In search of the perfect Italian wine list

The undisputed diversity of Italian wine make creating the perfect Italian wine list no mean feat.

 With so many indigenous varieties and such wildly diverse regions from the mountains of Valle d’Aosta and Alto Adige down to the sun-baked south and Sicily, including every wine worthy of mention would result in a hefty tome similar to that of the renowned Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona. Without even mentioning the cellar space necessary.

The ideal wine Italian wine list should include the big names, but also some undiscovered treasures. It should include wines from many regions and styles, something to suit all tastes and dishes.

The sparkling wine section should list a good fruity Prosecco from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and a crisp traditional method sparkler from either Franciacorta or TrentoDOC as an aperitif. An aromatic Asti Spumante would not go amiss for those with a sweet tooth. Red wine lovers might prefer the delicately sweet, floral, strawberry-scented Brachetto d’Acqui to pair with a fruity dessert.

Italy has a huge range of crisp, white wine and no Italian wine list would be complete without a selection from around the country to pair with seafood or chicken dishes. Piedmont’s fresh citrus Gavi or peachy Roero Arneis and of course a good Garganega blend from Soave. A light, flinty Petit Arvine from the Valle d’Aosta for the more adventurous. Nutty, lemony Pecorino is undergoing a revival in Abruzzo and the Marche and is a match made in heaven for spaghetti alle vongole. Campania’s mineral Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from ancient volcanic soils also deserve a place on our list. And to keep up with the latest trends, how about an orange wine, perhaps a Ribolla Gialla from Friuli Venezia Giulia

Moving onto the reds, at least one Piedmontese Nebbiolo, a Barolo or a Barbaresco, is a must. The signature flavours of rose and tar place this ethereal wine high on any wine lover’s Italian wine list and complement a plate of truffle-scented pasta wonderfully. A selection of Sangiovese from Tuscany should also feature – a Brunello di Montalcino, a Chianti Classico and a Morellino di Scansano. Enjoy lighter Sangiovese with pasta in tomato sauce, but save your Brunello for a bistecca alla fiorentina, or pair your steak with a voluptuous, blackcurrant-scented Super Tuscan from near the coast.

A robust, full-bodied Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with its flavours of damson and plum will make an ideal match for macheroni alla chitarra with a meaty ragu. Puglia’s inky Primitivo di Manduria or Sicily’s peppery, plummy Nero d’Avola to pair with some grilled tuna. Campania’s tannic Taurasi, dubbed the Barolo of the south, cannot be skipped either. Sagrantino Montefalco is a must for lovers of big tannins. Etna’s Nerello Mascalese either as a varietal or as part of the Etna Rosso blend along with Nerello Cappuccio and fragrant Frappato add to Sicily’s contribution.

For those in search of lighter reds, Alto Adige’s light Schiava with its fruity strawberry and subtle smoky notes is ideal for summer drinking or Piedmontese Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato with its floral aromas and notes of wild berries and pepper will pique the interest of those looking for something unusual.

Full-bodied, complex, alcoholic Amarone di Valpolicella is also a name that shouldn’t be forgotten. Enjoy this rich red passito wine with some ripe, pungent cheese.

Any Italian wine list worth its salt will also feature several dessert wines. A delicate Moscato d’Asti to sip with a fruity dessert, a luscious raisiny Passito di Pantelleria to savour with a selection of cheese or even with a starter of foie gras. A nutty Vin Santo from Tuscany with some almond cantuccini to dip into it and of course a fortified Marsala to enjoy as an aperitif or a digestif.

At Wine Paths, our team of local experts can help you navigate your way through the impossibly large Italian wine list.


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