Wine – Italy


Italian wine regions

Wine Italy

Valle d’Aosta

As the peaks of Mont Blanc glare down on them, people and vines here vie for livable space in Italy’s smallest region. The wines tend to be novelties and are rarely seen outside the region.

Red Grapes

Fumin, Petit Rouge, Picutener, Vein de Nus, Gamay, Pinot Noir (locals here use Noir, rather than Nero, due the proximity of France).

White Grapes

Blanc de Morgex, Malvoisie de Nus (Pinot Grigio), Moscato di Chambave, Petite Arvine, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Bianco.

Blanc de Morgex – Produced from grapes of the same name, this is a rather acidic light wine with aromas of mountain grasses and flowers. This may be one of the only varieties grown above 4,000 feet above sea level!

Fumin – An intensely coloredRed with sweet, succulentRedcurrant and blackberry fruit.

Torrette – A dryRed with a light-medium body and rustic character. Composed of Petit Rouge, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto and a smattering of the native varieties Fumin, Vien de Nus, and Neyret.


Named at the “foot of the mountain”, the Alps that is, Piedmont produces what makes Italy truly great: the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco as well as the gloriousWhite truffle of Alba.

Red Grapes

Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Braccheto, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, Merlot, Pinot Nero.

White Grapes

Moscato, Cortese, Arneis, Erbaluce, Favorita, Chardonnay.

Carema – a medium bodiedRed made with the Picutener grape (Nebbiolo). The wine exhibits lean acid, tight fruit and dry, earthy overtones.

Erbaluce di Caluso – made from the Erbaluce grape, this wine can be a very dry, highly acidicWhite as well as a persuasively seductive dessert wine.

Gattinara – a robustRed wine from the Spanna grape (Nebbiolo) that displays balanced tannins and ripe cherries.

Ghemme – a lighter, softerRed with firm backbone, made with the Spanna grape (Nebbiolo).

Gavi di Gavi – this was once considered Italy’s finestWhite wine. It now ranks simply as a good one, with the Cortese grape producing ample mineral notes.

Brachetto d’Acqui – an extremely refreshing sparkling rose dessert wine made with the Brachetto grape, exhibiting Muscat, rose and vibrant strawberry notes.

Barbera – whether from Monferrato, Asti or Alba, Barbera is Piedmont’s thoroughbredRed, exhibiting racy acidity, vibrant fruit and finesse. This is a relatively new status for the grape – only ten years ago, the Piedmont’s Barbera was often unpleasantly tart and thin. Better vineyard management and treatment at the winery have been the keys. Barbera d’Asti can be easily found, but Barbera del Monferrato, which claims the grape as its own, is usually a better bet.

Asti Spumante – the world’s second favorite sparkling wine after Champagne, this semi-sweet sparkler is made from the Moscato grape using the tank method. Moscato d’Asti is similar except that it has 1-2 degrees less alcohol and lower CO2 pressure (i.e. fewer bubbles.) These wines have glorious evergreen, mint and Muscat notes.

Arneis – a recently revivedWhite wine from the arneis grape, with almondy, fruit notes and an ever-so-slight sparkle. A low-acid variety with an unusual, waxy texture, this is a great aperitif to accompany antipasti.

Barolo – “the king of wines and the wine of kings”. The greatRed wine of Italy from the Nebbiolo grape, thisRed has very high tannin with notes of violets, wild berries, tar, tobacco, vanilla, chocolate, mint, licorice, spice and truffles.

Barbaresco – though considered a feminine version of Barolo, the wine definitely does not take a back seat in style or in class. This powerfulRed is made with Nebbiolo from the fog-entrenched hills of Alba.

Dolcetto – the “little sweet one” from either Ovada, Asti, Alba or Dogliani, this has long been regarded as the “Beaujolais of Italy” for its simplicity, low acidity, consistent ripening ability (it ripens weeks before Nebbiolo) and easy-going character of intense grapey aromas and fleshly fruit flavors. Recently renewed interest in the variety is giving the grape a new reputation as fat, dark and powerful. Dolcetto d’Asti typically displays a brighter style, and Dolcetto di Dogliani is known for some heavyweights.

