Want to explore the beautiful Italian wine regions and find the best bottles for your collection?
Some of the world’s noblest wines like Barolo, Chianti Classico, and Lambrusco are crafted in Italy. But this is just the tip of the iceberg in the world of Italian wine!
With 20 wine regions and 350 official grape varietals, Italy has an overwhelming number of unique wine styles. Add to it the complicated classification and labeling system!
But, not to worry.
This article will take you on a breezy Italian wine tour - its wine regions (especially Piedmont and Tuscany), unique wine styles, and the best wines to buy in 2021!
This Article Contains
- A Rich Winemaking History
- Italian Grape Varieties
- Italian Wine Appellation System
- How to Read Italian Wine Labels
- Trentino Alto-Adige
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- Aosta Valley
A Rich Winemaking History
Italy’s wine history dates back to around 4000 years. Wine had been a part of daily life even before the Greeks came to south Italy, and they called it Oenotria (the land of wine.)
Later, the Etruscans and the Romans further promoted winemaking in the country and later different parts of the region, including present-day France.
But, phylloxera pests destroyed most of Italy’s vineyards in the 19th century. The vines were later replanted, but the focus on high-quality winemaking was lost.
Italy became a source of inexpensive table wines.
Then, in the 1960s, laws were passed to control the quality of wine, and that gave birth to the modern era of Italian winemaking.
Let’s look at the grape varieties that are grown here.
Italian Grape Varieties
Out of the 350 grape varieties acknowledged by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the major ones are:
Red Wine Grapes
- Nero d’Avola
White Wine Grapes
- Moscato Blanc
- Malvasia Bianca
- Pinot Grigio
And, what does the Italian wine classification system look like?
Italian Wine Appellation System
The Italian wine appellation system divides the wines into four categories:
- VDT (Vino Da Tavola): These are ‘everyday wines’ made for local consumption.
- IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica): IGT wines come from designated wine regions (like Toscana) and go through fewer quality checks than DOC and DOCG wines.
- DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata): DOC wines go through several quality checks and follow DOC winemaking laws.
- DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita): The highest quality Italian wines, DOCG stands for superior Italian wines like Barolo and Montepulciano.
How to Read Italian Wine Labels
Besides the wine name (which may be a grape variety or a wine region), classification (VdT, IGT, DOC, or DOCG), producer, and vintage, these are the other unique terms seen on Italian wine labels:
- Riserva: Wines aged longer than the standard requirement. Aging differs by denomination, but it’s typically a year longer than required.
- Superiore: Wines with higher quality grapes and alcohol content
- Classico: Wines coming from historical wine regions (for example, Chianti Classico)
Also read: Find the right wine glass to serve your vintage!
Italian Wine Regions
Now let’s walk through a detailed wine map of Italy - the regions, the dominant wine styles, and the grapes used. Also, find out the best wines of each region.
(But, remember that if you’re looking to invest in wine for the long term, your best bets would be Piedmont and Tuscan bottles! We’ll get to that in a bit.)
Piedmont lies to the south of the Alps in northwest Italy and is known for its noble reds - Barolo and Barbaresco.
Although the region’s wine production is mostly dedicated to Nebbiolo red wines (Barolo and Barbaresco wine), several other delicious bottles are made here, including the semi-sparkling white wine Moscato d’Asti (from Asti appellation).
Read more: Discover the best Sparkling Wine Bottles - handpicked from all over the world!
The four major wines of Piedmont are:
55% of all the grapes grown in Piedmont are Nebbiolo. Most of the Nebbiolo grape vineyard sites are on south-facing slopes, ensuring they get maximum sunlight and produce high-quality grapes.
Piedmont produces four Nebbiolo DOCG wines - Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, and Roero. These wines have firm and pronounced tannins that allow them to age beautifully for over 20 years.
Also read: Find out the right way to design your wine cellar so that you can store your Italian wines perfectly!
Barbera is the most widely planted indigenous grape of the region. It has high acidity and is used to produce some of the best DOC and DOCG wines like Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba, and Barbera del Monferrato.
