Wines produced in Italy are probably the most diverse and varied of any country. Italy spans over 10° of latitude, which makes for an incredibly varied climate from north to south. With the climate also affected by the seas of the Adriatic and Tyrolean on the east and west and the Apeninen mountain range down the spine of the country, there are many elements affecting the growing conditions. Add to all this the fact that Italy has over 1000 grape varieties, many of which are native, and the wine produced from different regions have their very own distinct characteristics.
Many people don’t find Italian wines very drinkable, with the common complaint being that they are too acidic. Wine though traditionally always was accompanied by a meal, and once drunk with food the acidity in the wine was balanced by the flavours of the dish. In recent times winemakers have understood the trend and the fact that many consumers like wine on its own and have changed the style of some wines to accommodate for this.
The southern part of Italy (Sicily, Calabria, Puglia) is extremely hot. Summers here are dry and the temperatures rise to 40°. The proximity to the sea gives the vines a cooling influence. The wines that are produced from these regions are usually more full bodied and fruit driven with higher alcohol. The grapes that excel here are the reds of Aglianico, Nero Diavolo and Primitivo. Inzolia, Falinghina and Greco di Tufo are the prominent white varieties.
Central Italy has a more moderate climate and consists of the great Tuscan wine region. Though fantastic wines are also produced from Abruzzo, Umbria and the Marche.
Northern Italian wines are becoming extremely popular due to style that is now being produced. The climate here is extremely cool and the wines from here show this through their freshness and vibrancy. Piedmont is home the most famous regions of Barolo and Barberesco, but wines from the Alto Adige and Trentino are now also receiving fantastic accolades.
Grapes & Regions
Pinot Grigio (Friuli)
Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable regions, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. Sangiovese is native to these parts and has been joined by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce the Super Tuscans. These wines were made outside DOC/DOCG regulations but were considered of high quality and commanded high prices, which resulted in the Tuscan wine laws to be modified to include these wines.
Tuscany is also known for the sweet wine Vin Santo made from a variety of the region’s grapes.
Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Piedmont is situated in the north-west corner of Italy. The most well known wines from the region are Barolo and Barberseco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is quite unique in that for such a light coloured wine contains high levels of tannin and lots of acidity. These wines are ideal for storage and a well-aged Barolo age for decades as the tannins are integrated more and more into the wine. As the wine matures the colour becomes more brownish and rust-red.
Even though Nebbiolo takes all the attention, Barbera and Dolcetto also make highly drinkable wines, but not with the same aging potenatial.
Cortese is the white grape of Gavi di Gavi and makes a wine that is full bodied with lots of flavour but still with refreshing acidity.
Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Cortese