Getting into Italian Wine is a never ending adventure of new wines to taste.
The book Wine Grapes identifies 377 unique indigenous wine grapes in Italy. Many believe this number is much higher. Add on to this 408 Denominazioni di Origine Protetta) or regional wine quality denominations (DOC + DOCG), many of which have multiple styles.
If you tasted a new Italian Wine each week, it would take you 20 years to taste your way through Italy.
Fortunately, each of Italy’s 20 regions specialises in just a few primary wines and this is where you can start. There are 51 wines listed below and if you’ve tried them all, you’ll gain a profound understanding of Italian wine… just remember to take notes.
Nero d’Avola (red): A bolder red wine variety with fruity flavours of plum, raspberry sauce and liquorice with fine tannins with a somewhat smoky, spiced finish. Pairs excellently with rich roasted meats and veggies.
Inzolia, Grillo and Catarratto (white): Three white wine grapes typically used for Marsala but also make for great, more full-bodied, chardonnay-like whites. Think lemons, yellow apples, mango, notes of tarragon and a refreshing salty sea breeze.
Primitivo (red): This red wine explodes with sweet red strawberries, blackberries, leather and a whiff of smoke. It’s the same grape as Zinfandel in the US and will cozy alongside BBQ burgers.
Negroamaro (red): A deeper, darker red wine from Puglia with more plum and herbal notes of dried sage and oregano. There’s a Negroamaro blend with Malvasia Nera and together they make perfect balance in a rich red wine called Salice Salentino DOC.
Prosecco (sparkling): The most famous sparkling wine from Italy is grown mostly in Veneto around the region of Valdobbiadene. Keep your eyes peeled for wines labelled with the sub-regions of Colli Asolani and Valdobbiadene-Conegliano or Prosecco Superiore.
Garganega (white): A grape found mostly around Soave and Gambellara.These wines are dry and lean with notes of preserved lemon, honeydew melon, and a touch of green almond on the finish.
Corvina (red): Corvina is the most important of a blend of 3 grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara) used in Valpolicella and Bardolino. Wines offer tart red cherry, cinnamon, carob and green peppercorn flavours.
Merlot (red): Merlot is planted nearly all over Italy and has a large presence in Veneto. There are several regions that use Merlot in Veneto including Colli Euganei, Colli Berici, Breganze and Vicenza.
Toscana / Tuscany
Sangiovese (red): The most planted red wine of Tuscany and all of Italy is famous from the regions of Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano in Tuscany. Wines offer raspberry, roasted tomato, and balsamic flavours with an earthy whiff of wet clay.
Super Tuscan (red): Some wines from Tuscany use made-up names and include Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in a blend referred to as a “super Tuscan.” Wines offer bold black cherry and raspberry flavours with cocoa and subtle notes of leather.
Lambrusco (red sparkling): A grouping of several red grape varieties that make for light-bodied sparkling red wines with notes of strawberries, blackberries, rhubarb and hibiscus. There are several sweetness levels available from Secco (dry) to Dolce (sweet).
Barbera (red): A juicy red wine with dominant flavours of tart cherry and liquorice with a subtle dried herbal note on the finish. Wines have low tannin and plenty of quenching acidity.
Dolcetto (red): A juicy red wine with lower acidity that bursts with flavours of black plum, boysenberry, violet and sometimes mocha flavours. Wines often have bolder, crunchy tannins.
Moscato d’Asti (sparkling): A delicately floral sweet wine that explodes with aromas of mandarin orange, honeysuckle, orange blossom and pear.
Nebbiolo (red): The grape of Piedmont’s most famous wine region called Barolo, but the wine is also known by several other regional names (Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Roero, etc). This wine offers red cherry fruit and floral strawberry notes with a frame of bolder gripping tannins.
Cortese (white): A lean, dry white wine that’s most known labelled as the region Gavi. Wines have intense graphite-like minerality, with herbs, citrus, a viscous body, and often a note of grapefruit pith on the finish.
Montepulciano (red): Montepulciano is a wine grape that makes medium-bodied red wines with plum, boysenberry and coffee flavours with subtle notes of herbs and crushed black pepper.
Trebbiano (white): White grapes that produces medium to full-bodied white wines with citrus, apple, and tropical fruit flavours in a similar style to Chardonnay.
Aglianico (red): A full-bodied red wine with deep savoury notes of white pepper, smoke and cured meats that give way to subtle notes of black cherry and spiced plum. Aglianico has high tannins and acidity that make it so the wine improves after a decade of ageing.
Falanghina (white): A fuller bodied white with peach, lemon and pear flavours with subtle notes of honey and sweet-smelling flowers.
Bonarda (red): Not the same Bonarda from Argentina. This grape is commonly made in a barely sparkling style with juicy black fruit flavours and supporting notes of black and green peppercorn.