Nebbiolo d’Alba – while one is waiting for their Barolo and Barbaresco to age, this version of Nebbiolo is less tannic and less complex, perfect for enjoying right now.

Trentino – Alto Adige

This region high in the Alps is divided between its Italian and German roots. Quality production lies with theWhite wines (due to the cool northern climate) despite the high amount of cheapRed wine shipped north to Germany. Wines are bottled as varietals.

Red Grapes

Cabernet, Merlot, Lagrein, Marzemino, Teroldego, Moscato Rosa, Schiava, Pinot Nero.

White Grapes

Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Moscato Giallo, Gruner Veltliner, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Riesling Italico

Teroldego Rotaliano – grown mostly on the Trentino plain of Campo Rotaliano, at its best, this wine is complex withRed fruit and tarry flavors and has a structure suitable for aging.

Fruili-Venezia Giulia

With the international influences from Austria and Slovenia, this region’s wine producers are not held to any strict conventions. Nowhere in Italy haveWhite wines received such attention and care as in Friuli, which produces wines true to their grape lineage. Generally, the wines are bottled as varietals.

Red Grapes

Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosco, Schioppettino, Tazzelenghe, Pinot Nero.

White Grapes

Tocai, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo, Malvasia, Moscato Giallo, Muller Thurgau, Riesling Renano.

Tocai Friulano – variations from medium and fresh to full and unctuous are obtainable. Tocai is generally firm but balanced in acidity with ripe tropical fruit and mineral tones. A classic match is with the local prosciutto and cured meats.


Outranking all other regions in terms of output of classified wines, the Veneto has remained loyal to its classic trio of Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino.

Red Grapes

Merlot, Cabernet, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Negrara, Barbera.

White Grapes

Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave, Tocai, Prosecco, Verduzzo, Durella, Vespaiola, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco.

Bardolino – composed of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Negrara grapes, this “spaghetti”Red wine from north of Verona and has bright, cherry fruit and lively acidity.

Recioto della Valpolicella – made from the same grapes as above, but these grapes are dried to concentrate their sugars. The fermentation is stopped prematurely to leave some residual sugar, producing a port-like wine with approximately 14 degrees of alcohol.

Amarone – this is the recioto wine taken one step further. All of the sugar is fermented out, leaving a wine high in alcohol (15-16 degrees). It is port-like on the nose with a classic bitter, dry, almond finish.

Soave – from the town of Soave comes Italy’s most classicWhite wine, made from the Garganega and Trebbiano di soave grapes. It is usually light, fresh, fruity and consistent.

Recioto di Soave – a sweet version of the Soave wine, made by drying the grapes.

Bianco di Custoza – an up and coming rival to Soave, employing the same grapes, from the town of Custoza.

Breganze – can be either aRed (Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Nero) or aWhite (Tocai, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling Italico, Sauvignon, Vespaiola).

Prosecco di Conegliano – Valdobbiadene – Italy’s second favorite sparkling wine made with the prosecco grape. It is dry or off-dry with a particular peachy softness and almond-like acidity.


Though better known for its industrial and economic pursuits in Milan, its tourism in the lake district and its crops and livestock in the Po Valley, Lombardy is a leading wine market in Italy, especially in terms of sparkling wine production.

Red Grapes

Barbera, Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo), Pinot Nero, Cabernet, Merlot, Bonarda, Croatina.

White Grapes

Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano di Lugana

Oltrepo Pavese -Red,White, rose or sparkling can classify as DOC. TheRed is the most prized, composed mainly of Barbera, Croatina and Uva Rara (Bonarda). It exhibits great strength and character with serious fruit complexity.

Valtellina – at the foot of the Alps, this DOC is better known by the names of its four sub-districts, Grumello, Inferno, Sassella and Valgella. The wines are all made with a clone of the Nebbiolo grape called Chiavennasca. Much leaner that their Piedmontese cousins, these wines show hints of mountain flowers, herbs and dry terrain. They also possess tighter tannins. An amarone-style wine is also made here using the Chiavennasca, called “Sfurzat.”

