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Italian Wine Information

Politically, Italy is divided into twenty regions. Every one of these regions produces wines, with at least some of the DOC quality.

Italian Wines By Region

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Grapes of Italy

Red

Aglianico

Although grown as far north as Lazio, Aglianico is best known for Taurasi in Campania and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata, having arrived from Greece thousands of years ago. It can result in dark, powerful wines and is frequently blended.

Barbera

The second most planted red variety in Italy and the most commonly grown in Piemonte, Barbera typically results in wines high in acidity but low in tannins. Vivid flavour when young frequently makes for refreshing, deeply coloured wines with spicy red fruit aromas. Most frequently unblended, Barbera is regarded as a versatile grape offering great scope to creative and skilled winemakers.

Brachetto

Medium ruby red tending to pinkish garnet, Brachetto is grown in a limited area south-east of Asti, primarily around Acqui Terme in the direction of Nizza Monferrato. Brachetto makes wines which are unusually fine in every respect, delicate scent of roses, musky, lightly fizzy and with moderate alcohol.

Cabernet Franc

Found all over Italy but especially in Veneto and Fruili Venezia Guilia producing characteristic red wines

Canaiolo

A red wine grape grown in Toscana, Umbria, Lazio, Marche' and Emilia-Romagna. Part of the tradtional Chianti blend.

Cannonau

The Sardinian name for the island's main red variety, Grenache as it is known in France and Garnacha as it is known in its native Spain. Cannonau makes red wines which can vary from light to full bodied.

Cesanese

A native of Lazio, Cesanese produces energetic, perfumed and spicy red wines. Cesanese d'Affile has smaller fruit than the more common Cesanese Commune resulting in richer, more complex wines.

Ciliegiolo

Probably of Spanish origin, Ciliegiolo is grown here and there in central Italy, not particularly associated with a specific zone. The red wines made from Ciliegiolo typically have a fruity aroma, reminiscent of cherries, red currants and wild flowers. They often have excellent full texture and usually exhibit low to medium acidity

Corvina

This dark, spicy variety is only grown in its native Vento where it is the finest of the three varieties blended to make Bardolino, Valpolicella and Amarone. Corvina wines display medium body, high acidity, medium tannins and red berry flavours

Croatina

Floral with flavours of bilberries and red fruit come through in the wine which has a slightly bitter finish. This red grape is known as Bonarda in the Oltrepò Pavese area of Lombardia where it is perhaps best known; it is not to be confused with a different variety known as Bonarda Piemontese

Dolcetto

The name means ‘sweet little thing’ although resulting red wines are deep coloured, dry, spicy and exhibit red berry character. Lower in acidity than Barbera - but still quite high - and with medium tannins.

Freisa

Light in colour, the often sweet reds can be very acidic and fizzy, usually needing to be aged to refine youthful vigour.

Fumin

Dark red and juicy with soft tannins.

Gaglioppo

Producing lightly coloured reds, softly tannic. Used as base for Ciro'.

Grignolino

Unique coppery red with hints of mown grass, red current and celery although these elements are strongly dependent upon the territory. The tang appeals to some; especially those who tend to like bone dry wines (although it would not necessarily be described in that way). Many don’t care for it and it is challenging for winemakers to work with. Grapes are skinny and full of pips; the name derives from old Piemontese dialect ‘gramioli’ meaning grape pips.

Lagrein

Lagrein is a red variety indigenous to the Bolzano area of Alto Adige where it makes aromatic medium bodied red and rosè wines. Occasionally, where soils and conditions are suitable, it can make rich and very dark (scuro) wines of great character. Lagrein Kretzer is considered to be one of Italy’s best rosé wines, the 'Kretzer' term deriving from the German name for reeds historically used to make mats to press the grapes specifically to obtain pink wines.

Lambrusco

This ancient native red variety of Emilia-Romagna - at its best - makes wines which display attractive red fruit flavours, spiciness, medium tannins and high acidity. There are several distinct but closely related sub varieties.

Molinara

One of the three main red grape variety used to make Valpolicella

Monica

A grape of Spanish origin found in the Campidano area of Sardegna where it produces lightly coloured medium flavoured reds.

Montepulciano

Sweetly tannic, soft and often jammy, this red grape is mostly associated with the Abruzzo region - Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo. Resulting wines are often no more than quaffable but the best examples can be complex, dry, aromatic and quite superb.

