The main designation of quality and origin in Italy is Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). It is the equivalent of the French Appellation d'origine Contrôlée (AOC) and sets out the rules and parameters to be respected by producers, as well as the varieties for certain territories. The highest class of wines from a given territory receives a "G" (DOCG), which means "garantita", guaranteed. There is also a lower-class territorial designation called Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), which corresponds to the French Vin de Pays. Everything outside the above categories is defined as Vino da Tavola (Table wine), and it has no right to print a location, a variety and a harvest on the label. Like any classification, this one has its own weaknesses and exceptions, so do not limit your choice to these labels only. There are times when IGT or DOC wines are better than DOCG. For example, in the case of "super Tuscany" wines, such as Sassicaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia, they were entitled only to Vino da Tavola and IGT. If having an insight of wine seems difficult, knowing Italian wines seems almost impossible. Italy has 590 officially recognized wine varieties, which is a quarter of the world's heritage, and it is more than the local varieties of France, Spain and Greece together. The country is divided into over 500 areas where certain varieties are allowed to produce the unique wines typical for that area. One cannot learn them all, but an insight may be obtained. Cannot avoid generalizations and omissions either. Imagine you are organizing a wine dinner or tasting with five different red wines from Tuscany. Your choice includes:
1. Brunello from the historic town of Montalcino
2. Aged Morellino di Scansano Riserva from the coast
3. A rare San Gioveto from Chianti Classico, near Siena, that has spent time in old, traditional barrels called "boots"
4. Sangiovese Grosso, rated with 90+ points by a new, biodynamic manufacturer from Chianti Rufina, near Florence
5. Prugnolo Gentile, from a producer whose vineyards are no more than 2-3 acres, from Montepulciano
You will charm everyone and you will spend nice time. Despite your desire to be different, however, you have actually chosen five wines made of the same variety: Sangiovese – also known as Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, Sangiovese Grosso or Sangioveto.
Accumulation of some knowledge will help you enjoy to the ful a glass of red Fumin while skiing in the Italian Alps, chilled white Verdicchio on the endless sandy beaches of the Adriatic coast, or a light sparkling red wine made from the characteristic for Emilia Romagna region different types of Lambrusco. After a short study, you will find that there are 17 different varieties of Lambrusco and also at least as many styles of wine produced from them. Which one to choose? A glass of Lambrusco Maestri, which is one of the most colourful wines from Italy or perhaps Lambrusco di Sorbara, which is lighter than the color of the Provencal rose wines with fascinating violet scents and an incredible history of origin. Surprise your party fellows with knowledge of local varieties and wines from Italy. Take for example the Picolit variety from the Friuli area. Picolit has a long-documented history of Brunello, Barrolo, or Bolgheri. Picolit is not only used for the finest sweet wines, but is generally considered among the most magnificent local varieties. Not less interesting is the etymology of the names of some varieties. For example, the red Piedirosso variety. Its name means "small red feet" - because of the reddish colour at the base of the vine that resembles that of pigeon's feet. Another variety from the Campania region is the white Coda di Volpe, whose clusters resemble a … "fox tail". Whether you are looking for wine according to a certain menu, event, mood or season, Italy offers a variety that will exceed all your expectations. Franciacorta sparkling wine, red wine from Maiolet from the Aosta valley, fruity and fresh Barbera from Piemonte, Fiano from Avellino, Carricante from Sicily, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba from Marche, Erbaluce from Caluso, or Falanghina Flegrea/Beneventana from Campania are just a small part of the infinite universe of its wines. Since life in Italy revolves around food and family, Italian wine grape varieties are part of families and groups. There are 17 different varieties of Malvasia and 7 different Trebbiano varieties. Even the best experts may still confuse Greco (which is a white grape variety from Campania), Greco di Tufo (which is white wine from the Tufo area, Campania region made from the Greco variety) and Greco Bianco (a white variety of grapes from Calabria, which would rather be another varietal interpretation from the Malvasia group).
Difficult at first glance, but very interesting and rich in history are Italian varieties and wines. Among wines of the Seewines selection you will find both emblematic and rare and surprising suggestions. There is no better way to tie lasting acquaintances and friends than to try them all.
Taste is built with drinking and variety. Wine allows each of us to meet new people and see places, and I have always thought of local varieties of Italy a great opportunity to understand and appreciate its rich culture more thoroughly.
Here I’d like to offer a short list of the most famous Italian varieties of red and white wine grapes, to start your journey on the hills of Italy.
Italian varieties of red grapes:
Aglianico: Used to produce quality full-bodied deep colour red wines in Campania & Basilicata (the best municipalities include Taurasi, Taburno & Vulture).