Franciacorta – the sparkling wine produced here is considered the best in Italy. Using Pinot Bianco (to provide a stiff, acidic backbone), Chardonnay (to add plump flavors of apple and pear as well as for improved oak aging), Pinot Grigio (to transmit characteristics of terroir as well as mineral aromas) and Pinot Nero (to improve both acidity and more backbone), the wine is made using the traditional champenoise method.


In Liguria, better known as Italy’s Riviera, viticulture is almost impossible due to the steep slopes leading down to the gorgeous, glistening sea.

Red Grapes

Dolcetto (Ormeasco), Rossese, Sangiovese, Cabernet.

White Grapes

Albarola, Pigato, Vermentino, Bosco.

Dolceacqua – made from the Rossese grape, this wine has been famous since a visit by Napoleon in 1805. Rich with a great depth of flavor and bouquet, it is similar in style to a Beaujolais.

Cinqueterre – the wine from the five fishing villages near the town of La Spezia. Unfortunately, the wine rests on laurels gained long ago and now thisWhite, made from the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes, has little color and almost neutral flavor and odor.

Pigato del Albenga – a richWhite wine made from the pigato grape, it is extremely floral and fragrant with hints of fennel.


A divided region, with the Emilians to the west and the Romagnans to the east, the region was made famous by the fizzy Lambrusco of Riunite. The prosciutto of Parma, the balsamic vinegar of Modena and the parmigiano reggiano of Parma and Reggio are also produced here.

Red Grapes

Lambrusco, Sangiovese di Romagna, Barbarossa, Cabernet, Bonarda, Barbera.

White Grapes

Albana di Romagna, Trebbiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Pagadebit.

Lambrusco – unfortunately, we only know the wine as a semi-sweet, sparkling rose. In its true form, the Lambrusco grape can produce aRed wine of deep color and rich aromas.

Albana di Romagna – Italy’s firstWhite wine to receive the DOCG status (a much debated decision), the Albana di Romagna grape produces wines of intense almond and peach notes.

Sangiovese di Romagna – a very different clone of the nobleRed variety from Tuscany, the wine is rich and robust, displaying attractive herbal notes. However, it is often overcropped, resulting in a lack of finesse and style. Good examples display brightRed cherry fruit and attractive herbal undertones.


Unquestionably Italy’s most famous wine zone, this region combines its historic foundation (especially in Chianti) with its drive to enter the next millennium at the forefront of the wine world (witness the advent of the “Super Tuscans”).

Red Grapes

Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo, Colorino, Mammolo, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah

Sangiovese is known in various areas by the following names:

– Montalcino – Brunello or Sangiovese Grosso

– Montepulciano – Prugnolo Gentile

– Chianti Classico – Sangioveto

– Scansano – Morellino

White Grapes

Trebbiano, Malvasia, Moscadello, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Chianti – ever since the Iron Baron, Bettino Ricasoli, created the official “recipe” for Chianti back in the mid-1860s, the wine has undergone many changes. It can be a very bright, simpleRed (as served in a straw-covered flask, appropriately named a “fiasco”) or a massive, medium to full-bodied wine with earthy, spicy and violet notes. Composed mainly of Sangiovese and Canaiolo and/or Cabernet with occassional traces of theWhite grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia, each producer dictates a proprietary style.

Vin Santo – Tuscany’s “holy wine,” this lush, amber-colored nectar of the gods is made from passito-style Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes. It can be either dry or sweet, but it always follows a meal, served with the local almond biscuits. The wine generally exhibits a nutty overtone, complimented by rich apricot and dried fruit notes.

Carmignano – a Red wine very similar in style and grape composition to Chianti, this was the first TuscanRed allowed to use Cabernet in the blend (up to 10%).

Vernaccia di San Gimignano – aWhite wine made from the Vernaccia grape. The wine’s renown actually lies in the town’s towers, and rarely in the simple, clean, light floral and fruity notes of the wine.

