So it’s not exactly a big secret that Terri and I are going to Italy this fall. In order to prep for the trip I’ve been taking Italian language lessons, reading my Frommers guide, watching travel shows about the cities we’re going to and getting some fab info from all of my Italian loving friends that are either from Italy or frequent it.
I’ve decided to make learning about Italian wine a part of my “research” just so I know what I’m looking at when we go on our wine tour in Tuscany and/or order from local wine bars. I want to be somewhat knowledgeable. Ok so that’s a partial lie, I just want a good excuse to drink Italian wine! Muh hahahahahahaha!
But seriously, I figure there’s a lot of people reading this that want to know more about Italian wines too. I thought I would take this opportunity to write about my tastings so far and then continue to write about them as I work my way through the Italian wine isle at my local wine shop.
I haven’t been focusing on the producers (wineries) but more of the wine itself considering Italy has it’s own unique varietals. I think I can probably guesstimate that MOST of us are only familiar with the basics: Pinot Grigio, Muscato, Prosecco and Chianti/Sangiovese. I know I’ve certainly spent the majority of my wine drinking life sticking to those four. The fun part about this “research” is that there are SO MANY MORE grapes that are so amazing! Every time I open a new bottle my eyes get HUGE when I take a smell and swirl of my glass. I’ve spent so much time drinking other european wines that I neglected to really appreciate Italy’s vast and glorious landscapes for many different wine varietals.
Listed below are some of the wines I’ve tasted so far. I can honestly say that I haven’t disliked one yet. As a matter of fact, Brunello is probably one of the best wines I’ve EVER had. There’s only been one that I liked less than the others, but it’s not because it’s not great. It’s because it reminds me of Red Zinfandel, and I’m not a Red Zin kinda’ girl.
Is native to the Piedmont region (northwestern Italy) and is the key grape in the wines of Barolo (mentioned below) and Barbaresco (mentioned below). As a matter of fact, the Nebbiolo is a “baby Barolo” because it’s the same grape, but aged for a shorter amount of time.
If I had to compare this wine to any that we have all probably had before, it’s Pinot Noir. As a matter of fact, if I had to do a blind tasting I’m not exactly sure if I would know the difference right away. If you love Pinot Noir, I am confident you’ll appreciate Nebbiolo.
Barolo is in the Province of Cuneo in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont.
Barolo wines are made exclusively of the Nebbiolo grape. Many wine experts think that the red Barolo wine is Italy’s best and so it has been called the King of Italian wine. Barolo wines are required by the DOCG rules to age for a minimum of 3 years, 2 of which must be in barrels. Barolo Riserva must age for 4 years and Barolo Riserva Speciale wines must have 5 years of age.
* We had a Barolo Riserva Speciale and it was ahhhhmazing!
Similar to it’s more famous sibling, Barolo, this wine is also hailed as one of the finest wines in the world. It is also exclusively made from the Nebbiolo grape. Think of Barbaresco as a more subtle, elegant version of Barolo. It too has a flowery/tarry type of taste but is lighter than Barolo and more perfumey. It’s a beautiful wine!
Brunello di Montalcino: RED
Hold on to your socks peeps because this one might knock them off! It’s also pretty expensive.
Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most prestigious wines and hails from the Tuscany region – specifically from the hills around the village of Montalicino. It is made from Sangiovese just like Chianti but it’s created from a different type of Sangiovese clone than Chianti is. Brunello is also very tannic so it has to be aged no less than 5 years before it is released commercially.
The aroma and taste is elegant and can be attributed to a woody, slightly vanilla, small fruit and fruity jam flavor – and it only gets better with age which can be up to 30 years.
We had a 2008 and fell in love with it. I would imagine having a 10-20 year old one might make me cry. 😉
Barbera d’Alba : RED
Also from the Piedmont region. This is smoother in tannins and has a bright fruity flavor of blackberry, cherry and a chocolatey spice. It is also one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy.
Although it can bottled as a single varietal (such as how we’re drinking it), it is also a blending grape that can be found in California wines.
Nero D’Avola: RED
Sicily isn’t just known for the mob. It’s also known for it’s wine! Nero D’Avola is Sicily’s most important wine grape and is grown near the heart of the island. It is very fruit driven offering a great aroma of cherry and rose petals leading to light spice, currants, plums and strawberry.
Orvieto Classico: WHITE
This wine is produced from grapes of the Procanico, Verdello, Malvasia, Grechetto and Drupeggio varieties and comes from the region of Umbria. Umbria is located near Tuscany and it’s also where some of the best black Truffles comes from!
We thought it was outstanding because of its delicate, light bouquet, and its light but mellow flavor with a pleasantly bitter after taste. I actually liked this more than any Pinot Grigio I’ve ever had. If you can find it in your local wine shop, give it a try.
And this is where I am at so far! If you try any of the wines mentioned above and it’s your first time having them, come back and tell me what you thought!