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Known for exquisite food, mouthwatering wine and mastery of the art of dolce far niente, Italy brings so much to the table. With 20 wine regions, upwards of 350 types of wine grapes grown, more than 700,000 hectares under vine, and home to nearly 20% of the world’s annual wine production, Italian wine can take a lifetime to fully master.
Fear not! We’ve made it simple. We’ve broken down the country into its six of its best-known wine regions and the signature grapes of each and thrown in a recommended affordable bottle for each that represents its respective region well to make getting acquainted with Italian wine as easy and delicious as possible.
This charming seaside region of Abruzzo is beloved by wine consumers of all palate preferences. Here, the drinking mentality is simple: Produce great wine, keep it affordable, and make sure the supply is endlessly flowing. Abruzzo is best known for its eponymous montepulciano-d’Abruzzo-based reds, though zesty acid-driven whites made from pecorino, passerina and other indigenous white varieties are equally satisfying. For an instant transport to one of Italy’s sleepy beachside towns, grab yourself a bottle of something Abruzzese.
When done right, montepulciano d’Abruzzo can create some of the most satisfyingly affordable wines on the market. Notes of cherries, dark berries and wet rocks ooze from the easy-drinking Italian sipper Cirelli.
Love pairing bone-dry reds with robust dishes? Then Piedmont is the perfect region for you. Tucked away in northwestern Italy, this hilly cool-climate region is known for its varietal bottlings of nebbiolo produced in the Barbaresco, Barolo and Langhe regions, as well as various other appellations across Alto Piemonte. Fruit-forward barbera, floral-driven dolcetto and a slew of other indigenous varieties are also cultivated in the region, though if there’s one grape that’s synonymous with Piedmont, it’s nebbiolo. Grab a bottle of your choice, whip up some brasato al barolo (or mushroom risotto, to keep it simple), and indulge in a taste of the good life.
Dry and fruit-forward, G.D. Vajra Langhe nebbiolo shows flavors of sour cherries, raspberry, anise and sweet spice—lifted, aromatic and delicious.
Sicily might just be Italy’s most dynamic wine region. For a long time, the island was known for its large output of sweet fortified wines (marsala), though the region’s winemaking scene goes much deeper than that. Sicily’s many coastal wine regions produce a ton of saline-driven whites from a slew of indigenous varieties (grillo, carricante and inzolia are just a few) that are perfect for quenching your thirst on warm weather days. Red wine lovers, fear not: This vivacious island most definitely has something for you. From lighter-bodied frappato-based “porch pounders” to earthy nero d’avolas to ash-driven volcanic etna rosso blends, this diverse Italian region truly has something for every palate preference out there.
Etna rossos can provide some of the most textured and smoke-driven palates out there, and Benanti’s bottling is no exception. Ashy soil-driven notes of sour cherry, smoke and flint mark this mineral-laden wine.
For fans of crisp Alpine-influenced wines, Trentino-Alto Adige is just the ticket. Located in northeastern Italy, this high-altitude region is known for its thirst-quenching white wines produced from pinot grigio, gewurztraminer, pinot bianco and more, as well as its juicy light- to medium-bodied reds made from schiava, pinot nero and lagrein. Because of its location, this unique wine-producing region is highly influenced by the surrounding Italian, Austrian and Swiss cultures, all of which are somewhat reflected in the area’s local wines.
Alois Lageder pinot grigio is medium-bodied and flavor-packed, marked by flavors of yellow stone fruit, white peach and wet rocks. This isn’t your average happy hour bottle.
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Many wine drinkers’ first “a-ha” moments with wine take them back to a mountaintop vineyard in Tuscany. Marked by rolling emerald hillsides and small villages as far as the eye can see, Tuscany’s charm is readily apparent. With regards to viticulture, sangiovese is to Tuscany what nebbiolo is to Piedmont. It’s the region’s signature variety, it’s cultivated nearly everywhere, and it’s produced in a handful of regions, ranging from entry-level bottlings of chianti to cellar-worthy bottles of brunello di montalcino. Rosso di montalcino and vino nobile di montepulciano (not to be confused with montepulciano d’Abruzzo) are also produced from this rustic yet fruit-forward variety. Not sure what to sip with your next pizza night in? Sangio is the way to go.
Isole e Olena chianti classico is hands-down one of the best chianti classicos on the market. Flavors of juicy red fruit, tomato leaf and fresh cut herbs dominate the wine’s harmonious and well-integrated palate.
Although best known for its canal-riddled city, Veneto also has a winemaking scene not to be overlooked. Here, zesty soave-based whites are produced from the garganega grape, while medium to full-bodied corvina-based blends are produced in Valpolicella. Big-boned post-dinner amarones also call this region home, and when it comes to bubbles, the region is in no short supply—Veneto is home to Italy’s beloved prosecco production. For the best of both worlds, start your evening with some refreshing bubbles, then move onto a bottle of the region’s silky earth-driven reds for a comprehensive understanding of this vast yet versatile region.
Rich, velvety and loaded with lush red fruit, plum and tobacco flavors, Pra Morandina’s ripe and robust valpolicella is balanced by bright acidity and well-integrated tannins.