Wine, travel, Italy – three words that belong together. Imagine this; you’ve checked into your hotel and you head out for apero time in a crumbling old piazza. The sun is setting, children play around the square’s fountain, Their parents are sitting watching both their children and the world go by with a bottle and a snack or two. Friends join them. More snacks arrive along with more wine and more conversation. This is Italy’s wine culture. Here’s our insider guide to Italy’s wine scene.
Italian Wine Has Incredible Diversity
When listing Italian wines, many people don’t go much further than Barolo, Chianti, Prosecco and Brunello di Montalcino. But Italy has an incredible 2000 native grape varieties, some making wine to rival the best in the world. There are over 20 major grape-growing regions in Italy which means that wherever you are, you’re not going to be far from someone making something incredible.
Italy Is Leading The Way For Organic, Biodynamic And Natural Wines
If you like your wine with a little bit less manipulation, Italy is the place to visit. Organic wines are those made without synthetic chemicals in the vineyard. Biodynamic wines use herbal treatments and vineyard and winery processes are timed with lunar cycles. Natural wine doesn’t have an official definition but is widely considered to be wine made with close to no manipulation at all. All are considered to be better for your health – and potential hangover!
Italy Makes Wine To Pair With Food
It’s almost inconceivable to an Italian that you would drink without food – in this country, one doesn’t come without the other. To allow the wine to stand up to the strong flavours of regional Italian cooking, the wines here are often made with a high level of acid and tannin (the drying sensation you find in many reds). Classic combinations include steak Florentine with Chianti, pesto and pasta with Gavi, Venetian cicchetti (the Venetian form of tapas) with Prosecco and couscous al pesce with Sicilian Catarratto.
Best Areas For Wine In Italy
Tuscany’s famous rolling hills and bucolic scenes make some of Italy’s famous wine. Think Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Made from the Sangiovese grape and designed to pair with local meat dishes, all are robust, hearty reds. These include pici – thick lengths of pasta in ragu sauce. There is also the stunning San Gimignano which is famous for its crisp white Vernaccia de di San Gimignano.
The northern area of Piedmont makes some of the most premium red wines in Italy. The Nebbiolo grape variety is responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco, with its subtle strawberry, rose and spice flavours. Other notable grape varieties from this region are Barbera, which makes black-fruited full wines. And don’t forget Dolcetto which is a lighter, violet and red-fruit flavoured wine. But if you prefer something fruitier, the sweet sparkling wines of Moscato D’Asti pair perfectly with fruit flavoured desserts.
Sicily makes a whole host of wine styles. Like fiery Mount Etna that is responsible for smoky reds from the Nerello Mascalese grape. The region’s deeply flavoured meat dishes pair great with Nero D’Avola the most famous grape from this island which creates a dark, spicy, full-bodied red. Sicily is also home to local white grape varieties like Grillo and Zibibbo, all of which match the region’s seafood perfectly.
When it comes to variety, the prize must surely go to Veneto which spreads across the North-Eastern part of Italy. In the hills just above Venice lies the sparkling Prosecco region. And Valpolicella makes a whole raft of reds including the famous Amarone Della Valpolicella.
Visit A Winery
Visiting a winery is surely the best way to learn about wine travel in Italy. Therefore, we have a number of Italian wine tasting tours that allow you to do just that. You’ll learn not only about the history but also how wine has weaved its way into every Italian household, into Italian culture itself.