From Italian red wines like Amarone della Valpolicella Classico to white wines like Pinot Grigio from Friuli Venezia Giulia… Some of the best Italian red and white wine styles come from the Denominazione Origine Controllata and Denominazione Origine Controllata Garantita appellations of Italy’s 20 famed wine regions. Let’s take a closer look at the wine industry of Italy and the best Italian wine styles to have in your collection!
The Legendary Italian Wines of Tuscany
One of the best known Italian red wine regions is Tuscany, situated in the center of the country. Recognized around for its rolling hills, cypress-lined country roads and terracotta tile rooftops, the Tuscan landscape produces some of the best red wines in the world. In this region, the flagship grape variety is Sangiovese. This grape dominates the blend in the wines of Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva. It is also made as a single-varietal red wine in the appellation of Brunello di Montalcino by producers like Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona. These wines tend to have delicious aromas of red berries, along with hints of dried herbs. Meanwhile, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines, also made primarily from Sangiovese, offer silky tannins and aromas of ripe berries, dried cherries with earthy nuances.
In the 1970’s a new style of Tuscan wines emerged, which now represents some of the best Italian wines in the world. These wines, known as Super Tuscans, were made with grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in a style similar to the wines of Bordeaux in France. The Super Tuscans of producers like Sassicaia and Ornellaia are today some of the top wines of Italy, sought-after by collectors around the world.
The Delicious Italian Wines of Piedmont
Another great wine region in Italy, producing some of the country’s best wines is Piedmont, in the northwest of Italy. The Piedmont wine region is home to the prestigious appellations of Barolo and Barbaresco, where the Nebbiolo grape reigns supreme, producing elegant and tannic wines with notes of black cherry, wild rose petal and tar.
Piedmont also produces delicious Barbera d’Asti wines, white wines like Gavi di Gavi and the renowned sweet sparkling wine Moscato d’Asti.
The Veneto Region in Northern Italy
The Veneto wine region of Italy is known for both its red wines and Italian white wine styles. The producers of the Amarone della Valpolicella appellation produce some of the world’s richest red wines from sun-dried grapes of the Corvina Rondinella and Molinara varieties. They also make fruity, cherry-scented Valpolicella wines that are more approachable in their youth.
Veneto is also the birthplace of the rich white wine Soave and Soave Classico, as well as one of the most popular sparkling wines of Italy: Prosecco.
The Trentino – Alto Adige Wine Region of Italy
Situated at the base of the Alps in the north of the country, on the border with Austria and Switzerland, Trentino and Alto Adige DOC areas are responsible for some of the most prized and well-made Pinot Grigio white wines in the world. The cool climate allows the grapes to maintain their acidity while the sunny mountain conditions help the grapes to ripen. Here, Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer produce mineral-rich wines with spicy aromas of white pepper. The white wines of Alto Adige are known for their fantastic acidity. Trento (or Trentino) also produces a fantastic sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Italian Wines from the Friuli – Venezia Giulia DOC Region
Situated on the border with Slovenia and Austria, the Venezia Giulia wine appellation (also known as the Friuli DOC) of Italy is best known for its high-quality varietal wines made with white grape varieties. The flagship grape here is Friulano, which was historically known as Tocai Friulano. Nevertheless, the region’s producers also make white wines from Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. The Pinot Grigio from here tends to be particularly intense in flavor, while the Sauvignon Blanc has a very typical meaty undertone.
In the realm of sparkling wines, the Friuli – Venezia Giulia DOC also produces a large amount of Prosecco wine. And finally, producers of this region also make red wines from grape varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Friuli Merlot is especially well known for its savory, earthy aromas.
The Emilia – Romagna Region of Italy
The rich and fertile Emilia – Romagna wine region of Italy is quite prolific, producing both red wines and white wines from grape varieties like Malvasia, Lambrusco, Barbera, Bonarda, Trebbiano and Sangiovese. Nevertheless, this region is best known for its sparkling red wines named Lambrusco, which ranges from completely dry to off-dry in style. Lambrusco is an ideal pairing with simple Italian dishes like pizza or pasta.
The Iconic Sparkling Wines of Lombardy
Home to Lake Como in the central north of Italy, Lombardy is best known for its iconic sparkling wine: Franciacorta. Made in the image of Champagne with the Champagne method, including secondary fermentation in the bottle, this high-quality sparkling wine blends Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Tasting notes often mention buttery biscuit, brioche, fresh citrus and yeast aromas. An absolute must-try for any sparkling wine enthusiast!
The Best Wines of Umbria and Lazio
Situated in central Italy, Umbria and Lazio are both best known for their white wine production. The flagship grape here is Grechetto, a mineral and zesty white wine with tell-tale green almond aromas. This varietal constitutes the base of Umbria's Orvieto wines, for example. In Lazio, we also find Frascati in still and sparkling styles. Umbria is also known for its great value Sangiovese with strawberry aromas, as well as the red grape Sagrantino, especially in the appellation of Sagrantino di Montefalco.
