francesco rinaldi The Italian culture is full of bitterness. It's something they've become accustomed to as it seems to run through much of their daily lives. After all there are apertivi and disgestivi that start and end each meal with a bitterness that stimulates the appetite then aids the digestion of all the food that your over-stimulated palate coaxed you into eating. Bitter flavors run through the Italian day with bitter apertivi like Campari, bitter vegetables,greens and amari like Fernet Branca. This is at direct odds with the American sweet tooth in almost everything: even in their "dry" wines.

The American taste for sweet has created a whole range of wines with overripe flavors and significant amounts of residual sugar in wines that pretend to be dry. I'm not talking about riesling or chenin blanc here, but cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, pinot noir, syrah and, famously, chardonnay. This preference for sweet means that many Italian wines will seem bitter to the C&H'd American tongue, but not to an Italian who finds bitterness a enlivening flavor sensation.

That bracing bitterness runs through the 2006 Francesco Rinaldi Grignolino d'Asti and it's certainly a wine that will shatter the sugar coating on the palate of  lovers of California merlot or Australian shiraz. Layered with bitter flavors and aromas like licorice root, tar and bitter wild cherry this excellent wine finishes with an acidity that will leave no lingering fat anywhere in your mouth. No velvet or sweet plum or lushness can be found that will get in the way of the characteristics that makes this an extraordinarily good wine at the table. Each sip of this wine wakes your taste buds and inspire them rather than lulling them to sleep.

Bitterness can be a good thing.