Brunello di Montalcino – considered Italy’s most powerfulRed, this thoroughbred is produced with the Sangiovese Grosso grape that Ferruccio Biondi Santi isolated in his “Il Greppo” vineyard back in the 1880s. By law, the wine must age in cask 3½ years, leaving the wine rich in tannin and secondary aromas and virtually inaccessible in its youth. The recent introduction of “Rosso di Montalcino” allows for a wine of similar pedigree but with less time in oak, forcing the fruit notes to the forefront.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – similar to Chianti, here Sangiovese is called Prugnolo Gentile. With the addition of Mammolo to the blend, the wine reveals a medium body and effusive notes of violets, spice and earth. “Rosso di Montepulciano” is a younger version, with loads of primary fruit.

Morellino di Scansano – from the Maremma, the Sangiovese clone called Morellino produces a medium bodiedRed with rich fruit overtones. Relatively unknown, thisRed is making strong inroads.

IGT – a catch-all category that has risen to new heights in Tuscany with such inspired creations as the now- famous Super Tuscans, such as:

– Tignanello – 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet

– Sassicaia – 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc

– Solaia – 80% Cabernet, 20% Sangiovese


The only region not forming part of the national border, Umbria’s wine and grapes are less economically significant than grains, livestock, and tobacco. The region is generally overshadowed by its northern neighbor, Tuscany.

Red Grapes

Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo, Cabernet, Merlot, Montepulciano, Sagrantino.

White Grapes

Procanico (Trebbiano), Grechetto, Verdello, Drupeggio (Canaiolo Bianco), Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon.

Orvieto – a historically significantWhite wine, typically known in its abboccato form, it is now a technically correct wine emphasizing clean, crisp, dry, green notes. ThisWhite is primarily made from procanico and grechetto with the addition of some Verdello and Malvasia.

Sagrantino di Montefalco – though not well-known, this assertive, powerful,Red wine is gaining fans. In passito form, sagrantino adopts a port-like richness.


The Marchigiani consume more wine per capita than all other Italians, the majority of which is probably Verdicchio and probably consumed out of a green, amphora bottle with a scroll around its neck.

Red Grapes

Sangiovese, Montepuliciano.

White Grapes

Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Malvasia.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or di Matelica – one of Italy’s better knownWhites, it is made primarily with the Verdicchio grape. Crisp and clean with greenish overtones and ripe apple notes, it is typically enjoyed in the coastal towns nearby. Some producers are now making riper, fuller versions with depth. Seafood pairs well with lighter versions, while fuller styles require savory dishes.

Rosso Conero – historically, not well-known outside the region, it is slowly garnering kudos as a robustRed from a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese.


A rather isolated region, Abruzzi’s grapes are most often bound for table wines.

Red Grapes

Montepulciano, Barbera, Sangiovese.

White Grapes

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – a medium to full-bodied rubyRed with a fine balance of fruit, tannin and acid that make it a favorite with traditional dishes. Confusingly, this wine bears no relation to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo – generally a lacklusterWhite wine, save those of the great traditionalist Eduardo Valentini.


An afterthought on Italy’s wine scene, the potential of Molise is entirely unrealized.

Red Grapes

Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Barbera.

White Grapes

Trebbiano, Malvasia, Bombino Bianco.

Biferno – the only DOC known outside the region, applicable to Reds, rosatos, and Whites.


With Rome as its political and vinuous capital, Latium overflows with wine, of which 90% isWhite and rather pedestrian.

Red Grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Abbuoto (used to make the rare Cecubo), Cesanese.

White Grapes

Malvasia, Trebbiano.

Frascati – a Malvasia and Trebbiano blend produced south of Rome.

Est! Est! Est!!! di Montefiascone – a simple, modestWhite wine from the northern end of the region made with Trebbiano and Malvasia.


True to its Greek and Roman heritage, Campania is moving into the modern wine era though it still imports more wine than it exports.

Red Grapes

Aglianico, Piedirosso.

White Grapes

Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Falanghina.

Taurasi – one of Italy’s most admiredRed wines due primarily to the work of the Mastroberardino family, it is made with the Aglianico grape. Aglianico is a corrupted pronunciation of “Hellenic,” meaning “of Greek origin.” Often compared to Barolo, it is a full-bodied, complex wine with great aging potential.

Fiano di Avellino – a distinguished dryWhite wine made with the Fiano grape, an ancient grape variety that is full of character and complexity. This wine throws notes of pears, almonds and spice and performs well alongside seafood.

