Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ciao Amanti del Vino! Let's learn about the grapes of Italy

Once again a mini class that I will try to make as fun as possible. We have already studied the grapes and wines from France and now is the turn to do the same with Italy!
Let me start by saying that after Spain, Italy has more vineyards planted that any other country in the world, indeed the whole country is a vineyard. Italians are well known for their love for wines and foods and have also been blessed with many good conditions for vine growing. Most of the best vineyards are at the foot of the mountains (Apennines or Dolomites) plus is also influenced by the sea on both sides, it has more than 1,000 native varieties, hopefully there’s no need for you to learn them all! But I will help you identify the styles of some of the most famous Italian wines. 
You should also know, that though there are very expensive wines in Italy,  there’s also plenty of value. Italian wines are classified like in France. On the top for quality we find the DOC and DOCG appellations (Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), these guarantee quality and origin. Then we have IGT, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (which I see as a DOC and DOCG soon to be) and lastly the Vino da Tavola, which are  the simplest wines of them all.
When buying Italian wines, always aim for DOC or DOCG. Of course there are exceptions like the “Super Tuscans”, these were sold as Vino da Tavola but very fancy VT. The reason was the winemakers decided to use grapes not allowed in the appellations, when this happened, the law was so super tough that they couldn’t sell the wine as DOC or DOCG. Luckily, the law changed and some appellations were allowed to use or include international varieties in their blend (these are usually mostly French: i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon).
Below you will find the most important appellations and grape varieties in Italy, I included a column on the right to indicate the style of wine, so you have more and less and idea what you are getting when you buy these.
Notice, that in some cases the grapes are listed on the label, for example Barbera d’ Alba or Dolcetto d’ Alba (both Barbera and Dolcetto are the grapes) and Alba is the appellation. 

AppellationGrapesWine Style
BaroloNebbioloBig red with tannins
BarbarescoNebbioloBig red with tannins
Barbera D' Alba or D' AstiBarberaLight to medium red, high acidity, soft tannins
Dolcetto D' AlbaDolcettoLight to medium red, good acidity
GattinaraNebbioloBig Red with tannins
Brunello di MontalcinoSangiovese (known as Brunello)Medium to heavy red. Supple with good acidity. Biggest and best style of Sangiovese
ChiantiSangiovese and small percentages of French Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet SauvignonLight to Medium red. Everyday wines
Chianti ClassicoSangioveseMedium to Medium plus red, nice acidity
Super TuscanSangiovese and French varieties or sometimes, only French varietiesBig and powerful reds
AmaroneMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaBig Red
ValpolicellaMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaMedium Red
BardolinoMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaLight to Medium Red
PugliaNegroamaro, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Malvasia NeraMedium to Big Reds, with low acidity
Aglianico del VultureAglianicoBig Red with tannins
SiciliaNero D' Avola, french varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, SyrahMedium to Big Reds. High alcohol.
SoaveGarganega, TrebbianoNeutral Light White
Friuli or Tre Venezia, CollioPinot Grigio, but also French Varieties, Pinot BiancoAromatic Light whites, with good acidity, best Pinot Grigios come from here.
AstiMuscat (Moscato)Sweet and off dry Sparkling
GaviCorteseDry Light White
ProseccoGleraDry Sparkling, great value
Vernaccia di San GeminianoVernacciaDry Light White

Hoping all our Italian friends have a speedy recovery soon! Silvina.

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