Old World Wines- Italy

Italian wine is one of the most difficult regions to get to know. At the moment, there are about 350 official Italian wine varieties.

Italy produces a huge amount of table wine, Vermouth, and cooking wines (such as some Marsala). That said, there are 3 major regions that produce the most high quality drinking wines and they are: Veneto, Tuscany, and Piedmont.

Italian wine classification

Italian wines, like most European wines, are named according to their region. These regions are then classified according to quality. Think of it as a triangle, with the top being the highest quality (and lowest quantity produced). From top to bottom:

DOCG — These wines have to follow the strictest regulations, including a government regulated test prior to bottling. Does this mean that these are the best wines from Italy? Not necessarily – sometimes they rest on the laurels (or their name). This is where you’ll find your Barolos, Brunellos, etc. with price tags to match!

DOC – this wine follows a less stringent set of winemaking rules and  is produced in a specific region. However, there are hundreds of DOCs and, just like any area of a this gorgeous country, each has its own traditions (winemaking, grapes, etc.).  With a DOC wine, you are ‘guaranteed’ to have a wine that follows the local traditions.

IGT – this classification was born out of breaking the rules. This designation means that 85% of the wine was produced in that region but that they don’t follow all the rules of the stricter DOC or DOCG qualifications.

VdT – vino da tavola. These are the lowest quality wines. This tells you that the wine in your bottle is Italian. That’s about it. This is not to say that there aren’t delicious VdTs. If you’ve been to Italy and ordered a house wine, this was most likely a VdT.

Italian Wine Classification

 Selection of Italian wines

The most famous Italian wines are the Big Bs:

  • Barolo – from Piedmont in N. Italy, made of the Nebbiolo grape
  • Barbaresco – also from Piedmont in N. Italy, also made from he Nebbiolo grape
  • Brunello – from Tuscany, made with the Sangiovese grape

Italian Sparklers 

  • Franciacorta – highest quality Italian wine with bubbles
  • Prosecco – sparkling wine from Northern Italy – great to start a party
  • Amarone – different grapes go into this concentrated wine. Here, grapes are picked and dried out and then pressed and fermented to make a concentrated, full bodied, high in alcohol wine.
  • Chianti = Sangiovese
  • Montelpuciano the varietal is NOT the same as Vino Nobile di Montepluciano which is made of Sangiovese.

Wine Regions

The list of Italian wine regions is organized by highest volume of D.O.C. wines. This removes all the grapes and wines produced for making vinegar and cooking wine and low quality table wine.