Contrary to its name, “little sweet one,” Dolcetto wines are usually dry, with a slightly bitter finish. The name probably comes from the intense fruity aromas of the wine.
Read more: Looking for sweet wines? Explore these delightfully sweet Moscato wines!
Some of the most popular Cortese wines are Gavi, Cortese dell'Alto Monferrato and Colli Tortonesi. It is also used as a blending partner in Bianco di Custoza wines and Oltrepo Pavese.
Top Piedmont Wines (2021)
Some of the top Piedmontese wines to buy are:
1. 2010 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Barolo Riserva DOCG (Price: $1,722)
2. 2001 Roagna Crichet Paje, Barbaresco DOCG (Price: $1,076)
3. 2010 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo Riserva (Price: $1,064)
4. 2013 Roberto Voerzio Riserva Pozzo dell'Annunziata Barbera d'Alba (Price: $249)
5. 1967 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili Riserva (Price: $2,513)
6. 1971 Bartolo Mascarello Canubbi, Barolo DOCG (Price: $2,501)
Tuscany produces some of Italy’s most reputed red wines like Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino.
Predominantly a red wine region (mainly Sangiovese), it also produces delicious whites like Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vin Santo.
Tuscan Wine Styles
A. Super Tuscans
Super Tuscans are wines made from a blend of indigenous (Sangiovese) and non-indigenous grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Tignanello, Masseto, Solaia, and Sassicaia are some of the most loved Super Tuscan wines!
Also read: How to estimate the number of calories in your glass of Red Wine
Chianti is primarily a Sangiovese wine, but it can also have Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grape varieties in its blend.
This red wine has classic red fruit flavors, thanks to the Sangiovese grape. Chianti also has secondary flavors of dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, and smoke.
C. Brunello di Montalcino
A 100% Sangiovese wine, Brunello di Montalcino is known for its high acidity, high tannin, and bold fruit flavors.
Some of these wines age for long - for example, a Brunello from a prestigious winery like Case Basse can age for at least 25 years!
Montepulciano is a red wine grape that produces medium-bodied wine with gentle tannins, approachable fruit flavors, and subtle earthy notes.
Top Tuscan Wines (2021)
1. 2006 Masseto Toscana IGT (Price: $1,131)
2. 1990 Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG (Price: $1,794)
3. 1999 Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera Toscana IGT - Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Price: $843)
4. 1990 Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Riserva (Price: $1,111)
5. 1997 Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano (Price: $619)
6. 2015 Lodovico Antinori Tenuta di Biserno 'Lodovico' Toscana IGT (Price: $527)
Let’s go through the other 18 wine regions as well.
Located in the northeast part of Italy, Veneto produces crisp white wines, light reds, and savory reds like Valpolicella.
The major grape varieties of the region are Corvina, Glera, Garganega, and Rondinella. International varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero).
The most popular wines are Prosecco, Soave and Bardolino, and Valpolicella (dry Amarone wine is the best known Valpolicella.)
Top Veneto Wines (2021)
1. 2011 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Selezione DOCG (Price: $1,448)
2. 1990 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG (Price: $1,323)
Emilia-Romagna produces red and white wines. The main grapes are Lambrusco, Malvasia, a white grape, Trebbiano, Grechetto, Bonardo, and Sangiovese.
You’ll also find the sparkling wine Pignoletto made from the white grape Grechetto.
Top Emilia-Romagna Wines (2021)
1. 2004 Fattoria Zerbina AR Passito Riserva, Albana di Romagna DOCG (Price: $276)
2. 2012 Conde 'Massera' Merlot, Emilia-Romagna (Price: $133)
Lombardy produces red, rose, and white wines, but it is mostly known for its sparkling wines - Franciacorta and Oltrepo Pavese.
Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Verdicchio, Trebbiano, and Garganega are the region's main grapes.
The most popular wines are the Nebbiolo-based Valtellina and the Franciacorta and Oltrepo Pavese sparkling wines.
