One of our favorite everyday Tuscan reds is common on supermarket shelves in the $8 to $9 range. This fine utility infielder is Gabbiano Chianti by Castello di Gabbiano, which also produces the higher end Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva.
This wine is easy to spot in the Italian wines section. Just look for the fabulous cavaliere, a mounted medieval warrior knight, with a winged helmet, shield and armor for both horse and rider in vivid blues, reds and touches of gold. Be sure the label reads simply 2007 Chianti. It usually will be about two shelves down from the more expensive chiantis.
This wine is versatility in a bottle. Its down-to-earth spice nose and long dry finish make it true to Tuscany's signature style, but it broadens its appeal with welcome notes of dark berries and cherry, making it less austere, as well as less structured, than more ambitious chiantis. It is table wine in the best sense of the phrase.
We turn to it often on cool winter evenings when the menu at our house features a full-flavored meat stew, chili, ribs, picadillo (we like it with dark-meat turkey instead of ground beef) and similarly hearty winter fare.
By Colette and John Bancroft. Colette Bancroft is the Times' book editor. John Bancroft is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.