Asda wine buyer Ed Betts blogs about the Italian red that goes well with pasta, cheese, salami … and toad-in-the-hole!

People often say to me they get stuck in a rut when it comes to the wines they drink – they find one they like and stick to it again and again. So I love being able to offer some new and interesting alternatives to try.

If you’re a red wine lover who tends to stick to something like Rioja I’d really suggest you give Italian reds a try. There’s a huge variety of brilliant wines from small suppliers right across the country – including some great value everyday drinking wines.

One of my current favourites is a wine we have in our Wine Atlas range called Negroamaro. It’s only £5 a bottle at the moment – great value for a wine that’s an IWC Gold Medal Winner.

The vineyard we work with is in Apulia, a beautiful region full of whitewashed hill towns, right in the heel of Italy.

One of my team was there for a family wedding last year and they tried a bottle of Negroamaro in a small local restaurant. They loved it and told us all about it when then they got back home.

We got straight on with talking to the producer to see if they could get a similar wine into our Wine Atlas range.

When I’m thinking about what makes something great for “everyday drinking” I want something that’s a blend of spicy and smooth; something that’s a safe bet and is consistently good; and something I’d be very happy to pour a glass of for my friends if they come over to our house. Negroamaro does all of these things.

I also get a lot of questions about matching food with wine. I think people assume that if they’re drinking an Italian wine they should probably drink it with pasta. It’s not a daft idea – wine producers tend to make wines that go well with the foods from their region – but I always think people should experiment a bit with food and wine pairing.

Negroamaro would be great with toad-in-the-hole, for example – especially if you’re using sausages with a bit of spice in them. The subtle spicy flavours of the wine will really complement them.

If you want to see the difference food can make to the taste of a wine just do a bit of experimenting at home. Try Negroamaro with some salami, then try it again with a hard cheese, then a final time with some dark chocolate.

With each food you’ll get some different flavours coming through in the wine. That’s kind of what a sommelier in a posh restaurant is doing – looking for how different flavour combinations of wine and food work together.

And you don’t just need to take my word for how good our Negroamaro is. It’s an IWC Gold Medal winner, which I’m really proud of. IWC awards are based on a series of blind tastings, so the judges don’t know which wine – or what price of wine – they’re tasting. Usually the awards go to more expensive wines, so it’s brilliant to get a Gold Award for such a great value bottle of red.

This is the first of my 'Thirsty Thursday' blogs – check back next week for another of my wine recommendations.

Ed's on a mission to take the mystery out of choosing new wines to try. Find out more about his Sommeasier's Guide to Wine.