le Marche
  San Savino – Poderi Capecci Offida Pecorino Ciprea 2010 search
  Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica Vertis 2009 search
  Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica Vign. Fogliano 2008 search
  Bellsario Verdicchio di Matelica Cambrugiano Riserva 2008 search
  Marotti Campi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Salmariano Riserva 2008 search
  Tenuta di Tavignano Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore Misco 2010 search
  Monte Schiavo Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore Pallio di S. Floriano 2010 search
  La Distesa Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi Superiore Gli Eremi Riserva 2009 search
  Casale Marchese Clemens 2009 search
  Sergio Mottura Grechetto Poggio della Costa 2010 search
  Poggio Le Volpi Frascati Superiore Epos 2010 search
  Podere Castorani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Amorino 2007 search
  Tiberio Pecorino 2010 search
  Di Majo Norante Molise Aglianico Contado Riserva 2009 search
  Rocca del Principe Fiano di Avellino 2010 search
  Pietracupa Greco di Tufo 2010 search
  Musto Carmelitano Aglianico del Vulture Serra del Prete 2009 search
  Torrevento Castel del Monte Rosso V. Pedale Riserva 2008 search
  Settesoli Cartagho Mandrarossa 2009 search
  Planeta Plumbago 2009 search
  Tenute Sella & Mosca Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Monteoro 2010 search
  Giuseppe Gabbas Cannonau di Sardegna Dule Riserva 2008 search

What’s your 2012 New Years resolution on vino?

It’s that time of year – did you make a New Year’s resolution about your vino drinking?  Looking to move your wine habits to a better neighborhood, so to speak?  Check out what others are doing for 2012 in our Facebook survey on New Year wine drinking resolutions.

Don’t forget to Like Us on Facebook if you’re a fellow Italian Wine Lover.


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3 Responses to “2012 Picks: *51* Top Italian Wines for Under $20”

  1. kate/high altitude gardening 1 Feb 12 at 11:18 AM #

    Hi — I’m glad I found your blog 🙂 I had an apartment in Bressanone, Italy, last February. I worked over there for a month — and really miss the food. And, the wines! I appreciate all of the wine tips in the blog.


  2. Kristen 10 Mar 12 at 10:02 AM #

    Glad I found your blog (actually because you followed me on Twitter). I’m going to Lucca in April and as I’ve heard there are some excellent wines that CANNOT be exported I was wondering if any of those were worth seeking out to sample? Thanks.

    • Michael Horne 10 Mar 12 at 10:15 AM #

      Hi Kristen — any Italian wine producer that gets the proper government approval/paperwork completed can export their wines to the States. It requires some work on the part of the producer, but there are tens of thousands of wines that are exported outside of Italy and it’s very doable for any producer in Italy.

      That said, many of the very small producers (say, less than 10,000 bottles/year of production) often don’t go to the effort of exporting because either 1) they can sell it all locally (in Italy), or 2) they can’t find an American importer who is willing to go to the effort. The small producers really tend to rely on boutique importers (kinda like Dall’Uva) that are willing to work with them.

      The big importers that need to move millions of bottles a year to be profitable rarely put the effort into the small Italian producers unless they offer a cult wine.

      If you’re heading to Lucca, you can bring back any wine you like into the States, practically speaking up to 10 cases. Just pick up a wine shipper box (styrofoam) at a local shipping center (try Mailboxes Etc, there’s one in Livorno and other nearby areas — search here on Google Maps), load it up with wine and tape the box securely, and just check it with your usual luggage on the flight back from Italy. I do it all the time.

      You can find more info on how to find and bring back Italian wines from Italy in one of my previous Wine Journal blog posts. Check it out here: Traveling the Italian Wine Route, Part 2: Wine Tours and Tastings.

      If you have a specific wine you’d like me to try and find, just leave a comment here and see what I can do to help you out.


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