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An Introduction to Italian Wine Regions and Grape Varieties

Famous Italian actress Sophia Loren once said, “I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size zero.”

Italy has been making wine for at least 3,000 years, and now this charming country is the largest global wine producer. The first people who planted vines in Italy were local Greek settlers and Etruscans. The Romans followed them, so in the 2nd century BC, they began making wine.

Everybody knows that Italian wines are perfect matches for different kinds of food. From pasta dishes to fresh seafood from the coast, to unforgettable pasta dishes, Italian wines are everyone’s favorite. 

Important Wine Regions in Italy

As we mentioned before, Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine. The country has 77 legally defined labels or regions that carry the DOCG label (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin). These Italian wine labels help to maintain high quality standards all over the country, so Italian manufacturers must follow those rules in order to label their wines.

The most important regions in Italy that produce red wines are: Veneto, which is home to Amarone; Piedmont in the north, which is home to Barbaresco and Barolo; the island of Sardinia, which is home to Vermentino; Le Marche, which is home to Verdicchio etc.

Italian Grape Varieties

Italian wine varieties range from refreshing whites like Garganega, Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio, which are used to make Soave, to the stunning Nebbiolo used to make Barolo. Other famous Italian wine grapes include Tuscany’s iconic Sangiovese, which is grown throughout the country; the humble Glera grape used to make Prosecco; and Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Aglianico, which make powerful red wines in the southern regions of Basilicata and Puglia.

So, here are the top five Italian wines to look for and pair with your favorite dishes. Don’t worry, there’s something for everyone!

San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria Sessantanni 2017

The Valle del Sessant’anni, or “Sixty-Year-Old Valley,” is a 40-hectare vineyard in San Marzano. This vineyard contains bush vines that have been destroyed by the Cantine San Marzano. The red soil, or “terra rossa,” is rich in iron, giving the vineyard its specific color and combining with the warm climate to provide perfect conditions for growing the Primitivo grape. San Marzano only uses grapes harvested from their 60 to 100-year-old vines, which produce tiny quantities of intensely flavorful fruit. This is why this wine has such a powerful taste. San Marzano Primitivo wine pairs well with dishes such as beef stew, fresh pasta with ragu sauce, and lamb chops.

Ca dei Frati I Frati Lugana 2021

Ca dei Frati has a history that dates back to 1782, with Felice Dal Cero having established the modern winery on the southerly shores of Lake Garda in 1939. The same family still runs this winery, but in the last few years they have revitalized and expanded the whole property. This amazing white wine, which is said to be related to the famous Verdicchio family, This wine is made from the Turbiana grape. Ca dei Frati is virtually unknown outside of Lake Garda.This wine is ideal as an aperitif and is well-paired with seafood, fish, or summer salads.

Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi 2020     

The Moccagattas own Villa Sparina, a family-run winery on the estate that supplies delicious wines to their Michelin-starred restaurant, La Gallina. The unconventional bottle shape of their wines was inspired by the original Roman amphorae, which were used to transport wine and other goods. The Moccagattas’ most iconic wine, Gavi di Gavi, reflects the excellent quality of the estate’s prime vineyards. Because of the sophistication and elegance of the flavor profile, this is a perfect match with fish dishes, seafood, sushi, creamy cheeses, Asian salads, and risottos. 

Lisini Brunello di Montalcino 2017

Filippo Paoletti, Lisini’s winemaker, creates five brilliant wines utilizing traditional techniques like cement tanks and large oak casks. His magnificent Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese cultivated in prime vineyards at 300-350 meters above sea level. The end result is a refined and powerful Brunello with fine oak hints from aging, bright red fruit character, licorice, dried fruit, and herbal notes. The palate has a medium body, plenty of crispness, and a very complex flavor. Hearty red meat dishes go excellent with this wine.

Ferragu Valpolicella Superiore 2017

Along with their children and grandchildren, three brothers—Carlo, Angelo, and Ornello—run the winery. All the grapes used in this Valpolicella Superiore are harvested by hand. After that, they are allowed to dry for 30 days to concentrate the aromas and sugars. This Ferragu Valpolicella wine catches the eye at the first sip; the nose offers attractive aromas of baking spice, red cherries, and sweet vanilla. Intense red fruit, wild berry jam, and toast flavors are carefully balanced by a fresh acidity on the palate. This beautiful wine pairs well with red meats such as venison, steak, or roasted lamb, as well as a generous cheese platter

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