What is it that we love so much about drinking a new glass of wine? Is it that anticipation of an unfamiliar taste? Maybe you get excited tracking the production, history, and culture of the wine. Maybe you simply crave the sensation of wine penetrating your sense of smell, touch, taste, and sight. Whatever the reason is for your love of wine, we all share the excitement and high we get from participating in a millennia long tradition of wine tasting. We aren’t wine enthusiasts just because of our passion for wine, but because one day we fell in love with the vitality that streamed through our body after that glorified first taste, and the vitality we felt each taste after that. The taste of wine lives, it constantly changes each day until it hits its peak. Wine is a beverage to enhance, to enjoy, to share, and to savour. The possibilities are endless, so we will take this exploration of wine one step at a time, starting with the world-renown Italian wines.

What Makes Italian Wine So Wonderful?

Italy’s only rival in the world of wines is France, and in some years, Spain. Italy boasts a wide variety of grapes, and only a few of the grapes grow outside of Italy. In a way Italy has a monopoly on a good number of wine grapes. A majority of Italian wines offer up a distinct taste. Red wine is very popular among Italian wine-makers.

The 4 Major Italian Red Wines to Start Off With

 

Montepulciano

Best Time to Drink: Montepulciano is a wine that is best if drunken typically after 4-7 years, but there are some fine examples that can be found outside of this time range.

Location Grown: This type of grape is grown in Central Italy. Surprisingly, Montepulciano is Italy’s 2nd most planted grape, but many people have never even heard of the grape.

Common Names:
– Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
– Rosso Piceno
– Rosso Conero

Taste: It has an undeniable wild sensation, especially organic; its acidity, well infused into the body, gives persistence, and aggressive tannins.

 

Sangiovese

Best Time to Drink: Like Montepulciano, Sangiovese is best drunken after 4-7 years, but there are good examples that can be found outside of this time range.

Location Grown: Can be found all over Italy. It goes by many names, and it’s one of Italy’s prized wine grapes.

Common Names:
– Morello di Scansano
– Brunello di Montalcino
– Chianti
– Montefalco Rosso
– Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (unrelated to Montepulciano)

Taste: There is a variety of tastes ranging from rustic and earthy to fruity, but there is always a consistent cherry flavor of some sort.

 

Nebbiolo

Best Time to Drink: Nebbiolo tastes best after 7-10 years.

Location Grown: Piedmont

Common Names:
– Roero
– Barbaresco
– Valtellina
– Ghemme
– Gattinara
– Barolo
– Sforzato

Taste: Nebbiolo has a taste of sweet fruits like blackberry, plum, cherry, and currant.

 

Valpolicella Blend

Best Time to Drink: can vary by style of Valpolicella

Location Grown: Veneto

Taste: Valpolicella has vibrant cherry flavors, used to make the world-renown Amarone wine, a wine that should be in every wine enthusiast’s vocabulary.

Wine yard in Tuscany Italy

How Do I Read an Italian Wine List?

The great thing about reading Italian wine labels is that you don’t have to be fluent in Italian to understand what the label is saying. There are four things to look for when reading an Italian wine label; producer, type of wine, region, and vintage variation.
Producer: The producer can be a single producer, a collaboration of producers, or a larger wine brand. The producer can be helpful in telling you if the wine is rare or easy-to-find.
Type of Wine: Italian wines are often named the region from which it was produced, along with a classification of a region. For example, Chianti Classico DOCG is from the sub-region of Chianti in Tuscana, with a requirement that it contains 80% Sangiovese grapes.
Region: There are 20 Italian wine regions, all specializing in different types of wine and varieties of wine grapes. Learning the leaders in Italian wine regions is a good advantage when it comes reading an Italian Wine list.
Vintage: Vintage variation is the difference in the taste of wine from year-to-year depending on the region in which the wine was produced.

Ex: Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Abruzzi, 2003
Producer: Emidio Pepe
Type of Wine: The type of grape used in this wine is Montepulciano
Region: Abruzzi, Italy
Vintage: 2003, which was considered a good year for Italian wine

Your exploration of Italian wines will no-doubt extend beyond this brief guide. You will add a list of Italian red wines to your vocabulary and a variety of new flavours to your taste pallet. The adventure has just started. Go off to a restaurant, use the knowledge you just received, and order a fancy bottle of Italian Wine on us (figuratively)!