"Rubio" of Il Bastardo Sangiovese di Toscana
"Rubio" of Il Bastardo Sangiovese di Toscana

If you are looking for two fun wines for your next summer deck party, I recommend my two new Italian companions -- "Rubio" of Il Bastardo Sangiovese di Toscana and "Blanca" of La Bastarda Pinot Grigio Terre di Siciliana. Both 2015 wines are expressive, food friendly and sell for $9 or less at most wine outlets.

The label designs are eye-catching, too, featuring a chubby Rubio on his Vespa and a glamorous Blanca at the beach.

But it's what's in the bottle that counts!

I enjoyed La Bastarda this past week with a salmon dinner made by the Wine Goddess. I found it to be light, refreshing, crisp and pleasantly zesty, like grapefruit zesty. For the price, this is an extremely flavorful and satisfying Pinot Grigio -- as opposed to the thin, watery versions that abound.

"Blanca" of La Bastarda Pinot Grigio Terre di Siciliana
"Blanca" of La Bastarda Pinot Grigio Terre di Siciliana
The grapes are 100 percent from Sicily, where fishermen drink this by the gallon with shellfish and eggplant caponata.

Il Bastardo Sangiovese might seem entry-level from a price standpoint, yet it doesn't shirk on the customary bright acidity and dry plum-cherry flavors of Italy's No. 1 planted and beloved varietal. This is 100 percent Sangiovese. Try it with tomato pasta dishes, grilled Italian sweet sausage or a Caprese salad, and you'll be singing Dean Martin's "Volare" on Karaoke night.


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Both wines are crafted by Paolo Masi, the third-generation winemaker at Renzo Masi winery in Tuscany's Rufina district. The winery's motto is: "Big enough to be broad-minded. Small enough to care about the details."

For $9 each, that's a philosophy I can drink by.