I went on a shopping trip last weekend to New Hampshire with the Wine Butler -- my good friend and former Sun photographer Mike Pigeon -- to see if we could cash in on a $25 discount coupon published in this newspaper and a 15 percent sale on Italian wines.

We did.

We purchased 13 bottles of red wine that regularly priced at $304.87.

We paid $196.72 -- a savings of $108.15.

On a dollar-cost average basis, we ended up paying $15.13 per bottle, definitely the sweet spot of my price range.

The true value was in the wines we secured.

A Volpaia Chianti Classico rated 92 points by Wine Spectator for $16.99; four "baby" Barolos -- Nebbiolo varietal -- from Gattinara in Piemonte's northern region and Renato Ratti from the southern end; Antinori's Super Tuscan "Il Bruciato"; and several bottles of Barbera D'Asti made by.

This was a score.

As I've mentioned previously in this column, when the time is right, you have to pounce.

And what makes for perfect timing is when the New Hampshire state liquor-store outlets offer reduced markdowns on wines, then add on a 15 percent discount on each case of 12 bottles. The coup de grace, though, comes with the $25 discount coupon -- which was published in this newspaper two weeks ago -- on a total purchase of $150 or more.

May is Italian wine month, with 15 percent off a case (you can mix and match) so there's still time for you to cash in. The promotion ends Monday, May 28.

Two other wines caught my eye -- Tenuta Sassoregale Sangiovese from Tuscany and Feudo Zirtari from Sicily. I sampled both wines for today's review and was overjoyed to see special deals on them.


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Sassoregale, which means "royal stone," carries a suggested retail price of $18, but is selling for $13.99 through the end of the month. Feudo Zirtari, at $14 a bottle, is $9.99 with a $3 mail-in rebate.

A mixed case -- six bottles each -- would cost you $122.40 using the rebate and the 15 percent discount. If you still have your $25 coupon from this newspaper, your total cost is reduced to $97.40. That's a phenomenal $8.11 per bottle for these very good wines!

I can tell you why the Wine Butler is enjoying retirement. He used his calculator to do the above math stated above, and scooped up a case of Italian reds that will get him through the pasta-and-meatball days of summer with gustatory elan.

So why are these wines good? Read on.

Sassoregale Sangiovese 2015, $13.99: This is 100 percent Sangiovese, Italy's most widely planted red grape and one of its most distinctive. This DOC wine is fruity, fresh and energetic. Its bright acidity makes it a go-to wine to enjoy with a meat pizza or any pasta with tomato sauce. It represents a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this fabulous grape, which is the same primary component of Tuscany's elegant -- and expensive -- Brunello di Montalcino. The fruit in Sassoregale comes from the Maremma Toscana region. Vineyards are planted along the Tyrrhenian Sea coast, where they get a lot of sun and sea breezes, and spread inward on rich soils of high clay content. Sunny days and cooler nights allow the Sangiovese to mature gradually and fully, leaving the winemaker the pleasant task of harvesting the grapes at their peak. It shows in this wine. It's ruby red in color and offers a nice mix of cherry and strawberry scents in the glass. The lovely fruit is juicy and smooth on the palate, and the strawberry-cherry mix builds with intensity leading into a tart, uplifting finish. This winemaker says Sassoregale will age well for four to five years, and I don't doubt him. But in my view, this sumptuous Sangiovese is too good now to hold back for future calendar dates.

Feudo Zirtari Sicilia 2016 $12.99 before rebate: In southern Italy, where native and ancient varietals rule the warm, dry vineyard land, Syrah is an exception. It's gaining ground as a very productive blending partner for Siciian wines. Feudo Zirtari is a 55 percent to 45 percent blend of the thick, black-skinned Nero D'Avola, Sicily's most important red grape, and Syrah, which lends assertive, spicy red and plum fruit traits. This wine is inky black in the glass and dense in the mouth. The first sip tells you it's built for power although, in my sampling, the pistons aren't firing on all cylinders -- yet. It's young and a bit grippy. It needs a bit more time in the bottle to knit together -- maybe six months -- then watch out. If you buy this now, tuck it away and serve it in the fall with grilled meats, roasts, or pasta and ragü. You'll be toasting yourself in the mirror. Plus, I doubt you'll ever be able to buy it for $9.99 again.