Top Lombardy Wines (2021)
1. 2005 Monte Rossa 'Cabochon' Rose Brut, Franciacorta DOCG (Price: $175)
2. 1991 Bellavista Riserva Vittorio Moretti Extra Brut, Franciacorta DOCG (Price: $389)
Sicily produces a range of wines, including the bold red Nero d’Avola, the fortified Marsala, Nerello Mascalese from Etna, and the easy-drinking white Catarratto.
The major grape varieties include Nero d’ Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Catarratto, Muscat of Alexandria, and Carricante.
Top Sicilian Wines (2021)
1. 2018 Azienda Agricola Serragghia 'Riserva Genevieve' Zibbibo Terre Siciliane IGT (Price: $274)
2. 2011 Frank Cornelissen 'Magma' Terre Siciliane Rosso IGT (Price: $383)
Abruzzo produces both red and white wines using the Montepulciano and Trebbiano grapes.
Top Abruzzo Wines (2021)
1. 1997 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Price: $437)
2. 2010 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Price: $162)
8. Trentino Alto Adige
Trentino Alto-Adige, the northernmost wine region of Italy, is known for its red wines Lagrein and Schiava. But, it's becoming equally popular for its Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay white wines.
Top Trentino Alto-Adige Wines (2021)
1. 2011 Cantina Terlano-Kellerei Terlan 'Terlaner I Primo Grande Cuvee' (Price: $233)
2. 2013 Cantina Termeno - Kellerei Tramin 'Epokale' Gewurztraminer Alto Adige (Price: $176)
Campania is one of Italy’s oldest wine regions and produces a range of red and white wines. The major grapes used are Aglianico, Greco, and Falanghina.
Top Campania Wines (2021)
1. 2005 Mastroberardino Villa Dei Misteri Rosso Pompeiano IGT (Price: $211)
2. 2011 Quintodecimo 'Vigna Quintodecimo' Riserva, Taurasi DOCG (Price: $210)
10. Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Over 75% of Friuli-Venezia Giulia wines are white - the highest share of whites in any Italian wine region.
The region has over 30 different grapes, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio (Picolit), Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
Top Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wines (2021)
1. 1990 Gravner Rujno Venezia Giulia IGT (Price: $209)
2. 2007 Gravner Anfora Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia IGT (Price: $162)
Sardinia produces robust red and fruity white wines using the Carignan, Grenache, Malvasia, Vermentino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat Blanc grape varieties.
Top Sardinia Wines (2021)
1. 2011 Capichera 'Albori di Lampata' Rosso Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT (Price: $271)
2. 2014 Capichera Santigaini Vermentino Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT (Price: $152)
Although Marche is predominantly a white wine region, it does produce some reds. The major grapes grown here are Bianchello, Pinot Bianco, Malvasia, Montepulciano, and Sangiovese.
In Marche, look out for the creamy Verdicchios, dry and aromatic Bianchellos, herbaceous Sangiovese’, and earthy Montepulcianos.
Top Marche Wines (2021)
1. 2011 Oasi Degli Angeli Kupra Rosso Marche IGT (Price: $295)
2. 2011 Oasi Degli Angeli Kurni Rosso Marche IGT (Price: $124)
Predominantly a red wine region, Puglia’s essential grape varieties include Negroamaro and Primitivo. The region also produces small quantities of the white wine Verdeca.
Top Puglia Wines (2021)
1. 2014 Gianfranco Fino 'Es' Riserva Primitivo di Manduria (Price: $126)
2. 2018 Gianfranco Fino 'Es piu Sole' Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale (Price: $133)
Lazio is known for its white wines like the blended white Frascati, and some reds like the bold Cesanese. The key grapes include Trebbiano, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia Puntinata, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano.
Top Lazio Wines (2021)
1. 2013 Omina Romana 'Ceres Anesidora' Lazio IGT (Price: $110)
2. 2015 Omina Romana 'Ars Magna' Cabernet Franc Lazio IGT (Price: $105)
Umbria mainly makes white DOCG wines using the Trebbiano, Sangiovese, Grechetto, and Sagrantino grape varieties.