Nebbiolo

One of the oldest and most distinguished Italian grapes native to Piemonte. Intense, characterful wines are produced that are medium red in colour, high in acidity with noticeable tannin. Late ripening means that harvesting often needs to be carried out during late autumn mists ('nebbia' in Italian) hence the name. Sometimes known as 'Spanna' in northern Piemonte. Vivid aromas and flavours vary from strawberry fruity to herbal to earthy and the finest wines can take many years to develop fully. Nebbiolo is most frequently unblended.

Negroamaro

Literally, the name means 'black and bitter'. A native variety that is planted widely in the South of Italy, in particular Puglia, where it makes 'inky' red wines which are flavourful and strong.

Nerello

The Nerello family of grapes is quite a large one in the best Sicilian tradition. Mascalese, for example is a subvariety originating in Etna's Mascali plain but is now the second most planted red variety in Sicilia. Not usually vinified on its own, but blended with other Nerello subvarieties or with Italy's most planted variety, Nero d'Avola. Nerello wines tend to exhibit strawberry and red currant flavours with the Mantellato subvariety displaying cherries and spices.

Nero d'Avola

A native of Calabria - sometimes known as Calabrese - this popular red grape makes deeply coloured, full flavoured, moderately tannic wines displaying cherry, black currant and pepper. Nero d'Avola, widely grown in Sicilia, can be worthy of ageing for considerable periods.

Other Reds

Red grape varieties and blend styles other than the ones mentioned.

Pinot Nero

At its best in the red wines of north eastern Italy Pinot Nero makes still and sparkling wines. Displaying strawberry fruit flavours when young, wines can become more complex when aged.

Primitivo

Of great importance in Puglia, Primitivo takes its name partly from its early ripening trait and makes full bodied red wines which are deeply coloured with spicy red berry fruit flavours. A specific clone, Primitivo di Manduria, has been determined to be genetically identical to Zinfandel and can be labelled as such - although we at Cento per Cento cannot condone the practice of giving Italian varieties grown in Italy international names!

Rebo

A hybrid red variety from Merlot and Teroldego, begun in 1948 and ultimately perfected by Dr Rebo Rigotti of S. Michele all’Adige Experimental Station, the nearby world famous research institute. After his death, colleagues honoured his memory by naming the hybrid ‘Rebo’ which acquired Trentino DOC designation in 1996.

Refosco

Literally, 'Refosco with the red stalks', native to Friuli Venezia Giulia. Wines are often dark red & spicy with strong black fruit or plum notes and a slightly bitter finish. Sometimes blended with Cabernet and Merlot to emphasise nuances.

Rondinella

One of the three main red varieties used in Valpolicella; it adds colour and body to the blend.

Sagrantino

From Montefalco, a hilltop commune south of Perugia in Umbria, some say Sagrantino was brought to the district by the first Franciscan friars while others argue that it was imported from Spain; then again, it might have been introduced by the Saracens. Whatever the ancient truth, Sagrantino yields excellent red wines as well as ‘passito’ - made from dried grapes - which is considered fine meditation wine. Having come close to extinction it is now being rescued by people who really care. Exclusive, ageworthy and rare with dark and spicy characteristics, Sagrantino yields red wines with the highest polyphenolic content of any principal grape variety.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese, literally, the 'blood of Jove' - Jupiter - principal god of the Romans. The most widely planted red variety in Italy and with its various clones, scions and cultivars, is the principal grape in all Chianti wines (Sangioveto - a small variety), Brunello (di Montalcino), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Prugnolo Gentile), Morellino di Scansano and many undeservedly lesser known regional wines. The grape is fussy about how and where it is grown though, and the resulting wine is highly variable. Alone, Sangiovese makes wines which are ruby red but not particularly intensely coloured, highish in acidity, firmly tannic, expressing cherries and violets, sometimes with forest floor aromas, and sometimes capable of ageing to great smoothness.

Schioppettino

Rescued from near extinction, wines made from Schioppettino have a dry and intense flavour suggestive of wild blackberries, rich and red, becoming less tannic with age. Sometimes known as Ribolla Nera.

Spanna

Another name for Nebbiolo in northern Piemonte.