  1. Veneto (~18% DOC production)Veneto is known for the Valpolicella region which is known for producing Amarone della Valpolicella. Besides the great red blends of Valpolicella made with Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, there are also several fine Merlot-based IGT wines in this area. For white wines, Garganega is the white grape that makes Soave (‘swah-vay’), a wine that’s rich like Chardonnay. Check out the article below on finding wines from Veneto.
  2. Tuscany (~17% DOC production)Tuscany is home to the Chianti region which is the most famous region for Sangiovese. When Sangiovese became the required major grape in Chianti during the 1970s, the other noble grapes (Cab and Merlot) ended up creating a new style of wine: Super Tuscan. For white wines in this region, keep in mind that Trebbiano is Italy’s most produced white grape and Vermentino has quite a few taste similarities to Sauvignon Blanc.
  3. Piedmont (~11% DOC production)Nebbiolo is a grape with high tannins and pale color that has long been famous for its bristling acidity and high tannin. Besides just the great Nebbiolo wines of Barolo, the region is also home to Moscato d’Asti and the underdog varietal: Dolcetto.
  4. Emilia-Romagna (~9% DOC production)Lambrusco has long been thought of as a cheap, sweet, fruity wine. Now there are several outstanding off-dry to totally dry Lambruscos from Emilia-Romagna.
  5. Lombardy (~7% DOC production)Valtellina is within Lombardy, close to Lake Como. Nebbiolo is the red wine produced here but it’s called Chiavennasca; it’s lighter and more “pinot-like” than its Piemontese sister. Lombardy also produces some great Pinot Noir (they call it Pinot Nero) especially around Oltrepò Pavese. The sparkling wine is called Franciacorta and is made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc grapes in the same style as Champagne.
  6. Umbria (~7% DOC production)Sagrantino is the red grape variety in Umbria that people go crazy over. In Montefalco, you’ll find Sagrantino, but there’s also a fair amount of strawberry-like Sangiovese in the region. The white grape here is called Grechetto, which is one of the grapes in Orvieto. It’s minerally and zesty qualities are similar to Pinot Grigio, with a distinct green almond flavor.
  7. Abruzzo (~7% DOC production)Montepulciano is the primary red grape in Abruzzo and the wines are called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This is a bit confusing because there is also a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is a wine from Tuscany made with Sangiovese. Montepulciano (the grape) makes a dark, rich wine with high tannins and an herbaceous character, and is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.
  8. Trentino Alto-Adige (~6% DOC production)This region is butted up to the Alps and makes fabulous white wines from Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Gewürztraminer, and Müller-Thurgau (the latter two are sweeter). In Trento, they also produce a sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that easily rivals the best Champagne.
  9. Friuli-Venezia Giulia (~6% DOC production)Known for several unique and more intensely flavored styles of Pinot Grigio, (including Ramato) and Sauvignon Blanc, with a slightly meaty undertone. The area also produces some very savory and umami tasting Merlot.
  10. Marche (~3% DOC production)Marche (Mar-kay) is known for their aromatic white wines. Verdicchio is definitely the most common, but Pecorino (the white wine grape, not the cheese) is an extremely special find. Lacrima is an up-and-coming grape from this area making fruity fun wines that reminded us of Syrah.
  11. Puglia (~3% DOC production)The fruit forward red wines from Puglia (Apulia) are a great way to get started with Italian wines. Most are very affordable and the region has a great number of esoteric sweet red wines that grow nowhere else in the world. Puglia is also a known value region for Chardonnay.
  12. Lazio (~2% DOC production)With Rome located in Lazio, wine production is relatively small. Still, refreshing and zesty Grechetto can be found here, along with Malvasia, an aromatic rich and sweet wine.
  13. Sicily (~1% DOC production)Red wines from Sicily are dark, rich, and fruit forward because of the warm climate. Nero d’Avola is an awesome red variety that’s worthy of nobility.
  14. Sardinia (~1% DOC production)At some point ampelographers discovered that Sardegna’s pride, Cannonau, is actually Grenache. In Sardegna (Sardinia), it tastes more rustic with dried fruit flavors. The wines from Sardegna (Sardinia) are highly aromatic and usually offered at a great value.
  15. Campania (~0.5% DOC production)Aglianico is a very high tannin and rustic red wine. Traditionally, it takes about 10 years of aging to be drinkable. Recently Aglianico wines have gained momentum as producers have figured out how to dial back Aglianico’s rugged meaty tannins.
Amit Kumar
Amit Kumarhttps://hmhelp.in
Hii! Welcome to My digital home, I am Amit – an almost no-code generalist, helping businesses with their online presence using WordPress and other tools and simplifying some of their operations with ideas and automation. A psychology and philosophy geek by interest and a graduate in Hospitality Management. I founded hmhelp during college, which got me into WordPress. I am a highly motivated and results-oriented professional with a proven track record of success in the hospitality industry. I’m also a Digital Marketing Enthusiast with significant academic and practical experience managing digital content across multiple platforms. Skilled at SEO optimization, developing digital content for social media platforms, I offer extensive knowledge of multiple software programs, strong attention to detail, and extraordinary communication skills. If you are interested in talking about any of the topics I have mentioned on my website, you are in the right place. You can contact me or learn more about what I do. You can also connect with me on social networks.

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