Aleatico: a strong Mediterranean red variety grown on the island of Elba, as well as in Puglia and Lazio
Barbera: goves both elegant and juicy wines in Piemonte
Bovale: Sardinian red grapes of Spanish origin
Cannonau: grown on the island of Sardinia (Sardegna) (imported from Spain in the 13th Century); a synonym for Grenache
Cesanese: grown in the Lazio area
Corvina: the main varietal in the production of Amarone, also used for wines such as Valpolicella, Bardolino and Recioto della Valpolicella
Dolcetto: comes from Piemonte and has turned into a huge commercial success Freisa: bright red from Piemonte, used for making dry and sparkling wines
Fumin: grown in the Aosta valley
Gaglioppo: primarily grown in Calabria, in the Cirò area
Grignolino: in Piemonte, they make light red wine, mainly around the Monferrato and Asti Lambruscos: a family composed of at least 8 different Lambruscos, the most famous of which include: Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa and Lambrusco Salamino. May be found in Emilia Romagna. Semi-sparkling, red, fresh fruit wines are produced.
Malvasia Nera di Brindisi & Malvasia Nera di Lecce: literally, it means “black Malaysia”, used in many Puglia wines
Molinara: one of the three varieties used to produce Amarone (the others are Rondinella and Corvina)
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo: with growing popularity, makes excellent wines in the areas of Marche, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia
Nebbiolo: a Piemonte variety used to make Barolo and Barbaresco, called Chiavennasca in Valtellina, Sforzato and Spanna, in the northern part of Piemonte
Negrara Veronese: characteristic for the Veneto region, the Negrar area in Valpolicella
Negroamaro: an Intensive variety, dominating in Puglia, the name refers to the black color
Nero d'Avola: also called Calabrese, characteristic of the island of Sicily and produces both robust dense wines, as well as fresh and fruity.
Ormeasco: a synonym to "Dolcetto" variety in Liguria
Piedirosso: Located in Campania, and is the main variety in some of the best wines of the Mustilli winery.
Primitivo: a cousin of Zinfandel from California, originating from Croatia, and popular in Puglia, especially for the wines: Salice Salentino and Primitivo di Manduria Prugnolo Gentile: a branch of Sangiovese Grosso, used to make the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Raboso Veronese & Raboso Piave: from the Province of Padua for Colli Euganei Refosco: a basic variety for Friuli, makes light red wines
Rondinella: is used as a part of a trio of grapes in Amarone and other Valpolicella wines
Sagrantino: the main red grapes of Umbria used for the excellent DOCG Sagrantino di Montefalco
Sangiovese: also called Morellino, Brunello, this is the flagship of Italy used for the production of Chianti Classico
Schiava / Vernatsch: a northern red variety grown in Trentino-Alto Adige
* Passito is an Italian word for wines produced in the apassimento method, where grapes are partially dried to concentrate their tastes and sweetness before vinification. After three to six months, the semi-dried grapes are pressed with gentle pressure and the juice ferments until it reaches the desired level of sweetness and alcohol. Most "passito" wines spend some time in oak barrels to develop additional flavours and complexity and include both red and white wines.
Italian white grape varieties:
Albana: spread in Emilia Romagna, used to makе ordinary white wines, but more interesting and characteristic are the sweet Passito wines
Arneis: a white variety from Piemonte, most often from the Roero area
Bombino Bianco: typical for regions within Central and Southern Italy
Catarrato: Sicilian, unbelievable white wines, and also used to make Marsala Sweet Wine
Coda di Volpe: Makes Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco in Campania
Cortese: used for the production of Gavi, in Alessandria (Piemonte)
Falanghina: a well-known fragrance from Campania
Fiano: Used to make wonderful white wines in and around Avellino in Campania
Garganega: a white variety used for the production of Soave and Gambellara wines
Greco: as the name suggests, the variety is of Greek origin. Grown in Campania for the so-called white wines Greco di Tufo DOCG
Grillo: originated in Western Sicily, basic variety in the Marsala wine, but also makes high-quality white wines
Muscat: a strong scent, grows all over Italy (there are about 10 Muscat wines), for example Zibbibo/Alexandrian Muscat from the island of Sicily, and most notably Pantelleria and the so-called Passito di Pantelleria)
Pigato: an unusual variety found in Liguria. A synonym for Vermentino and Favorita in Piemonte (actually it is quite characteristic for the region of Liguria – growing in the western part, on the slopes.)
Pinot Grigio: fresh and light white wines from the Veneto area.
Pinot Bianco: to the north, especially in Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli and Alto Adige
Glera: the variety used for the production of Prosecco sparkling wines, the main ingredient of Cipriani's famous Bellini cocktail
Tocai Friulano: grapes with a confusing name because it is not related to the Hungarian Tokaji. Makes fine white wines in Friuli
Trebbiano Abruzzese: grown in the Abruzzo region by producers such as Emiidio Pepe and Valentini
Verdicchio: An interesting white grape used in Marche region, an area with a great future
Vermentino: the most famous white variety from Sardinia, believed to be of Spanish origin
Vernaccia: white grapes used in DOCG San Gimignano, Tuscany