Syrah

Also known as Shiraz it is a popular red grape in Australia and the Rhone Valley. It is gaining popularity in Italy particularly in areas which get intense summer heat - due, of course, to its tolerance of hotter climates.

Teroldego

Of singular and lively character, this red native of Trentino makes wines which are often best when young but can age well from good vintages. Wines are fresh tasting and fruity with good colour.

Terrano

Known generally as Mondeuse or Mondeuse Noir in Friuli Venezia Giulia, this red grape is othwerwise known as Refosco but in the Carso around Trieste, it is called Terrano. Deep coloured wines result with concentrated flavours and a slightly bitter finish.

Valpolicella Blend

The classic three used in Valpolicella wines are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Molinara - low in colour and generally feeble - is optional and is being phased out. The dark, spicy Corvina must form 40 - 50% of the blend. The darker Corvinone, identified via DNP as a separate variety, may be planted instead of or as well as Corvina. The perfumed, well coloured Rondinella must form 5-30% of the blend. Any other red grapes - Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot - can form 15% of the blend, with a maximum 10% of any one grape.

Vernatsch

A popular red variety from Alto Adige - known as Schiava in Italian and referred to as Vernatsch by German speaking natives - where it produces a wine which dominates the ‘light, bright red’ category. The St Magdalener flourishes on the hills and slopes north of Bolzano. Made from Vernatsch, it may contain up to 15 percent Lagrein or Pinot Nero. St. Magdalener is regarded as especially strong among the Vernatsch wines of Alto Adige and is the most highly prized.

Vespolina

A red variety displaying mushrooms, violets and blackcurrants, often blended with Nebbiolo and Bonarda in Piemonte

White

Arneis

An ancient Piemontese variety popular in the Roero hills around Alba, Arneis displays lowish acidity making relatively soft, round white wines with melon, almond and floral notes.

Blanc de Morgex

Floral and aromatic white wine when young, flinty when older.

Carricante

Sicilian white grape displaying citrus, dried fruit and nutty characteristics. A natural blending partner for Catarrato around Catania (Etna)

Catarratto

Sicilian white grape displaying apricot, citrus and grapefruit characteristics. A natural blending partner for Carricante around Catania (Etna)

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is found in all regions of Italy. It was first widely planted in Italy after the phylloxera louse destroyed most of northern Italy's vineyards towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. Italian Chardonnay is vinified in a wide range of styles.

Cortese

While it can be found growing throughout Northern Italy, Cortese is best known as the principle element of Gavi in Piemonte. White wines from this grape tend to be light bodied and crisp with a mineral character and fruit flavours such as apple and citrus, often some honey.

Erbaluce

Native of Piemonte, an ancient white grape variety that is being revived. It has a bright copper hue in autumn and the side facing the sun turns amber, hence the name (luce means 'light' in Italian). Also known as ‘uva rustia’ – arrostita – or roasted grape! The resulting white wine can have one of two main characteristics: crisp and dry or aromatic and sparkling.

Falanghina

A very old varietal grown in Campania, southern Italy. The wine is fresh and lively, very fruity, with aromas and flavors of green apples and citrus fruits common, that draw comparisons to the Pinot Grigio.

Fiano

Fiano is a fairly strong flavoured white wine grape native to the south of Italy, particularly in around Avellino in the Campania region, where Fiano di Avellino is a DOCG, and Sicily, and has been in cultivation for more than two thousand years

Garganega

Famous as the grape of all too frequently boring white Soave, Garganega is finally gaining respect as producers demonstrate that it can be classy, rich and full of character.

Gewurztraminer

For the deepest coloured easy drinking white wines; flowers, lychees, passion fruit and 'gewurz' which means 'spicy' in German. Also known as Traminer Aromatico, this grape takes its name from the Traminer commune in Italy's Alto Adige region.

Grechetto

A white variety grown primarily in Umbria it is blended into Orvieto and Vin Santo. Rich and nutty.

Greco

As the name implies, Greco is a grape of Greek origin and makes fairly robust and full bodied white wines. On the whole the wines are dry but there is a fabulous, sweet wine made in Calabria from semi dried Greco grapes.

Grillo

Produces full bodied white wines, notably in Sicily.

Malvasia

Possibly of Greek origin it is well cultivated throughout Italy where several sub-varieties exist. Produces a rich Vin Santo as well as whites and a red known as Malvasia Nera.