Top Umbria Wines (2021)
1. 2009 Arnaldo-Caprai 'Spinning Beauty', Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (Price: $291)
2. 2007 Paolo Bea Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOCG (Price: $186)
The other five regions are smaller and produce many popular, easy-drinking wines as well.
Calabria produces 12 DOC wines - both red and white. Major grape varieties of the area include Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Greco Bianco, Moscato, and Trebbiano.
Molise has three DOCs producing red, white, and rose wines using Trebbiano, Montepulciano, Bombino, and Aglianico grapes.
Basilicata is one of the smallest wine regions of Italy. Aglianico is the star grape of the region, with Primitivo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Bombino Nero following closely.
Liguria, in the northwest of Italy, has a cool Mediterranean climate and makes red and white wines from the Vermentino, Rossese, and Ormeasco grapes.
20. Aosta Valley
Aosta Valley (the smallest wine region of Italy) produces a wide range of red and white wines with Picotendro, Chardonnay, Gamay, Prie Blanc, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Petite Rouge grapes.
Now, most of these wines are perfect to be uncorked for any special function.
But, let’s check out the wines you should target if you want to make a profitable investment!
Investing in Italian Wines
The most investment-worthy wines from Italy are those from Piedmont and Tuscany.
They have a formidable reputation for quality, and some of them, like the Barolos and Super Tuscans, fetch handsome prices in the market if you want to sell them at any point.
They also age beautifully for decades. Take Super Tuscans, for example - Sassicaia and Tignanello can easily age for 40 years (and more)!
Critics often compare them to Bordeaux and Burgundy wines - minus the high price tags. They offer buyers lower-cost access to the wine market.
But there’s a catch: A lot of these wines aren’t easy to get hold of!
Besides that, the shipping, long-term storage, and the risk of counterfeits could potentially turn wine investing into a complicated process for you.
The easiest way to buy them would be through Vinovest, a trusted wine investment company that helps you buy, store, and sell authentic wines!
How does that work?
Buy Collectible Italian Wines through Vinovest
Vinovest is a world-class wine investment company that helps you build a great wine collection with authenticated collectible wines from across the globe.
How Does it Work?
You can start investing through Vinovest with four easy steps.
- Sign up on the Vinovest website.
- Fill a questionnaire to share your risk appetite and investment preferences.
- Fund your account with a minimum of $1000.
- Start investing!
Here are a few reasons why you should invest through Vinovest.
1. AI-Driven Platform
2. Best Prices
Vinovest buys your high quality wine directly from wineries, global wine exchanges, and wine auctions, ensuring you get the best price for your bottle.
3. Access to a Deep Network
You get access to rare wineries, limited-edition wines, and new vineyards worldwide.
4. Provenance and Authenticity
Vinovest’s Master Sommeliers ensure the provenance of every bottle you buy. So, you don’t have to worry about a counterfeit Screaming Eagle ever again!
5. Insurance and Security
Every bottle you buy through Vinovest comes with a full-coverage insurance policy that covers breakage and loss.
Your sweet white wine and other bottles are kept under 24/7 surveillance with an additional power back up facility. So your bottle is safe even in case of a power cut.
6. Low Overall Price
Vinovest charges a minimal fee of 2.85% (2.5% for a portfolio of $50,000 and more) in addition to funding your account.
This fee includes buying, selling, authentication, storage, full-coverage insurance, and portfolio management. Moreover, Vinovest stores your wine in bonded warehouses that do not charge any VAT or excise duty.
7. Easy Delivery
You own every bottle you buy through Vinovest!
Add An Age-Worthy Italian Wine to Your Collection!
Italy can mesmerize you with its range of delicious and investment-grade wines, some of which are on par with the prestigious bottles from Bordeaux and Burgundy!
Make your wine investing journey hassle-free by building a portfolio on Vinovest.
Why not sign up and start your rewarding wine collection right away?