Because when you first meet a grape, it's not time to cheap out.
La Spinetta Vermentino Toscana 2013 $27 Wine writers are always digging up obscure grapes for you try, but the problem with trying new things is that, if you're like me, you sort of hedge your bets. You go to the store and invariably choose the lowest priced version of whatever new grape is being recommended and—surprise, surprise—it doesn't immediately rock your world. There are a few pretty good Vermentinos out there for under $20—this one from Sardinia is quite good—but they're not going to make you an over night convert. This one from La Spinetta, though, just might. By Italian standards, La Spinetta—founded in 1977—is still a newcomer, but in that short time it helped revolutionize how people think about Barbera, and then started making amazing Barbarescos like to do such a thing was a snap. A few years back, they expanded to Tuscany and released the first vintage of this wine in 2010: they immediately rocketed to the elite rung of Vermentino producers. This wine is sooooo good—the colour of pale straw, with the softness of ripe melon braced with the bite of lime rind that trails on and on. And although $27 is not inexpensive, when compared to what else you could buy for that price, it's a no brainer. It has enough acidity to pair with a bowl of Carbonara, but it actually is beautiful on its own and would make a great, elegant pour for a holiday cocktail party.