It doesn’t get much better than the various Italian wine varieties that are available on the market. There is a wide selection of premium Italian wine options that you can choose from all of which will meet your desired flavour profile and taste regardless of the event of what type of food you may be eating with it.
Italian wine selections vary in taste and flavour profiles significantly due to a variety of reasons the main one being the various types of grapes used during the fermentation process in addition to the regions in which Italian wine varieties are produced. There are a lot of subtleties that are involved when it comes to Italian wines which is why understanding the different varieties and types is so important.
Before you decide on which Italian wine variety fits your specific taste profile and intended flavours, you’ll need to understand what Italian wine is and how you should go about choosing the right bottle. With all the existing wine products out on the market right now, it can be quite difficult trying to find the right Italian wine variety that meets your specific needs and taste profile.
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re selecting the right Italian wine variety is by doing ample amounts of research before deciding on a final bottle to buy.
There is so much information out there about the various Italian wine varieties that you can find in the liquor store that you may happen to visit so you’re never out of luck when it comes to finding the right resources which will help you select the best Italian wine variety for your specific taste buds or flavour profile. Italian wine varieties come in many of the same types that standard wine options do such as red wine and white wine however there is one major difference.
Italian wine varieties are made using special grape types that are exclusive to various regions in Italy. These different grape types allow wine producers to infuse different notes and taste of certain ingredients into their bottled wine products without tasting the same as other brands on the market. In this guide, we’re going to give you a detailed breakdown of how you can go about selecting the right Italian wine option and how to go about choosing between the various grapes and regions available.
Italian wines are complex but interesting, so let’s look at some fun facts you may not already know.
If you know anything of French wine, you may be familiar with the appellation controls the French use which place very strict guidelines on regions to produce authentic wines that are of the highest quality. Italy is a bit more relaxed. Many of their varieties are grown in several different regions, if not all over the country. It’s still an official Italian wine and can still be of excellent quality, even if it has slightly different characteristics than all the others.
Very few Italian wines are known around the world. Esoteric wines are less common, but not necessarily more exclusive. Again, unlike French wines, Italian wines that you can only find in Italy are often just as affordable as more common varieties. They simply maintain a low profile with unique tastes.
The reason you may find so many different names for one wine throughout Italy is that Italy wasn’t a unified country until 1861. Many of the regions still maintain their own distinct identifying characteristics and insist on calling their form of the same wine by a different name.
Introducing the most common grape, grown all over Italy: Sangiovese. It goes by many names, chiefly Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di (or de) Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and Morellino di Scansano. Because they grow all over, each variation is different based on climate, harvesting, and production methods.
Sangiovese from Tuscany is earthy with bold tannins and notes of black cherry while Sangiovese from Campania is lighter and tastes of roses and strawberries. Typically, Sangiovese wine will age from four to seven years, but they can last longer.
Because there are so many wine varieties from Italy, we can’t possibly talk about them all, unless you have a few weeks, or months, to spare. However, we can touch on some of the most common varieties, so you’ll have a jumping-off point for trying some of the best.
This is the same as the French Pinot Gris and crossed over the border into northern Italy around the turn of the 20th century. It has become much more popular in the past four decades or so and has found a lot of commercial success around the world.
This variety is a light-bodied wine with high acidity. It has some mineral qualities while others taste rather peachy. You’ll find the best wines of this type in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
A significant upgrade from the Trebbiano, the Verdicchio has more flavour and character potential with crisp acidity and sea air and lemon aromas.
This wine is meant to be enjoyed within the first three years and has a deep red colour with low acidity and high tannins. It’s easy to drink without aging, making it very common in several regions including Lombardy and Piedmont. You may know this variety by names like Dogliani, Dolcetto d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Ovada, and Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba.
This variety of red Italian wine comes from hotter regions and is tannic, bold, and long-lasting. In some cases, it’s surprisingly tart and delicate with smells like bing cherries and roses. It should be aged for seven to ten years and is much less common than many other varieties.
In fact, there are almost fifty times more Cabernet Sauvignon than there is Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo also goes by the names Barbaresco, Barolo, Valtellina, Roero, Ghemme, Gattinara, and Sforzato.
Italian culture is quite relaxed. They don’t take many things too seriously, and when it comes to wine growing, that’s not necessarily a good thing. While there are plenty of fantastic wines from the land of spectacular tourism, Trebbiano isn’t one of them. That’s not to say it’s not a good wine if you’re looking for something very cheap and crisp. There are also some exceptional Trebbiano wines of great character if the grapes are grown carefully, so it’s still worth a try.
