Here’s a look at twelve of Italy’s top wine regions to help you navigate an Italian wine list.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This proverb is particularly valid in Italy, where every region, city, town and village has its own customs and traditions. This also applies to the very ancient and rich Italian soil. Every hill and every plot of land has its own particular characteristics you won’t find elsewhere. This is evident in whatever grows on that soil….especially the wine grapes of which there are more than 400 native varieties!
Given the diversity and the particularity of each region and vine, Italian wine lists can be difficult to navigate, so here is a summary of the main Italian wine regions and their characteristics.
1. Langhe and Monferrato
Piedmont’s Langhe and Monferrato possess a breathtaking landscape of gentle hills and ancient soil. This large region gives us full-bodied red wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, perfumed wines like Barbera and Grignolino, but also excellent whites wines like Gavi and Arneis. In this region, the names of two major producers, Gaja and Ceretto, stand out as they are responsible for making the Piedmontese wines and cuisine famous worldwide.
It is thanks to this Lombard region that Italian sparkling wine has become world famous. Franciacorta produces sparkling wines using the Champagne-making method. Berlucchi, Ca ‘del Bosco and Bellavista‘s bubbly varieties are the most famous and renowned sorts that are also widely appreciated abroad.
It is easy to understand why this region’s “heroic vineyards” are so-called: They are perched on a slope of rocky ground in the mountains where sunlight is rare. The region’s typical grape is Nebbiolo, which in this particular area is called Chiavennasca. Nino Negri, Fay and Arpepe are among the main producers who have made Valtellina’s Nebbiolo famous.
This region in Veneto gives rise to great reds that are affected by the influence of Lake Garda which is nearby. One above all others, Amarone, stands out and is the flagship of producers such as Zýmē, Quintarelli, Bertani and Allegrini.
Perhaps it is one of the world’s most famous Italian wine regions because of the homonymous wine it produces. The territory consists of small hills (kind of similar to little volcanoes!) where th glera grape thrives, giving rise to a bubbly wine made from the Charmat method. There are many producers of Prosecco, among the best known are those in the area of Bortolomiol, Bisol and Villa Sandi.
The northernmost region of Italy produces some of the top Italian sparkling wines using the classic Champagne making method for which producers like Ferrari Spumante are known. Don’t forget the Moscati Rosa and the fragrant Gewurztraminer.
7. Collio Friulano
This particular territory on the border of Slovenia produces wines known as “super whites” from Sauvignon Blanc, many of which are characterized by a long maceration. This practice was widespread in the region way before “orange wines” were trendy. The Friulano is the region’s most famous wine, and we recommend going for wine tasting around Cormons.
The iconic Tuscan landscape is not only a feast for the eyes, but also for the palate. Tuscany is a land of great reds: above all, of course, the most popular being Chianti, which is exported all over the world by important companies like Antinori. Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, Bolgheri’s Super Tuscans, Vernaccia and the excellent Vermentino produced near the Tyrrhenian Sea are all outstanding.
The heart of Italy with its rich green nature produces two fundamental wines, both of which are highly tannic: the Torgiano and the Sagrantino di Montefalco. Here, we suggest Lungarotti, one of the first wineries made famous by the hard work of its namesake female founder, and Arnaldo Caprai.
Irpinia is famous for full-bodied fruity red and white wines like Taurasi and Falanghina. These wines are also very mineral because the soil is affected by its proximity to Mount Vesuvius. Feudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberardino are the region’s key producers.
The garden of Italy produces great wines such as Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Nero di Troia. These full-bodied reds are made from grapes that grow at high temperatures with long exposure to sunlight. However, we must not forget the small and interesting production of white wines from Puglia, which includes Bianco D’alessano and Bombino Bianco.
Vine cultivation in Sicily has ancient origins and is widespread throughout the island. There are so many of note, however, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Marsala, the wines of Mount Etna, Nero d’Avola and the delicious Malvasia delle Lipari.