Italian wine regions seem inpenetrable at first glance. This is the country with over 350 authorised grape varieties and 500 more registered, as well as plenty that aren’t, 20 regions and a staggering 405 DOPs broken down into 332 DOCs and 73 DOCGs.
Tuscany and Piedmont are perhaps best known for producing the big guns of Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico from Sangiovese, and Barolo and Barbaresco from Nebbiolo, whereas Sicily is attracting increasing amounts of international attention for Nero d’Avola and trendy Etna blends from red Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio and white Carricante. However, there are plenty more Italian wine regions to discover as vines are cultivated throughout the country. Let’s take a look at three: one from the north, one from the centre and one from the south.
Northern Veneto is one of Italy’s big regional producers with large quantities of wine being produced on its fertile plains. It is also home to Soave Superiore DOCG, a fresh, crisp white produced from Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave on volcanic soils. The same blend also yields the sweet Recioto di Soave DOCG. Bardolino DOC on the shores of Lake Garda produces bright fruits reds and refreshing summer rosé from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, whereas Valpolicella DOC is made from a similar blend of varieties. Velvety, dry, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG and lusciously sweet Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG are produced from air-dried grapes. Not forgetting, of course, the world’s current favourite sparkler, Prosecco, made from the Glera variety, the DOCG Conegliano-Valdobbiadene providing the highest quality versions of this popular wine, especially from the steep slopes of the Cartizze.
Puglia is one of the Italian wine regions in the south that is well worth a visit, producing around a third of the total of Italian wines. Perhaps best known for its dark, brooding, full-bodied Primitivo variety, known as Zindafel in the US, this finds its best expression in the Primitivo di Manduria DOC.
Green Umbrian is generally overshadowed by its bigger, more famous neighbour Tuscany, but also has wonderful wines to discover. Orvieto DOC, predominantly Trebbiano Toscano (known locally as Procanico) and Grechetto, is the quintessential Italian white, crisp and cool with green apple notes and a mineral finish, it represents about 80% of wine produced in the region. Sangiovese, Italy’s favourite grape, forms the backbone of Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG and Sagrantino, one of Italy’s most tannic grape varieties yields the dense, full-bodied, herbal red Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG as well as a sweet passito version with flavours of cherry and black fruit syrup.
Puglia is one of the Italian wine regions in the south that is well worth a visit, producing around a third of the total of Italian wines. Perhaps best known for its dark, brooding, full-bodied Primitivo variety, known as Zindafel in the US, this finds its best expression in the Primitivo di Manduria DOC. The region features four DOCGs for relatively undiscovered wines. Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG was one of Italy’s first DOCG wines devoted exclusively to rosato, made predominently from the Bombino Nero variety, native to Puglia and only cultivated here. Indeed rosato is typical to Puglia, which is one of the three best Italian wine regions for producing rosato. Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva DOCG and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva DOCG are both made with a high percentage of Nero di Troia, which yields Puglia’s most elegant red wines, less full-bodied than the big guns of Primitivo and Negro Amaro. Interestingly the fourth DOCG is a naturally sweet red wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG. Puglia also hides such jewels as Salice Salentino DOC, produced from Negro Amaro blended with Aleatico. Delicate floral white wines are produced with blends of Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, Malvasia Bianca or Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
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