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Understanding Italian Wine

Did you know that Italy is considered one of “the most exciting wine-producing countries globally"? This has to do with the number of grape varieties in each region. Sarah Knowles, an expert in wines across North America and Italy with a Master of Wine qualification, explains what the common Italian wines are according to the region.

1. Wines from North-West Italy

Bordering France and Switzerland, this region has seven key grape varieties that range from blackberry flavours to lemon, blueberry, peach, grapefruit, and floral flavours.

The most common wines from this region are:

  • ‘Barolo’- from the south of Turin, famous for its red colour, high acidity levels, and rose aroma

  • ‘Barbaresco’- from the east of Barolo, a little finer than Barolo, with floral and spice aromas

  • Gavi - from a sub-region within Piedmont, famous for its white wine with peach, lemon, and mineral flavours

  • Franciacorta - from a region near Brescia, often made from Champagne varieties pinot noir, pinot blanc, and chardonnay

2. Wines from North-East Italy

Bordering Germany, Austria, and Slovenia, this region exports more wine than the rest of Italy, with 11 key grape varieties.

The most common wines from this region are:

  • Prosecco - from the sub-region of the Veneto to the north of Venice, it is famous for preserving its primary fruit flavours and being a floral and pear-scented sparkling wine

  • Lugana - from a sub-region that borders the southern end of Lae Garda, famous for being a refreshing tangy citrus white wine

  • Amarone - “made from a sub-region within Veneto”, this light red wine is famous for its rich sweet flavour and reduced water content

3. Wines from Central Italy

“From Bologna in the north to Rome in the south and Tuscany in the west, some of the wines in this region have gained global recognition for their versatile and juicy red wines!

The most common wines from this region are:

  • Brunello di Montalcino - from a small region within Tuscany that surrounds the hilltop town of Montalcino, famous for being an “age-worthy” wine

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Tenuta Luce Delle Vite Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

  • Frascati - “20 miles south from Rome”, this white wine is historically famous for being “the preferred wine of ancient Romans”

  • Lambrusco - “from Emilia Romagna, this is Italy's most famous lightly sparkling, often off-dry, red”

4. Wines from Southern Italy and the Islands

The southern Italian regions have a total of 15 local grape varieties, making it a top destination for wine drinkers to explore. These key grape varieties range from having concentrated fresh citrus flavours to citrus, mineral and salty, and “bright acidity” flavours.

The most common wines from this region are:

  • Salice Salentino - from the sub-region of Puglia, known for its deep colour and plum and earthy flavours

  • Biferno - from the sub-region of Molise, this wine is made from the combination of three different grapes; montepulciano, aglianico, and trebbiano. This is the reason why it is “age-worthy with a good structure”, juicy flavour, and great balance

  • Etna - from the sub-region of Sicily, famous for its good texture and bright acidity

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