Being one of the world’s biggest wine producers, the home to 20 wine regions, and having more than 500 documented varietals in circulation it is no wonder the beauty of Italian wines are sometimes hard to grasp for the best of us. However i find alot of people, myself including, sometimes avoid the Italiano section of the bottle shop mostly due to lack of knowledge – what is the vareital? What is the region? It’s all in Italian, i dont understand!
Therefore i have decided to put together a very basic guide to understanding our pizza and pasta relatives so that we can all enjoy the wonderful Italian way of life – eat lots, drink lots and do it with great company.
As you will usually not find the grape varietal written on the label the best way to suss out the type of wine is to go by the region or subregion on the label – here is a basic guide to the reds of Italy;
Tuscany – Toscana:
The pride of Tuscany is the Sangiovese grape (basic characteristics: cherry, cedar, earth).
Tuscany is the home to various names you have seen before; Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, etc. It is also home to the world acclaimed ‘Super-Tuscans’ such as Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, etc which are blended with Bordeaux vareities to appeal more to the international market.
Piedmont – Piedmonte:
The most widely planted red varietal is Barbera (also grown in South Lombardy) grown around the towns of Asti, Alba and Pavia. The wine has a very dark colour, is full of lots of cherry fruit and is extremely food friendly.
Piedmont is the home to Italy’s King of grapes – Nebbiolo (meaning ‘little fog’). The most well-known and sought after wines from Piedmont are the wines from Barolo and Barbaresco. The grapes characteristics consist of wild mushrooms, tar, truffles and roses. The very best of its kind can age for over a century.
Are most commonly known for their wines made from Montepulciano (not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano). Basic characteristics; plum, light tannins and acidity.
The famous wines from Veneto are Amarone and Valpolicella made from the tri-blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Valpolicella’s basic characteristics are; dark black cherries and spice. Amarone is a very special wine which undergoes a special drying process called Passito; it is extremely high in alcohol, usually around 16% and is full of flavours of rasinis, prunes and syrupy fruit.
Is known for wines made from the grape – Nero d’Avola – basic characteristics include plum fruits and sweet tannins.
Italian wines are fast becoming a favourite of mine – and this is mostly because they must be drank with good food, it is illegal not to. Here is what i have been sipping on and munching on lately;