Pinot Nero (red): Classic Burgundy-styled Pinot Noir wines grow all over Oltrepò Pavese and are made into red, rosé and sparkling (blanc de noirs) wines.
Grasevina (white): A light-bodied dry white wine with apple and citrus flavours that have tropical undertones of pineapple and mango.
Pinot Grigio (white): One of two top regions making the best Pinot Grigio in Italy. Wines are dry, lean and minerally with subtle notes of white peach, lemon-lime, and subtle salinity.
Merlot (red): An earthy style of Merlot wine with notes of leather and clove with juicy cherry flavours.
Sauvignon (white): Usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignonasse with green, zesty flavours of gooseberry, lime, honeydew melon, lemon grass and pea shoots.
Refosco (red): A spicy tart red wine with notes of tart cherries and blackberries enveloped in peppery, flinty notes and lower tannin.
Cannonau (red): In Sardinia, wines have a distinctly leather and strawberry-like note with a juicy full-bodied style and medium tannin.
Vermentino (white): A dry, medium-bodied white wine with flavours of grapefruit, lime, mango and apple flavours with flowery daffodil-like aromas.
Carignano (red): Wine bursting with red berry fruit, balsamic and leather-like flavours with a smoother, supple low tannin finish.
Sangiovese (red): Typically a more herbaceous style of Sangiovese with ripe plum and berry flavors, bold tannins and dried herbs on the finish. Look for Colli Pesaresi Sangiovese.
Montepulciano (red): Smoky tobacco, mocha and wild berry flavours that range from supple and smooth to chewy on the finish.
Verdicchio (white): A lean, dry white wine with pear skin and preserved lemon flavours supported with a creamy oily palate. A great wine to pair with fish.
Frascati (white): A blend of white grapes that primarily include Malvasia and Trebbiano but may also include Chardonnay and others. Wines are usually relatively light alcohol with flavours of lemon and flinty-like notes.
Merlot and Sangiovese (red blend): Blended wines feature primarily Merlot and/or Sangiovese and offer blackberry, chocolate, mint and tobacco-like flavours.
Cesanese (red): An ancient bold rustic red wine with savoury notes of roasted meats, wild berries, and scorched earth.
Trento (Sparkling): Using Chardonnay grapes, Trento makes a blanc de blancs style of sparkling wine. Wines have aromas of yellow apple, lemon peel, honeycomb and creamy bubble finesse.
Pinot Grigio (white): One of the 2 top regions for Pinot Grigio in Italy. Look for Pinot Grigio labelled from either Alto Adige or Trentino.
Teroldego (red): A bold-but-juicy red wine with notes of blackberries, sweet anise, orange peel and sweet tobacco smoke.
Lagrein (red): A rustic, earthy red with black cherry and plums wrapped in espresso, graphite, and fine-grained tannins.
Schiava/Vernatsch (red): A light-bodied, dry, fruity and floral red wine with aromas of sweet cherry, strawberry, violet and sometimes cotton candy-like flavours.
Sangiovese (red): A full-bodied style of Sangiovese with raspberry, plum and tobacco flavours supported with ample acidity and bold chewy tannins. Great examples to try include Montefalco Rosso and Torgiano
Grechetto (white): A lean, dry white wine with melon and starfruit flavours that lead into a minerally, zesty finish. Most notably you’ll find the wines of Orvietto, which include a blend of Grechetto and other varieties as well as wines labelled Grechetto from Umbria and its sub-regions.
Sagrantino (red): Possibly the world’s most high tannin red wine. It exudes deep, lush plum, blackberry, black cherry and subtle notes of violet, sage and bergamot. Tannins build with bitter green flavours on the palate.
Gaglioppo (red): Spiced cedar, dusty leather and herbs reveal crushed cherry and dried cranberry flavours.
Montepulciano (red): A dry, full-bodied, moderately tannic red wine with flavours of sweet wild berries, prunes, smoke and cocoa dust.
Tintilia Del Molise (red): A very rare full-bodied wine with blackberry, black plum, violet and cocoa dust aromas. It can have bolder tannin and is said to be able to age a long time.
Aglianico (red): A full-bodied red wine with deep savoury notes of white pepper, smoke and cured meats that give way to subtle notes of black cherry and spiced plum. Aglianico has high tannins and acidity and improves with a decade of ageing.
Vermentino (white): In some areas the wines are called Pigato which is a unique biotype of Vermentino that tends to have slightly higher aromatics and a rich, waxy texture. Wines offer aromas of aromatic green herbs, citrus zest, and spice. One of the more intriguing whites of Liguria.
Petit Rouge (red): A light red wine with aromas of cranberry, wild huckleberry, rose, dill, and wet leaves.
Petite Arvine (red): A light red wine that’s popular in Switzerland as well as Aosta valley. Wines have aromatic rustic tart red fruit, rhubarb and hibiscus aromas.
From winefolly.com – Italian Wine