Marche: Birthplace of the Best Verdicchio Wines
Across the Appenine Mountains on the eastern side of central Italy is the Marche wine region, characterized by rolling costal hills. Here, the vineyards enjoy the influences of the Adriatic, various rivers and the Appenines, creating a variety of microterroirs. The Marche region is best known for its white wines, with Trebbiano leading the way in terms of volume. However, the flagship grape variety is no doubt Verdicchio, which produces the DOCG wines of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchi di Matelica. These wines display a greenish color in the glass and offer a lively acidity with subtle herbaceous aromas.
The Best Red and White Wines of Abruzzo
Also situated on the eastern coast of central Italy, just south of Marche is the Abruzzo wine region. Here, the Montepulciano red grape and Trebbiano white grape are most planted. Montepulciano produces its finest expressions in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG and the DOC appellations of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. These wines are brightly flavored with notes of ripe cherries and plums. Meanwhile, Trebbiano performs best in the DOC appellation of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and the appellation of Controguerra. One particularity of Abruzzo is that some of the vines are trained on pergolas, upwards towards the arbors.
The Best Southern Italian Wines from Campania
Often referred to as the “shin” of the Italian boot, the Campania wine region in the south is home to several DOCG and DOC appellations producing some of the country’s most unique styles. The red wines of the DOCG appellations Aglianico del Taburno and Taurasi are full-bodied and complex, with fantastic potential to age thanks to a very nice tannic and acid structure. Meanwhile, Campania’s best white wines are produced in the DOCG Fiano di Avellino and DOCG Greco di Tufo. Fiano makes lush white wines with aromas of orange blossom, spices, hazelnuts and quince. Meanwhile, Greco di Tufo wines display notes of fresh lemon, pear and toasted almonds, with a mineral finish.
The Best Aglianico Wines of Basilicata
Situated just south of Campania in southern Italy, the Basilicata wine growing region is best known for its signature Aglianico wines, especially those made in the Aglianico del Vulture appellation. The latter is known for its vineyards, situated around Mount Vulture and planted in volcanic soils. The region also produces some nice Moscato, Malvasia, Primitivo, Montepulciano and Sangiovese wines.
The Best Calabria Wine in Italy
The Calabria winegrowing region is situated south of Basilicata, on a large peninsula that juts out between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ionian Sea. This rural region is best known for its production of cereals and citrus, although it is home to 12 DOC appellations. Here, the best known wines are Ciro Rosso Riserva (made from Gaglioppo grapes) and Greci di Bianco (a sweet white wine made from dried white grapes).
The Best Negroamaro and Primitivo Wines of Puglia
The heel of Italy’s boot, in the far southeastern corner of the county, is home to the Puglia wine region, known for red wines of fantastic value for price. Here two red grapes reign supreme. Negroamaro is a dark-skinned variety, which produces deeply colored wines with full tannins and luscious, syrupy dark berry flavors. These wines also sometimes have touches of baking spices (cinnamon, cloves and allspice) as well as earthy nuances. Primitivo is another dark-skinned variety, thought to be related to the Zinfandel grape of California. Primitivo from Puglia produces robust wines with black cherry, raspberry and game aromas, along with touches of anise and black pepper.
The Best Italian Wines from the Island of Sicily
Boasting a wide range of terroirs and native grape varieties, Sicily is a fascinating wine region in Italy. Here, the Nero d’Avola grape reigns supreme, producing wines with juicy red fruit (dark raspberries) and chocolate aromas. In some cases, this grape is blended with another native Sicilian wine grape variety, Frappato. Meanwhile, the volcanic soils of Mount Etna produce fantastic Etna Rosso red wines with red fruit, earth and granite aromas from the native Nerello Mascalese grape. Meanwhile Etna Bianco white wines from Carricante show fresh citrus aromas (lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit) as well as menthol notes and a steely, mineral finish.
Top Italian Wines from Sardinia
The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia boasts a rich history and melting pot culture, including winemaking. Here, we find grapes of French and Spanish origin, including Grenache (locally known as Cannonau), Cabernet Sauvignon and unique clones of Carignan. The island also produces Italian grape varieties like Malvasia and Vermentino, the best of which is made in the island’s only DOCG: Vermentino di Sardegna. These wines are beautifully balanced, with a floral style and hint of minerality.
Would you like to learn more about the best wines of Italy? Or, perhaps you are searching for the right wine to gift or pair with a special meal. Do not hesitate to contact our team directly and ask us any questions you may have about Italian wines. We will do our very best to guide you toward the right bottle.