As I became slightly more sophisticated (y'know...at about age 12), I learned that if you want a shortcut to determining whether an imported wine was a good bargain or fit within your preferred flavor profile, it's easier to find a few winemakers and importers that you trust. Elisabetta Geppetti and her Fattoria Le Pupille have become exactly that sort of dependable go-to producer for me.
Geppetti Wines has been making great economical Italian whites and reds for over 25 years out of vineyards in region of Tuscany near Siena. Delicately blended, the flavors are complex enough to pair with a wide variety of foods but also not too ostentatious to open with a take-out pizza. The wines are generally priced in the $10-15 range and available at many good wine stores in town.
Among the whites, my personal favorite is the Poggio Argentato. Not as tart as a typical Pinot Grigio, Poggio Argentato demonstrates a more French approach to its flavor profile, which is developed from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer. Pour yourself a glass along with an easy dish of fish sauteed in lemon and olive oil and enjoy the acidity of the wine singing out.
For a red alternative, I reach time and time again for Geppetti's Morellino Di Scansano. Luckily, the label looks exactly like the Poggio Argentato except that it is maroon instead of sky blue. Less for me to remember at the liquor store is always a good thing. The Morrellino is a cuvee of Alicante and Malvasia Nera along with the dominant varietal of Sangiovese. The fruit-forward result stands up to just about anything with a red sauce, from pizza to puttanesca. This wine doesn't fear salt or garlic, which makes it an ideal house wine to keep around by the case.
For a slightly more elegant offering from Fattoria Le Pupille, consider their Poggio Valente. Four separate clones of Sangiovese are blended from an old vineyard that has since been replanted, so if you want to try this complex and delicate wine you had better grab a bottle before the 2004 vintage is gone. Who knows what the new plantings will be like.
Fortunately, since I've come to depend on Elisabetta Geppetti, I know that whatever the next iteration that comes from the 12-hectare vineyard at Poggio Valente will also probably be spectacular. Ask for her by name!