Love Barolo but can't spare the expense? Look across the Adriatic.
Given the economy, now is probably not the time to be buying Barolo, Italy's high-priced cult favorite. But budget concerns needn't take truffle-scented reds out of the picture; just look to Naoussa instead. Lesser known but just as fragrant and powerful, the wines from this Northern Greek appellation can give Barolo a run for its money.
The two regions have quite a bit in common: Naoussa is just as cool and damp as Italy's Piedmont. And it relies on Xinomavro (ksee-no-ma-vro), a grape as finicky as the Nebbiolo that grows in Barolo. Like Nebbiolo, Xinomavro is high in acidity ("xino" means sour or acid) and light in color, yet it's tannic, which creates wines that are simultaneously ethereal and grippy. And they share many of the same flavor characteristics-dried-cherry flavors and aromas of rose and truffle. Naoussa wines also age well; wines from the 1970s are still going strong.
And at these prices, you can buy a few extra bottles to stick in your cellar--or use the money you saved to buy veal shanks for osso buco. Some favorites:
2003 Boutari Naoussa Grande Reserve ($25) Boutari sets the model with is Grande Reserve, an elegant, rose-scented Xinomavro with lean, earthy fruit flavors (samswine.com).
2005 Domaine Karydas Naoussa ($26) Reserved and elegant, this bottling is fragrant with raspberries, rich earth and orange peel (winespecialist.com).
2005 Kir-Yianni Naoussa Ramnista ($40) "Uncle John" is John Boutari, who used to run Boutari before launching his own label. His muscular Xinomavro deserves time in the cellar or a really thick steak (popswine.com).
2006 Thimiopoulos Naoussa 40 Uranos ($24) The third release from a family that's been growing grapes in Naoussa for generations, this is a modern take on Xinomavro, deeply earthy with dark, dried-cherry fruit and a black-pepper kick (astorwines.com).
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