Piedmont – Northwest Italy; Contains about 60 individual DOC/DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata / e Garantita) - the most famous of which are within the sub-regions of Alba, Asti, Langhe and Monferrato. Home of Barolo, Barbaresco and Gavi, the main black grapes of this region are Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo; the main white grapes are Malvasia and Cortese.
Tuscany – Northwestern Italian peninsula; Contains just shy of 50 DOC/DOCGs. Home of Chianti, Brunello and the sweet wine, Vin Santo. The key grape in Tuscany is undoubtably Sangiovese, while Vernaccia is the principle grape for white wines. The term Super-Tuscan refers to wines produced using more international grape varieties than natives - often in replicating the styles of Bordeaux.
Veneto – Northeast Italy; Home of Valpolicella, Amarone, Soave and Prosecco; The key grapes here are Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella (all black grapes, for Valpolicella); Garganega (for Soave) and Glera (for Prosecco).
Abruzzo – Central-eastern Italian peninsula; Home of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, produced from the Montepulciano grape.
Trentino-Alto Adige – Northern Italy; Occupied by Germany until the mid-20th Century, this region is mostly responsible for aromatic white wines produced from grapes frequently of Germanic varietal origin; Common grapes here are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Lagrein.
Puglia – The heel of Southern Italy; Home of Primitivo - the black grape which has become more widely known as Zinfandel (notably from California) - and Negroamaro. Some white wines are also produced, mostly from the Malvasia and Chardonnay.
Sicily – Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, southwest of mainland; Home of the fortified wine, Marsala; Nero d'Avola and Nerello Mascalese are among the leading native grape varieties. In terms of table wines, Sicily produced a fairly even split of red, white and rose wines, commonly in a fairly contemporary, fruit-forward, style.
Sardinia – Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, west of mainland; Produces both still table and fortified wines. The fortified wines are typically made from the Vernacchia grape. Common other grape varieties include Cannonau (aka Grenache), Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vermentino, Malvasia and Moscato.
Popular Italian Wines:
Barolo - 100% Nebbiolo from Piedmont, matured in oak barrels for a minimum period of 30 months.
Barbaresco - 100% Nebbiolo from Piedmont, matured in oak barrels for a minimum period of 24 months.
Brunello - 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany, matured in oak barrels for a minimum period of 24 months.
Chianti - Minimum 75% Sangiovese from Tuscany, may also include several grape varieties native to Tuscany. Chianti Classico is produced in the original, designated area and strictly regulated; bottles are branded with a black rooster on gold background.
Super-Tuscan - Tuscan red wine blends containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese.
Valpolicella - A unique family of wines from the Verona region of northeast Italy. The wines are generally dominated by the native grape, Corvina, but also usually feature fellow native grapes Molinara and Rondinella, amongst others. The wines can be released unaged as simple Valpolicella (Classico), or:
- Valpolicella Superior - Matured in oak barrels for a minimum period of 1 year.
- Ripasso Della Valpolicella - Valpolicella Classico or Superior which has been rested for an additional period upon the pomace (spent-grape skins) of Amarone; this process intensifies the colour, body and flavour-intensity, without incurring vast additional cost (to producer and customer).
- Amarone Della Valpolicella - Prior to fermentation, the grapes are rack-dried for approximately 4 months. This process concentrates the natural grape sugars and flavour characteristics resulting in a wine of atypical power, concentration and alcohol content, with ability to age remarkably well.
- Recioto Della Valpolicella - Utilises the same rack-drying process as with Amarone. However, Amarone is then fermented to a high-alchol, dry red wine; Recioto is only partially fermented to leave a high residual sugar content, making it a naturally sweet red wine.