Intro to Italian Wines

Ahhh, Italy. Does anything get better than the sweet aromas of fresh bread, the rolling hills of Tuscany and bustling cobblestone streets of Rome?  Actually it does, because that list excludes the copious amount of wine originating from the country.

So get ready class, because today’s oenology lesson is all about those fickle  but delicious Italian wines. (Kinda like those Italian men, am I right?) Oh, and in case you notice a trend, we’re keeping today’s topic focused solely on white Italian wines (sorted by region, since the old world refers wines based on where they’re from). Due to the sheer variety and vast options of wine from Italy, I figured it best to tackle this task one step at a time.

To keep rapt attention throughout today’s lesson, I’ve peppered in plenty of mesmerizing pictures from Italy’s famed wine regions. Enjoy the first one below featuring the beautiful region of Tuscany.

Veneto – Northeast Italy and home to two of our favorite white wines

  1. Prosecco

First up, Prosecco. If you’ve had the fortune of traveling through Italy, then you were probably greeted with a complimentary glass of this thirst-quenching drink on more than one occasion. Prosecco is a specific region in northeast Italy producing delightful bubbly from the Glera grape. Due to the method used to produce it, Prosecco is often more affordable than Champagne, its bubbly sister. With fruity characteristics of honeysuckle, pear and green apple, this drink can become your new Sunday brunch go-to. Check out this recipe that uses Prosecco to make Aperol spritz (another truly inspiring Italian invention).

The picture above is from the wine-growing region of Veneto, Italy. It’s the same region that’s home to Venice and is filled with great wine and medieval villages (see above for reference to what a medieval village might look like).

  1. Soave

Remember Romeo and Juliet in “fair Verona?” I’m not going to make you relive your high school Shakespeare class, but this white wine originates from another medieval village just around the bend from Verona. This wine region has been perfecting their grape growing since the ancient Roman times, in volcanic hills, no less. Soave (pronounced saw-ah-ve) is made primarily from Garganega, a grape indigenous to Italy. Soave has hints of lemon, honeydew and pear, making it incredibly invigorating. Who knows, maybe Romeo will swing by later to gift you a bottle of this tasty wine.  

Friuli-Venezia Giulia – Northeast Italy

  1. Pinot Grigio

Fun fact: Pinot Grigio is Italy’s most exported white wine. Although the grape didn’t originate from Italy, the country has pioneered the zesty, crisp style of wine we all know and love today. This white wine pairs perfectly with a warm summer’s day. As a vibrant, dry wine, a quick sip of Pinot Grigio feels like taking a much needed plunge into a pool on an 80-degree afternoon. With its high acidity and refreshing citrus flavors of lemon and lime, it’s delicious on its own or as the base of a summertime cocktail. (Plz refer back to the Aperol Spritz recipe listed with Prosecco for a new delicious drink combo.)  

Piemonte – Northwest Italy

  1. Moscato d’Asti

A personal fav, sparkling Moscato d’Asti will take you on a quick escape to the Piemonte countryside in northwest Italy. The dessert-wine-turned-favorite-drink has seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, and it’s not too hard to see why. Made from the Muscat grape, Moscato has a low alcohol content and aromatic flavors of orange blossom, nectarine and peach. These characteristics make it a great drink to simply sip and enjoy or savor for dessert after a big meal. So, in the wise words of The Lion King (kind of, slightly adjusted), Hakuna Moscato, friends.  

Campania – Southern Italy

  1. Falanghina

I’ve got to warn you, Falanghina is a tricky one. It originates from the Campania region and the name Falanghina (pronounced FA-lan-GHEE-nah) refers to the name of the grapes grown to make the wine. The two types of grapes grown to make this wine (falanghina beneventana and falanghina flegrea grapes, for those who want to sound extra smart at the next wine and cheese party) are often blended together and labeled under the generic name of “Falanghina.” If you’re in a store scanning the aisle for wines, you’ll likely see a bunch of different types of Falanghina. Rest assured, all should be clearly labeled as a variety of the wine, and all will have the same light body and simple crispness.   

italian landscape

Bonus Wine Region: Cinque Terre

Sciacchetrà (it’s a doozy, but here’s how to pronounce it: shah-keh-TRAH) The picture above is from what’s known as the Italian Riviera, also called Cinque Terre. The region hosts a collection of five small villages dangling on cliffs with panoramic views like the one above (named Vernazza). So, why is this picture even included? Well, aside from its fairy-tale quaintness, Cinque Terre produces remarkable wines. Due to its steep cliffs, wine growing here is a tricky art. Fortunately, the members of the villages have mastered it with their signature wine, Sciacchetrà. The golden vino works well as a dessert wine, due to its intense sweetness. Since the local villagers have been working for centuries to perfect it, it’d be cruel of us not to indulge in a glass or two, right?

Salut!

Sources: Wine Folly – article 1, Vine Pair- article 1, Wine for Dummies, Vine Pair – article 2, Epicure and Culture, NY Times, Wine Folly – article 2

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of winos with a passion for vino. With our amazing wine director at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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