Italian Red Wine
Italian red wine (vino rosso) is exported to many countries around the world, with each region producing its own distinct varieties. Here is a list of Italian red wine, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- Sangiovese - Italy's claim to fame, the pride of Tuscany and a great Italian red wine. Traditionally made, the wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. It produces Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. Sangiovese is also the backbone in many of the acclaimed, modern-styled "Super-Tuscans", where it is blended with Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) and typically aged in French oak barrels, resulting a wine primed for the international market in the style of a typical California cabernet: oaky, high-alcohol, and a ripe, jammy, fruit-forward profile.
- Nebbiolo - The most noble of Italy's varietals. The name (meaning "little fog") refers to the autumn fog that blankets most of Piedmont where it is grown, a condition the grape seems to enjoy. It is a somewhat difficult varietal to master, but produces the most renowned Barolo and Barbaresco, made in province of Cuneo, along with the lesser-known Sforzato, Inferno and Sassella made in Valtellina, Ghemme and Gattinara, made in Vercelli's province. The wines are known for their elegance and power with a bouquet of wild mushroom, truffle, roses, and tar. Traditionally produced Barolo can age for fifty years-plus, and is regarded by many wine enthusiasts as the greatest wine of Italy.
- Montepulciano - The grape of this name is not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano; it is most widely planted on the opposite coast in Abruzzo. Its wines develop silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin. More recently, producers have been creating a rich, inky, extracted version of this popular Italian red wine, a sharp contrast to the many inferior bottles produced in the past.
- Barbera - The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy, most famously around the towns of Asti and Alba, and Pavia. The wines of Barbera were once simply "what you drank while waiting for the Barolo to be ready." With a new generation of wine makers, this is no longer the case. The wines are now meticulously vinified, aged Barbera gets the name "Barbera Superiore" (Superior Barbera), sometimes aged in French barrique becoming "Barbera Barricato", and intended for the international market. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity.
- Corvina - Along with the varietals rondinella and molinara, this is the principal grape which makes the famous wines of the Veneto: Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella wine has dark cherry fruit and spice. After the grapes undergo passito (a drying process), the wine is now called Amarone, and is extremely high in alcohol (16% and up) and full of raisin, prune, and syrupy fruits. Some Amarones can age for 40+ years and command spectacular prices. In December 2009, there was celebration when the acclaimed Amarone di Valpolicella was finally awarded its long-sought DOCG status, alongside the other top Italian red wines.
- Nero d'Avola - Nearly unheard of in the international market until recent years, this native varietal of Sicily is gaining attention for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins. The quality of nero d'avola has surged in recent years.
- Dolcetto - A grape that grows alongside Barbera and Nebbiolo in Piedmont, its name means "little sweet one"", referring not to the taste of the wine, but the ease in which it grows and makes great wines, suitable for everyday drinking. Flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs permeate the wine.
- Negroamaro - The name literally means "black and bitter". A widely planted grape with its concentration in the region of Puglia, it is the backbone of the Salice Salentino: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.
- Aglianico - Considered the "noble varietal of the south," it is primarily grown in Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so it is considered a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.
- Sagrantino - A native to Umbria, it is only planted on 250 hectares, but the Italian red wines produced from it (either blended with Sangiovese as Rosso di Montefalco or as a pure Sagrantino) are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.
- Malvasia Nera - Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.
Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia.
"International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.
Unique Italian Red Wine - Super Tuscans
The term "Super Tuscan" describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.
In 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first ever "Super Tuscan" called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, also decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) Cabernet Sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was one of the first Super Tuscans, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.
Because these Italian wines did not conform to strict DOC(G) classifications, they were initially labeled as vino da tavola, meaning "table wine," a term ordinarily reserved for lower quality wines. The creation of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica category (technically indicating a level of quality between vino da tavola and DOCG) helped bring Super Tuscans "back into the fold" from a regulatory standpoint. Since the pioneering work of the super-Tuscans there has been a rapid expansion in production of high-quality wines throughout Italy that do not qualify for DOC or DOCG classification, as a result of the efforts of a new generation of Italian wine producers and, in some cases, flying winemakers.
Vino cotto (literally cooked wine) is a form of wine from Le Marche and Abruzzo in central Italy. Vino cotto is typically made by individuals for their own use, rather than commercially. The must, from any of several local varieties, is heated in a copper vessel where it is reduced in volume by up to a half. After fermentation, it is aged in cask for a few years, a little new wine being added each year to make up losses due to evaporation. It is a ruby-coloured wine, somewhat similar to Madeira, being slightly sweet with an alcohol content of about 14%. Traditional Sicilian cuisine uses a version of vino cotto as a sauce. We are including it in the Italian red wine category because of its color.
For more in-depth information on Italian wines, visit the Wikipedia web site at Wikipedia - Italian Red Wine
For a brief look at Italian white wine, visit our Italian White Wine page.