Moscato

Muscat - as it is called in French - in Italy it is most famous for the delicate Moscato d’Asti. Far from being a single grape, the Muscat family consists of over 200 variations generally regarded as perfumed and distinctively flavoured.

Muller Thurgau

A white Reisling-Sylvaner cross which was bred for reliability combined with quality.

Nasco

A unique authocthonous white grape variety from the Cagliari area of southern Sardegna. It is quite unique in its unusual taste characteristics which display doubtful sounding descriptions of muskiness, moss and hay. In practice, the taste sensation is interesting and engaging.

Nuragus

Covering the southern 3rd of the island of Sicilia in the province of Cagliari. Wines can be dry, light, white and crisp thirst quenchers.

Other Whites

White grape varieties and blend styles other than the ones mentioned.

Pinot Bianco

The best Pinot Bianco is to be found in Fruili- Venezia Guilia although it is known to be particularly rich and full of character in Alto Adige where it is called Weissburgunder, generally produceing fresh white wines with apple and citrus notes for early drinking.

Pinot Grigio

A very productive white grape, the best of which is to be found in Fruili Venezia Guilia. Grown throughout Northern Italy, the wine tends to be quite full bodied with concentrated peachy mineral flavours.

Prosecco

The Prosecco vine is grown only in Italy and almost exclusively in the Veneto, especially in the Valdobbiadene - Conegliano hills north of Treviso. It's those same hills which are home to Prosecco DOC, the best without question, quite at odds with much forgettable mass prduced non DOC Prosecco made in the plains below. Some claim that the grape was already recognised in Roman times but it has certainly been here for at least several hundred years. Almost always used to make sparkling white wines with well balanced freshness, brio and flavour, soft and aromatic without undue exageration. Sometimes sweet but more often dry with crisp flavours of apples and pears.

Sylvaner

A white, relatively high in acidity with a fruity aroma and taste, rich and aromatic.

Tocai Friulano

Preferred to Pinot Grigio by many of those in the know, white wines made from Tocai Friulano frequently display hints of apple and pear and are medium bodied with acidity that is crisp and refreshing.

Trebbiano

Extensively planted, Trebbiano is estimated to produce more white wine than any other grape variety Italy. Being quite neutral, it is frequently blended with grape varieties displaying more dominant characteristics. Generally dry and fairly acidic, wines tend to be crisp, refreshing and food friendly when carefully made.

Veltliner

Originating in Austria, this white variety is appropriately still found principally in previously Austrian province Alto Adige.

Verdicchio

Verdicchio, a rapid growing high acid white grape preferring well drained sand/limestone soils, virtually exclusive to central Italy where it is believed to have originated, produces a white wine of the same name. Resulting wines are generally slightly green-yellow in color with a delicate bouquet, medium bodied but display surprisingly strong flavors, crisp acid balance and a slightly bitter finish. Maceratino is a particular clone of Verdicchio.

Verduzzo

Pineapple, honey and citrus notes combine to produce an unusual dessert wine.

Vermentino

At home in Sardinia, Liguria and coastal Toscana Vermentino is extremely durable and resistant to both heat and drought. Producing crisp, light to medium bodied white wines sometimes with a herbal hint, this variety can produce exceptional wines

Vernaccia

The name of the grape comes from the latin 'vernaculum' meaning indigenous. Think of the word 'vernacular' as applied to everyday local speech. Of probable Greek origin, the white grape is primarily grown in Tuscany and is famous as the basis of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the first wine classified as DOC in 1966, later upgraded to DOCG status. Wines made from Vernaccia vary from clean, crisp, refreshing and beautifully structured to more oily, golden, almondy, floral, slightly citrussy. Wines designated 'superiore' are aged for 3 years, those labelled 'riserva' are aged for 4 years.

Vitovska

An aromatic white French grape which is growing in popularity in NE Italy.

Wines of Piemonte Wines of Veneto Wines of Trentino-Alto Adige Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wines of Tuscany Wines of Umbria Wines of Marches Wines of Lazio Wines of Abruzzo Wines of Campania Wines of Puglia Wines of Basilicata Wines of Emilia-Romagna Wines of Lombardy Wines of Vall d'Aosta Wines of Calabria Wines of Sicily Wines of Sardinia Wines of Liguria
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