This is the most common white wine in Italy. It’s grown most prevalently in central regions and has a lot of clones like Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Romagna, Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano Giallo, and Procanico. It also provides a base for other white wine blends like Frascati.
Usually, Trebbiano is very dry and acidic, but lately, some producers have achieved sweetness. It takes away somewhat from their crisp, refreshing nature, but can provide a bit of extra flavour for those who prefer it.
There are two different wines in Italy called Vernaccia. They come from Tuscany and Sardinia. To add to the confusion, you may already be experiencing, there’s also a red Vernaccia variety from the Marche region.
The Vernaccia from Tuscany is the finest of the three with delightful mineral nuances. Unlike many white wines, it ages well in oak barrels, adding to its depth of character.
Pinot Grigio gets a lot of attention, but the Tocai Friulano grape is the most widely planted Friuli variety. It’s a light or medium-bodied wine with a rich, thick texture that’s more flavourful than many of the other Italian whites.
Some ampelographers say that the Tocai is the same as Sauvignon Vert, which is what Chileans use to make Sauvignon Blanc. However, the wines they make are quite different. Unfortunately, there’s much confusion again because of the classic wine zone in Hungary named Tokaji.
This variety is from Piedmont and despite being very old, has gained new popularity recently. It’s very flavourful with soft tannins and notes of flowers, almonds, and melon.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that vintners discovered what they thought was Pinot Blanc was Chardonnay. Oops. Chardonnay is popular all over Italy and around the world. Italy producer crisper, leaner Chardonnays than many other parts of the world. They’re not as fruity or oaky because they don’t age in oak barrels well.
The crisp, light-bodied whites have apple and citrus flavours with notes of honey and mineral characters. They grow in Piedmont and a few other places in northern Italy.
This variety is fragrant and flavourful. It’s grown mainly in the southern region of Campania. These wines are medium-bodied and age well for a rich aromatic quality.
This is the main variety of Soave, one of Italy’s most notorious wines. It makes classy, rich wines with unctuous character. For a long time, this variety went unnoticed, but its popularity has been growing.
This variety grows in the south of Italy and makes an aromatic, crisp, floral wine with a lot of character and viscosity.
This wine is a blend of Rondinella, Molinara, and Corvina. It’s the signature blend from Veneto and can be anywhere from simple and tart to deep and intense.
This variety can be found all over Italy and has several subvarieties like Malvasia Istriana, Malvasia di Candia, and Malvasia Toscana. Unfortunately, it is fragile and oxidizes easily. Mixed with Trebbiano, it makes a rich and lovely blend.
The grape used to make Moscato grows all over the country and makes several different subvarieties like Moscato d’Asti and sparkling Asti. It’s perfumed and floral, with some of the best expressions of Moscato than you’ll find anywhere else in the world. It can be golden or red and is sometimes mixed with other varieties to create blends like Zibibbo.
This variety has been growing for over a century. It’s the same as the Pinot Blanc variety in France and crossed the border to northern Italy just like Pinot Grigio. It’s known for its rich character.
Renano means Rhine and is like the Rhines you might find in Germany. Like several other varieties from the northern region of Trentino Alto-Adige, this wine came to Italy when this region was the gateway to Italy from the rest of Europe.
Riesling also tends to be distinctly German, and this variety shares the same crispness and light-bodied characteristics as many other Rieslings do.
Both wines are light-bodied and sweety. They grow alongside each other in southern Italy and have raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry flavours with tough leather notes. While Primitivo is punchy, Negroamaro produces darker fruit flavours. They are commonly blended, which is why we grouped them together to describe them.
They are best enjoyed in the first three years of harvest. Primitivo is known as Zinfandel in other parts of the world and comes from a variety of grape in Croatia named Tribidrag.
It’s common to refer to Sauvignon Blanc with just its first name. This intense herbal wine grows in the Northeast, but other winemakers are attempting to cultivate it in less traditional areas for a more international style.
This crisp, light to medium-bodied wine can make affordable, delightful wines or rich, fine wines. It comes from Tuscany and is perfectly at home with other Super Tuscans and non-traditional varieties.
This wine variety is from Sicily. It has bold fruit flavours and is like Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. It’s aged from five to seven years but can last longer.
This variety comes from the Piedmont region and is the most produces red wine in the area. It should be drunk young and does not age well after three years. It has a unique liquorice taste and is herbaceous and fruit-forward with black cherry flavours and juicy acidity that make it very tart.