Italy is nothing short of a gastronomic wonderland, and the wine is no different!
Italian wine enjoys a reputation that most other countries can only dream of. Not only is it delicious, but it has a history that dates back thousands of years. Many of the wine-growing regions still adhere to the wine production techniques of their ancient ancestors or own vines that are descended from the ancient originals, and it is this character that makes Italy’s wine culture so charming. As you travel through the country’s cities and countryside, note which wines originate from there and make sure you indulge in a bit of the local wine culture, you won’t regret it! Here is our list of some of the most famous wines to look out for on your travels. And we’ve divided them into regions from north to south to help you out too.
North-west – Piedmont
Grown in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed under the DOCG, the highest designation of Italian wine quality, Barolo is known as the ‘King of Wine’. It is rich and full-bodied and is often compared to the Pinot Noirs of Burgundy due to its lighter pigments. Aged for at least two years in oak and one year in the bottle, it can be drunk immediately or aged and matured. It pairs brilliantly with barbeques or with richer steak dinners meaning that it has drinkability year-round. The winemaker, Danilo Drocco describes it beautifully as “a lovely person who needs to be discovered little by little. Every time you open a bottle of Barolo, it gives off unique emotions and sensations.”
North-east – Veneto
Regarded as the poor man’s Champagne, Prosecco has come a long way in recent years. Winemakers have improved their techniques and have produced a sparkling wine with finer bubbles, less sugar, and more complex flavours than before. Still versions of Prosecco exist, but it is the sparkling version that enjoys the most popularity. When you’re visiting Venice, what better way to immerse yourself in the culture than by relaxing at a small bar with views of the canals and a chilled glass of Prosecco.
Central – Tuscany
The stunning landscape of Tuscany on the western side of Italy boasts several famous wine regions and produces many well-known wines. Vineyards blanket the countryside and with so many fantastic wines we had to mention a few:
Grown in the Chianti region and produced in the town of Montalcino, Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and is very highly regarded. With flavours of oregano, balsamic, and fig, Brunello is a dark, rich wine with high tannins that soften with age. It matches well with tomato dishes, so be sure to enjoy a glass with any red tomato dish you try while in Tuscany.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
This wine has been well-loved since the Renaissance and is produced in the town of San Gimignano. It’s one of the most character-full Italian whites that is easily distinguished by its golden hue, floral bouquet, and high levels of acidity. If you visit San Gimignano on your travels, you can sip a glass with a view of the town’s iconic medieval towers.
Also called a ‘holy wine’, this rich dessert wine is deliciously sweet and is most famously enjoyed by dipping a biscotti into it.
Chianti didn’t just gain its fame from the film The Silence of the Lambs, this rustic, cherry-scented wine is renowned for its excellent taste and ability to pair with a wide range of food. Try it with typical Tuscan food or pizza or with whatever you happen to be eating. A drop of this wine will instantly transport you to the green landscape of Tuscany.
Central – Castelli Romani
South of Rome, within the region of Castelli Romani, is the town of Frascati, which gives name to its most famous wine. Frascati wine dates back many centuries and some archaeologists believe that grapes vines were grown in this region as far back at 5,000 BC! There are both still and sparkling varieties of Frascati, and each is made from several grape varieties. This wine is typically light and pairs perfectly with food from the region such as light pasta dishes, salads and grilled vegetables. It may not be the most elegant or flavoursome wine you have ever tasted, but its incredible history and easy to drink character will find a soft spot in your heart.
South-east – Puglia
Nero di Troia
With the deepest ruby colour and flavours of spice and fennel with floral notes, this intense wine certainly earns the name ‘Nero’ (meaning black). It has soft, silky tannins that will further soften with age and a drop of this wine accompanies local lamb dishes perfectly.
South-west – Campania
Lacryma Cristi del Vesuvio (Christ’s Tears at Vesuvius)
Located close to the infamous Mount Vesuvius, Campania utilises the nutrient-rich volcanic soil for producing its excellent wines. The name of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio is used to describe the red, white, and rose wines of the area, with each of them growing under the watchful eye of the active volcano. Having been made since the ancient Roman times, the vines were brought to Italy in the 5th-century BC and the modern vines are directly descended from the originals!
South – Sicily
The beautiful island of Sicily, off the south of Italy’s mainland, produces 1/6 of Italy’s wine. You may think the hot climate would make grapes become overripe quickly, but the 900m elevation on the island allows many of the grapes to ripen slowly. Moscato (or Muscat) is a fantastic, golden dessert wine that is delicious on its own or accompanied by a dessert.
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