We could happily bob along forever on a chianti sea to Philly's endless array of Italian BYOBs. But when I come upon a wine list as well-chosen as Le Virtù's, I'm reminded that a smart sommelier can still be the best guide to a discovery.
Taste this striking bottle of Ver Sacrum ($48.50), a montepulciano from San Savino in Marche, a central region not well-represented on most local wine lists. It's just one of the gems that wine director Federico Dall'Olmo has mined for a list touching 17 different Italian regions - virtually all less than $50 a bottle.
The Marche is just north of Abruzzi, the restaurant's inspiration, and Ver Sacrum, or "sacred spring," is a perfect match for the game-meat ragus and handmade pastas that anchor this menu. It has the structure to handle the lusty flavors, but also the plush fruit and spice - blackberry, licorice, and cedar - to make it ripe for drinking now.
The catch? Le Virtù is the only restaurant that sells it. But if you like it enough to buy a minimum of six, it can be special-ordered in Pennsylvania for $25.99 each (PLCB code: 62006).
- Craig LaBan