Greco di Tufo – a classicWhite wine made with the Greco grape, it shows nuances of almonds with a crisp backbone.


Europe’s most prolific vineyard zone, the majority of Apulian wine is trucked north to add structure and alcohol to wines from cooler climates.

Red Grapes

Negroamaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, Uva di Troia.

White Grapes

Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, Bombino Bianco, Trebbiano Toscano.

Castel del Monte – one of the better known DOCs, the area makesWhite,Red and rose.

Locorotondo – Apulia’s premierWhite, made primarily with the Verdeca grape, has subtle fruit and almond notes.

Salice Salentino – a revelation from the south, thisRed can match its northern brothers for richness and complexity. Made from a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.

Primitivo di Manduria – An early-ripening, and potentially high-alcohol, variety that is related to California’s Zinfandel. This wine possesses power and color, and the graceless examples of just a few years ago are giving way to some slick and modern wines. Some are even treated to barrique aging.


Historically, Basilicata is one of Italy’s poorest regions where the production of olive oil and fruits take precedence over wine. The region has only one DOC.

Red Grapes


White Grapes


Aglianico del Vulture – a medium to full-bodiedRed wine made from the Aglianico grape grown on the slopes of Monte Vulture, a volcano. Bearing garnet hues and earthy, robust notes, its power, structure, complexity and ability to age have earned the variety the name “Barolo of the South.”


Wine dominated Calabria’s past, but it now economically falls behind olive oil, citrus fruits, grain and vegetables.

Red Grapes


White Grapes

Greco Bianco, Mantonico.

Ciro – mostly known in its rosso form, the wine is produced from at least 95% Gaglioppo. Full-bodied and powerful, the wine strikes a graceful balance between soft, ripe fruit and gentle tannins.


Sicily has more vineyards than any other region but produces very little DOC wine.

Red Grapes

Nero d’Avola, Frapatto, Nerello Mascalese.

White Grapes

Inzolia, Cattarratto.

Marsala – a fortified wine with both dry and sweet versions.

Moscato di Pantelleria – a viscous dessert wine made with the Moscato grape from the island of Pantelleria. It is rich and complex with notes of citrus and berries.

Malvasia delle Lipari – a very rich dessert wine from the Aeolian Islands made from Malvasia and possessing honeyed, aromatic notes and a spicy nose.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria – a fairly pale, cherry-red wine displaying surprisingly powerful, fruit-packedRed fruit flavors.


An idiosyncratic region, Sardinia has been influenced as much by the Spanish and French as by the Italians due to its mid-Mediterranean location.

Red Grapes

Cannonau (Grenache), Carignano, Monica.

White Grapes

Vermentino, Torbato, Nuragus, Moscato, Malvasia.

Vernaccia di Oristano – a sherry-like aperitif or dessert wine made from grapes of the same name.


DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita

This designation guarantees the authenticity of the elite DOC wines. In 1980, six wines were promoted to DOCG, including Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont and Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Today, 25 wines have been awarded the prestigious DOCG status. View list

DOC: Denominazion di Origine Controllata

The controlled wine appellation system, known in Italy as Denominazione di Origine Controllata, was created in 1963. This designation clearly defines a delimited geographic zone identified by the name of a wine, bthe oenological name of the territory, or both. DOC verifies the wine’s authenticity of origin and basic character. Wines must be made under specific conditions: from pre-determined yields per hectacre, clearly defined grape varieties, and by traditional vinification methods. DOC indicates quality but does not affirm it. One really must rely on the talent of the producer and the quality of the property. Today, over 300 wines qualify for DOC status. View list

IGT: Indicazione Geograpfica Tipica

IGT is represented by the geographical name used in denominating vini da tavola (table wine) and corresponding to a zone of major vinicultural dimensions such as a region, a province, a borough or a river valley. Currently, 120 territories qualify for the IGT designation. View list

VdT: Vino da Tavola: table wine, usually with a geographical reference

VdT, or Vino da Tavola, refers to wines without appellations or ordinary table wines. VdT bottlings cannot carry a vintage or a grape variety on the label.