The world of Italian wine is one of the most complex to get to know. Why? Well for one, there are 20 regions. Secondly, Italy has a complex wine labeling system. Thirdly, there are about 350 official Italian wine varieties and it’s been said that over 1,700 Italian autochthonous grape varieties exist.
Wine is an important part of Italy’s culture. A top destination for wine lovers and connoisseurs alike, let’s explore 3 of Italy’s greatest wine regions.
Located in Italy’s northwest, the region of Piemonte is home to the city of Torino (Turin), historical chocolate makers, and some of the country’s most prestigious vineyards. Best known for the great Nebbiolo wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, the region is also home to Dolcetto, Barbera and Moscato d’Asti.
Cradled in the Po River Valley with the snow capped Alps to the north and nearby sea, Piemonte’s climate results in fog that helps ripen the Nebbiolo grapes used in both Barolo and Barbaresco. Light in color, nearly transparent, Nebbiolo wines are rich and tannic, and age well, becoming more complex with time. Barolo has been dubbed “the King of Wines” with scents of rose, dark red fruit, and truffles when aged. It pairs well with local hearty dishes like brasato, risotto with truffles, and wild boar stuffed agnolotti.
Unlike Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto, are everyday wines. Enjoy while young. Barbera wines sing of strawberry, sour cherry and herbs. Light bodied with high acidity, Barbera is super food friendly and versatile. Dolcetto is well balanced in terms of acidity and tannins. Usually a bit tart, they are best enjoyed with meats and roasted vegetables like eggplant and mushrooms.
Locals and visitors flock to Florence the capital of the region of Tuscany and to the surrounding countryside to witness countless Renaissance masterpieces, rolling green hills and the perhaps Italy’s most well known wine, Chianti.
In the 1970s, Sangiovese became the major grape variety required in Chianti for which the region is most famous. The term Super Tuscan was created in the ’80s for the red blend that uses non-indigenous grapes, namely Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc with Sangiovese.
Sangiovese wines range from fruity to earthy depending on the terroir and wine makers style. Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese) holds Italy’s highest DOCG classification. A wine worth aging, older Brunello wines (10+ years) have high acidity and tannin balanced gloriously with flavors like dried fig and candied cherry alongside hazelnut, chocolate and anise. Young Brunello holds its own with very present tannins and flavors like cherry, strawberry, and espresso. Enjoy it with local food: salami, bistecca Fiorentina and pasta dishes with mushrooms or game.
White wine drinkers can look forward to herbaceous Vermentino and Vernaccia di San Gimignano which is crisp and citrusy in flavor.
A visit to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without trying Vin Santo, “Holy Wine”. In Tuscany, Vin Santo is typically a Trebbiano-Malvasia blend with honey, dried apricot and hazelnut aromas. Don’t be surprised if the sweet dessert wine arrives at your table after dinner with cantucci (twice baked cookies). Dunk and enjoy!
Veneto is the region and Venice is its capital, constructed on 100+ small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Prosecco, Italy’s number one sparkling wine, comes from Veneto and the best examples are from the sub-region of Valdobbiadene.
Prosecco’s bubbles and acidity are two traits that make this wine food-friendly and versatile. It pairs as well with cured meats, cheese and nuts as it does with a main course. Look for Brut for the driest version and a Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG for one of the most delicious! Before tasting a Prosecco from this sub-region, I did not think that I liked Prosecco. Seek it out and let me know what you think.
Prosecco isn’t the only white wine Veneto offers. Soave, made of the grape variety Garganega, is a still wine; dry and light bodied. Think orange zest, honeydew melon, and notes of the sea. If you love seafood, this is your wine. It pairs well with scallops, clams, and squid.
Beyond Prosecco and Soave, Veneto is known for the Valpolicella region where the red blend of the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grape varieties is made. There are 5 levels of Valpolicella wines: Valpolicella Classica, Valpolicella Classica Superiore, Valpolicella Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella, and Recioto della Valpolicella. From Valpolicella Classica, an easy drinking picnic wine, to Amarone della Valpolicella, a bold fruity, age-worthy wine, Valpolicella is wine for everyone.
Curious to learn more? Come visit vineyards with us in Piemonte, Toscana, Veneto and beyond. Contact us, Casa Mia Tours, for your custom day of tasting, learning and laughter. We can’t wait to take you there.