Tuesday, 22 May 2012 18:23


Italy has more than 300 DOC and the more strict DOCG zones but two regions stand out: Piedmont, in the northwest, where the Nebbiolo grape yields powerful, long-lived Barolo and Barbaresco wines; and Tuscany, home of the Sangiovese grape, responsible for two of Italy's most acclaimed wines-Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. 

Generally, Piedmont's Barolo and less substantial Barbaresco (Nebbiolo grapes) are best after 10 years of aging, while Piedmonts more accessible wines are made from the Barbera and Dolcetto grapes. Tuscany's Chianti region wines primarily use the sangiovese grapes but range greatly in style. From regal Brunellos to suave Chianti Classicos, humble and juicy Morellinos, to powerful Super-Tuscans. 

Tuscany's Chianti must be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, while 100% is not uncommon. The traditional recipe is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Malvasia Bianca.  Wines labeled Chianti Classico come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that sub-area that includes the old Chianti area. A Chianti may have a picture of a black rooster (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle. Since 2005 the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti Classico producers association. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4-7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the "Classico" sub-area is not allowed in any event to be labelled as "Superiore".

Other central Italy regions include: Abruzzo with its lovely Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, a white, aromatic wine that gets the most out of the otherwise dull Trebbiano grape. Fizzy red Lambrusco is made in the Emilia-Romagna region, while the region around Rome, Lazio provides white Frascati offering delicate, citrusy refreshment.  Le Marche' rich whites are made from the Verdicchio grape, and the Rosso Conero is a bold smoky wine made mostly from Montepulciano grapes. Umbria is known for its fantastic whites, of which Orvieto is the most important. Orvieto made with both the Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes are by far the most interesting.  Also try the Sagrantino di Montefalco, a full bodied dark and complex red. 

Southern Italy has reestablished its fine-wine tradition. Negroamaro, also Negro amaro, is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can produce wines very deep in color. Wines made from Negroamaro tend to be very rustic in character, combining perfume with an earthy bitterness. The grape produces some of the best red wines of Puglia, particularly when blended with the highly scented Malvasia Nera, as in the case of Salice Salentino.

In northern Italy, the crisp whites of Friuli and Trention-Alto Adige are gaining new respect. Central Italy too offers a wealth of wine, including Umbria's dark Sagrantino di Montefalco and Lazio's lighter wines. 

Wines not adhering to the DOC and DOCG standards are called vino da tavola (table wine), while some of these wines are classified as IGT, indicating certain regional standards are being met, or higher quality wines using unorthodox grape varieties or production methods. The term Classico indicates a prestigious subregion.  Source: Food and Wine's 2012 Wine Guide, Wikipedia


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