Joe Bastianich, son of Lidia and co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza (among other Mario Batali projects) has just revised the pocket guide to Italian wines he co-wrote with David Lynch, the former wine director of Babbo, Batali’s New York restaurant.
Based on their bestselling big book "Vino Italiano," the "Vino Italiano Buying Guide" is an A-to-Z listing of more than 1,000 Italian winemakers and their wines, which are described, rather than given point ratings. The focus is on wines that are available in the United States. And since Los Angeles is one of the best wine markets in the country, most should be available here.
Some wineries are classified as "Elite," "Premier," "Rising Stars" or "Value Wineries." That works for me. I like, too, that the authors indicate which wines are widely available and which are of limited production and hard to find.
About the size of a Zagat guide, "Vino Italian Buying Guide" is a handy reference, great for checking current vintages of wines you already prize, but also for discovering new wines and producers from far-flung and/or up-and-coming regions of Italy.
Browsing around in the book, I found the Rising Star Castiglion del Bosco, a property in Montalcino owned by the Ferragamo family of fashion note that has become a "luxurious resort" (to note, when I win the lottery), yet "the base Brunello remains extremely well priced for the category." More modest Rising Stars include La Ca’ Nova in Piedmont for Barbaresco, Damijan Podversic in Friuli for his Collio Bianco, and Tenuta delle Terre Nere on Mt. Etna in Sicily for "tangy polished reds from a stunning locale."
To make it even more useful, say when traveling, the authors included telephone numbers and addresses for wine producers. A symbol denotes which wineries have on-premise restaurants and which include a bed-and-breakfast or other accommodations. Stay-at-homes can get a closer look at properties by checking each estate’s website, when available. This alone is worth the price of admission.
"Vino Italiano Buying Guide: The ultimate quick reference to the great wines of Italy" by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, $14.95, (Clarkson Potter, New York). Revised and updated.
Tip: For a quick way to research which stores in California stock a particular wine, check www.winesearcher.com.
—S. Irene Virbila
Illustration is a scan of cover of "Vino Italiano Buying Guide"