Italy's wine reputation rests upon its diverse styles, protection of indigenous grapes and food-friendliness. Italy boasts many regions offering everything from refreshing Pinot Grigios with tropical fruit notes to sophisticated Franciacorta with notes of lees aging in bottle.
Northern Lombardy's rugged hills, formed by the snow-capped Alps, create the conditions necessary for producing world-renowned red wines such as Sagrantino de Montefalco as well as light yet refreshing whites such as Frascati DOC and Orvieto DOC.
Arneis, also known as the "white Barolo" due to Roero being situated across the Tanaro river from Piedmont's Nebbiolo region, is one of Italy's acclaimed white wines. At one point it came close to becoming extinct during the 1970's as winegrowers replaced its cultivation with easier Chardonnay vines.
This varietal can be challenging in the vineyard, as it's vulnerable to powdery mildew and struggles to retain acidity, leading to potential oxidation issues. But for wine enthusiasts' benefit, those producers who continue with this varietal are producing some truly outstanding examples.
Italian Valpolicella wines are usually unoaked and produced using stainless steel vats; however, some oak versions exist. Bruno Giacosa, Vietti, and Malvira's Camestri offering are often outstanding examples. These dry wines boast moderate acidity with luxurious aromas of pear, apricot, tangerine, stone fruit, white florals, almond and creamy textures for a silky mouthfeel - look for single vineyard offerings from these producers to experience this exceptional style of winemaking!
Brunello di Montalcino is an iconic Italian wine and one of the world's greatest. Crafted using an exceptional Sangiovese clone, this masterpiece matures in one of Tuscany's best wine regions for up to 12 years before reaching peak maturity.
This robust red wine typically exhibits notes of rose petal, cherry and raspberry sauce, cinnamon, white pepper and over time licorice tobacco and chocolate. With moderate tannins and great acidity it can be enjoyed young or cellared for several years for optimal results.
Traditional Brunello winemaking methods involve long aging in large oak vats made of Slavonian oak. But, beginning in the 1980s, many producers introduced fruitier and lighter styles by shortening barrel aging time and using smaller, 225-liter French oak barriques - some may find these newer styles less complex; others find them engaging. Brunello pairs perfectly with classic Italian American entrees such as risotto, pasta with mushrooms or flame-kissed Bistecca alla Fiorentina!
Since 2003, adventurous Tuscan winemakers have begun producing wines outside the strict guidelines set forth by Italy's Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (DOC). Blending international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with classic Sangiovese to produce more structured wines called Super Tuscans; although this labeling will likely never appear on a bottle's label.
Now classified as IGT wines, these wines give producers more freedom than their Chianti or Montalcino counterparts; yet still must contain at least some Sangiovese for structure and ripe cherry fruit flavors in bold blends like Crognolo. A fine example is Crognolo; which blends austere top-grade Sangiovese with the silky soft textures and intense fruit flavors of Merlot for an exquisite result that shows Sangiovese can shine alongside international varieties; its light body often showcases bright acidity as well as fruit flavors that make it ideal for IGT style wines; making IGT wines accessible even for novice producers who wish to experiment further than Chianti or Montalcino varieties can create light in body wines with vibrant acidity as well as fruit flavors; it makes this style wine suitable for drinking pleasure any time of the year - like Crognolo which uses both to structure its rich fruit flavors by featuring Sangiovese; its austere structure gives its structure while adding structure and cherry fruit flavors from Sangiovese's presence along with Merlot to produce bold blends that boast robust yet balanced wine blends that shine alongside international varieties while providing bright acidity while providing bright acidity while providing structure, yet can deliver an unexpected light body wine that bursts with vibrant acidity while offering fresh acidity that's full-bodied flavors from its international counterpart.
Sagrantino is a deep and intense red wine produced in Umbria in central Italy. Due to its extremely high tannin levels, this powerful wine must be handled carefully; for instance, some producers allow their grapes to ripen until very dark in order to soften its tannic structure; they also employ long maceration processes and limit oak ageing so as to not increase its tannin grip.
These techniques produce lighter, more elegant wines that can be consumed early. Though lighter in body than their counterparts, these wines still possess strong personalities and intensities; prepare yourself for flavors like blackberry, licorice and herbs!
For those in search of more serious Sagrantino wines, there's the traditional passito style. Concocted from semi-dried grapes and produced in limited quantities in Montefalco area, passito wines offer intense, complex tannins with aromas reminiscent of rose potpourri, vanilla bean and nutmeg hints. If you are lucky enough to discover some, prepare to be amazed.