Italian wines offer something for every palate, from zesty Pinot Grigios that rival the French varieties to aromatic reds such as Nebbiolo with distinctive rose and tar aromas, or powerfully structured age-worthy Barolo.
Wine labels not only identify grape varieties and regions, but they can also indicate quality levels. Look out for DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) markings to make sure you are getting high-grade wines.
Chianti, Italy's bright red wine from Tuscany region, is refreshing with acidity and transparent ruby hue. As quality rises, concentrated wild strawberry, spice and herb aromas and flavors become hallmarks.
Chianti wine region lies between Florence and Siena and has been mentioned in ancient manuscripts and historical documents, with high-quality wines often featuring their respective villages on their labels.
Wines labelled Chianti Classico can be identified by the black rooster seal on their labels. To qualify as such, at least 80% Sangiovese grapes must comprise their blend. Any additional local varieties (colorino, canaiolo nero or Merlot) may be added into this particular region's blend to complete its profile for Chianti Classico wines. Only wines produced within its boundaries may carry this designation.
Valpolicella wines tend to be light in alcohol content and tannin content, offering refreshing notes of tart cherry and aromatic herb aromas that pair perfectly with light meals and appetizers.
Corvina Veronese makes up 45 to 95% of Valpolicella wines, along with rondinella and molinara grape varieties. Winemakers may add other permitted grape varieties for added structure and colour.
Hemingway loved Valpolicella DOC wine, and its robust basic form still pairs beautifully with traditional Italian dishes like pizza and salami. For something even fuller-bodied try looking for Ripasso labels;
Barolo and Barbaresco are two of Piedmont's most esteemed red wines. Both made from Nebbiolo grapes, their difference lying primarily in where they're grown as well as how long they spend aging before bottling.
Camillo Benso Count of Cavour (an influential Italian statesman who championed Italy's unification), improved the quality of his Barolo wine in the late 1800s by engaging French winemaker Louis Oudart to help craft modern dry Barolo, creating deeply complex wines with notes of rose petals, tar and truffle that age beautifully for decade-plus.
Abruzzo in Italy boasts full-bodied red wines that pair perfectly with various dishes. Look for wines with strong tannins, soft acidity and subtle sweetness for optimal enjoyment.
Lagrein grapes of Abruzzo have seen a recent revival. Boasting flavors such as raspberries, undergrowth and vanilla notes, their distinctive taste stands out among modern offerings.
Italy's DOC system resembles France's AOC in that both have specific boundaries and maximum harvest yields for permitted grape varieties, with non-traditional wines (like Super Tuscans ) often released under IGT classification.
Lugana DOC wine has long been enjoyed by wine enthusiasts during a relaxing beachside stroll along Lake Garda or dining al fresco at one of Lake Garda's historic stilt houses. This special white can hold its own when combined with salty foods while developing impressive complexity despite having relatively low alcohol levels.
Lugana primarily cultivates Turbiana grapes, a high yielding variety that's both pest and disease resistant and produces wines with vibrant citrus notes and subtle almond undertones. Each bottle also boasts impressive tartaric acidity showcasing Lugana's distinct terroir.
Soave stands out among Italian white wines by showing some brininess that pairs particularly well with shellfish dishes. Furthermore, its vibrant and fresh nature come from being harvested on windswept vineyards that give off windswept winds to blow in its direction and concentrate flavor profiles into an easy drinking wine.
Garganega grapes, known for their late ripening variety and thick skins that protect from misty conditions of Soave production are used. Soave wines typically feature light body with citrus and mellon flavors.
Soave wine comes in three grades, from Soave DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), Classico and Superiore (or Riserva). DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata which has less stringent rules compared to DOCG wines.
Franciacorta was Italy's inaugural classic method sparkling wine when introduced by Franco Ziliani in 1961. This sparkling can either be made without ageing for at least 60 months - known as an "NV", "Millesimato", or Riserva.
Italy boasts one of the world's greatest diversity of wine styles and distinctive terroirs, giving its best wines their unique character and flair. Additionally, Italy is home to numerous indigenous grape varieties with distinct characteristics that give their DOC wines their special charm.