What’s the Best Italian Wine for You?
Italian wine is one of the most vibrant in the world, and it’s because it’s incredibly varied; every town in the Big Boot seems to have its own grapes. This results in a stunning catalogue of thousands of grapes becoming wine in all styles.
Red, white, sweet or bubbly, there’s an Italian wine for your every need. The best part? The wine’s quality is better than ever! Italy is the largest wine-producing country in the world, and although most of it is everyday table wine, the finest labels are worthy of any cellar. Making wine in Italy is an art form.
Italy’s Wine Regions
To understand Italian wine, one must explore the country from the Northern Alps to the Warm Mediterranean south. And although, yes, it takes years to master Italian wine in all its forms, knowing the most significant wine styles in the country’s leading regions is a great start.
There are 20 Italian regions, and each is home to dozens of DOC and DOCG appellations. Let’s approach them from north to south and see if we can find the right Italian wine for you. Needless to say, all Italian wines are special in their own way!
Valle d’Aosta is the smallest wine region in Italy, and it covers a narrow valley nestled in the Alps towards Switzerland. Although there’s little wine coming from this area, the quality is fantastic. Look for reds made with Petite Rouge and whites made with Petite Arvine.
Piedmont is the source of some of Italy’s most prestigious red wines; the illustrious trio of grapes, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, become spectacular wines at all price points. The best Nebbiolo comes from Barolo and Barbaresco. Piedmont is also a source of pretty white wine in Gavi and sweet sparkling wine in Asti.
Liguria is a small region overlooking the Mediterranean Sea south of Piedmont. Here, Vermentino is queen, and it produces sea-scented wines that go well with pesto and seafood.
Notable Regions: Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe, Gavi, Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti, Asti, Coli di Lune.
Wine to Try:
Also, in Northern Italy, just east of Piedmont, Lombardy is best known for its sparkling Franciacorta — Italy’s answer to Champagne.
Three Italian regions are known together as the Three Venices or the Tre Venezie: Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
These northern, cold-climate regions are home to important wines like the fizzy Prosecco, the fruity red wines from Valpolicella and the medium-bodied white wines from Soave. This is also home to the acclaimed Pinot Grigio, and many producers also make stunning Merlot.
Crisp white wines are the best ambassadors for the entire area, whether made with local grapes like Ribolla or international varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Notable Regions: Valpolicella, Soave, Prosecco, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige. Franciacorta.
Wine to Try:
Emilia Romana is already warmer than Italy’s northern regions. Although the area is home to delicious food, from Parmigiano Reggiano to Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, the wine here rarely stands out. Notably, this is home to the sweet fizzy red wine Lambrusco, perhaps one of the most popular Italian wines globally.
Tuscany is as prestigious as Piedmont. Here, Sangiovese is the leading grape, and it’s used to make Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. This is also home to the controversial Super Tuscan wines, often made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Marche is a lesser-known region with a developing wine industry. Perhaps the most interesting wine in the area is the red made with Lacrima grapes — it looks and tastes like Pinot Noir.
Notable Regions: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Bolgheri, Orvieto, Lambrusco.
Wine to Try:
Umbria is right below Tuscany, and the area produces similar wine. Sangiovese is also influential here, although Sagrantino, a rustic red grape, is worth seeking.
Lazio is home to Rome and an uncomplicated white wine style — Frascati. This is an easy to drink wine that’s best enjoyed with a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara.
Abruzzo - Molise
Abruzzo and neighbouring Molise specialise in red wines made with Montepulciano and whites made with Trebbiano. This is excellent everyday wine, although the most refined examples can age.
Notable Regions: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Frascati, Montefalco Sagrantino.
Wine to Try:
Naples is Campania’s capital city, meaning there’s pizza here for everyone! The wine is fantastic as well. White wines made with Falanghina, Greco and Fiano are refreshing and exciting on the nose and palate. The best red wines are made with the robust Aglianico.
Puglia - Basilicata - Calabria
These three regions comprise Southern Italy, from the boot’s heel to its tip. These regions might not be a source of sophisticated wine, but they do offer rustic wines and a few specialities worth trying. Grapes that do well in these warm area include Primitivo, Negroamaro and Gaglioppo.
Sicilia - Sardinia
The outstanding Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia are both fantastic sources of fine and everyday wine. Sicily is also home to Marsala, a renowned appellation for fortified wine, although most of the island’s wine is red, and it’s made with Syrah or the local Nero d’Avola.
Producers in Sardinia make wine with Cannonau AKA Grenache and white wines with Vermentino. These are fantastic wines, and they come in all sweetness levels.
Notable Regions: Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, Etna, Marsala, Cannonau di Sardegna, Vermentino di Sardegna.
Wine to Try:
Italian Wine — Larger than Life!
Italian wine is incredibly varied, and it’s because it goes back thousands of years. There’s tradition here, and that’s what makes the wine charming. From robust reds to crisp white wine. From bubbly Prosecco to sweet specialities. You could try a different Italian wine every day without having to repeat for the rest of your life!
The best part? You don’t have to choose. The best Italian wine is the one you still haven’t tried. Tasting wine is an adventure, and it can be a life-changing experience when it’s Italian.