Italian wine is a class of its own.
Great location and geographical extent of Italy enables this country to offer very diversified wines with unique flavours and unmatched style. Italian wines are a league of their own. The range of wine level here is as wide as the span of the “Italian boot” – from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. Here we can find both light white wines and robust, extractive, barrel-aged red wines.
The great thing about Italy is the presence of numerous local, unique grape varieties which gives the wines their unique and individual character.
Italy also has a great culinary tradition, the pleasures of the table – from the simplest to the most sophisticated – they are also inherently associated with wine.
The main regions of Italy:
Piedmont – the kingdom of red wine, especially Barolo and Barbaresco, made from the Nebbiolo variety – wines with complex aromas, full-bodied, high in extract and tannin content, perfectly suitable for (or rather demanding) barrelling. Among red varieties, solid and meaty wines are produced from Barbara and Dolcetto. Although Piedmont is quite dominated by red wine, we should mention an interesting white Gavi (from the Cortese variety) – a dry wine with pleasant fruitiness and lively acidity, as well as white Arneis (from the variety of the same name) – meaty, fresh, to be enjoyed young.
Tuscany – an enchanting, beautiful region – also when it comes to wine. This is the birthplace of the famous Chianti. The range of class and qualities of this wine is wide – from poor to very interesting, juicy wines (Chianti is made from the Sangiovese and Canaiolo varieties). The most interesting wines of this type come from the most regarded area – Chianti Classico.
South of the production place of Chianti, Burnello di Montalcino (from Sangiovese Grosso) is made – an expressive, spicy, well and long barrelled wine. Its more affordable version is Rosso di Montalcino. Among white wines, it is necessary to mention Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Enjoying an almost legendary reputation, Super Tuscans are a product of winemakers that decided to disregard the rigid rules and regulations of the appellation system and appeal to a lower category in order to produce wines the way they see fit – often with great success. Tuscan producers set the path winemakers from other parts of Italy followed through. This history teach us that the quality mark of an Italian wine need not be a definite indicator.
Emilia Romagna – apart from international varieties (like Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Noir), grown here is the red Sangiovese (slightly different in style than its Tuscan counterparts), and among white varieties, Trebbiano and the old local Albana which – as not everybody knows – produced the wine Albana di Romagna, the first to receive the DOCG status of the prestigious Italian appellation. This variety also produces sweet wines (passito). Another wine of the region recognizable in Poland is the slightly sparkling Lambrusco – produced in different versions, dry or sweet. Due to its structure, it is flexible and leads to interesting results in combination with food. Worth a try.
Veneto – for a long time, it has been a production place of many unsophisticated, ordinary wines. Currently, many resilient manufacturers try to raise the bar in terms of quality, trying to offer something original, embedded in the native tradition. Red varieties: Corvina, Rodinella, Molinara, white: Pinot Grigio, Garganega, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Veneto prides itself in its classic wines. They are: Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella (sweet-sour, made from dried, raisin-like grapes), Bardolino and an excellent white wine – Soave. Also made here are interesting white sparkling wines, based on the Proseco variety, which also gave the name to these bubbly wines.
Apulia – a large and interesting wine region with very long traditions, dating back to two thousand years ago. The conditions here are very favourable for making a lot of wine (the Greeks colonizing the area used to call these lands Entoria – the land of wine). Apulia is the second region in terms of production size, surpassed only by Veneto. Three areas define its activities geographically: Foggia, Bari and Brindisi. Apulia relies mostly on red wines, they are made from three basic varieties – Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia.
Sicily – the island produces large quantities of wine – even as much as 900 million litres a year. The deeply-rooted tradition blends here with modernity.
In the flood of mediocre and commercial wines, the great return towards local varieties and individual style is becoming more and more visible, new investors are on the rise as well. The main white varieties are: Catarratto, Inzolia, Grecanico. Red wine is dominated by Nero d’Avola, but you can also find some international varieties, such as Merlot or Syrah. Sicily gives birth to well-known sweet wines, such as the fortified Marsala (also appearing in dry versions) or Malvasia delle Lipari. In a word – Sicily is in many ways a very warm and sweet region.
The appellation system:
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e garantita) – the highest wine category. Quality wines with controlled and guaranteed name and origin.
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – quality wine, a little bit lower in hierarchy than DOCG
IGT – local wines.
Vino da tavola – simple table wines.