Known for its stunning landscapes, famous artists and perhaps the most pleasant cuisine in the world, it is easy to understand why Italy is a top destination for travel lovers. Whether you want to visit one of the 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, wander the streets of the Eternal City, cruise the Venetian canals or soak up the sun on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, the possibilities of bella Italia are not available. Fortunately, there are other ways to experience this sweet life when we cannot travel. For example, Italian wine provides the perfect opportunity to capture the taste of Italy at home.
There are more than 350 grape varieties allowed in Italy for wine production, and the country has documented a total of 500 grape varieties. This means that there is an abundance of Italian wine waiting to be discovered. For starters, you could enjoy the more famous Italian wines. For example, fresh pinot grigio from Trentino-Alto Adige full of citrus and green apple flavors. Or maybe Chianti Classico made from Sangiovese with flavors of red cherry, plum and dried herbs. However, if you are touring Italy for a drink, why not head a little further from the beaten track. Try these five transformative Italian wines and their perfect combinations for the true taste of Italy.
Barolo DOCG of Piedmont
Probably one of the world’s greatest wines, Barolo comes from the northwest corner of Italy. Here you will find the Piemonte wine region hidden at the foot of the Alps. In fact, the name of the region comes from the Italian words for “foot” (foot) and ‘mountain’ (monte).
Like many Italian wines, Barolo is named after the region in which the wine is produced. Barolo DOCG wines are made from Nebbiolo grapes, a red variety originating in the Piedmont region. This is a truly authentic Italian wine as very few producers outside Italy have mastered this variety as well as Piedmontese.
Nebbiolo is notoriously difficult to grow grapes. This variety has a high level of acidity and tannins, which require a long growing season to fully develop. However, Nebbiolo thrives in the temperate continental climate of Piedmont, where the mountains in the north protect the region from rain and harmful winds. Piedmont is also exposed to strong fog, which can help prolong the growing season.
Resting in a horseshoe-shaped valley, the Barolo vineyards lie on steep slopes at 300-500 meters above sea level. At this altitude, Nebbiolo can slowly mature as it develops extremely perfumed aromas of cherries, herbs, roses, dried flowers and skin. Barolo wines are usually full-bodied, with extremely light acidity and frightening tannins. High tannins and acidity mean that Barolos can be subdivided for more than ten years. Over the years, these wines develop irresistible aromas of truffles, tar and mushrooms.
Wine pairing: Barolo + creamy truffle risotto
Barol’s high acidity makes this Italian wine an excellent match with earthy flavors or rich, creamy dishes. Piedmont is also a land of black truffles and the old saying “what grows together goes together” here definitely sounds true. Truffles and Barolo match were made in paradise.
The creamy truffle risotto is the perfect pairing for Barolo. Its skyscraper acidity will cut through the fat-rich dishes and create a tempting contrast to the delicious, cheesy risotto. While the flavors of truffles in the dish will also improve the earthy, cherry and floral aromas in Nebbiol. If you didn’t think truffle risotto could become more decadent, wait until you try it with a glass of Nebbiola. If you can’t get your hands on truffles, add a mixture of earthy, wild mushrooms instead.
Carricante from Sicily
Next, cruise from Piedmont through the Mediterranean to the sun-drenched island of Sicily, where they produce wine from 4,000 BC. In recent years, they have set their international wine scene with wines from Mount Etna. Yes, these risk takers cultivate vineyards at the foot of an active volcano. But the higher the risk, the higher the reward and Mount Etna wines pay off handsomely.
Red and white varieties thrive in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna. These soils retain water well, which helps in the production of fresh and lively wines. In addition, volcanic soils contribute to the sapidity, salinity and minerality of the trademark. These features have gathered a large base of Mount Etna wine lovers.
Carricante is one Sicilian white variety that thrives on volcanic soils and is absolutely not to be missed. This grape produces wines with lively acidity, salty minerality and explosive aromas of citrus and flowers. Breathing the breath of a glass of Carricante is an exciting experience to say the least. You will be captivated by the orange blossom, lime blossom, lemon peel, juicy peach, white pepper and the aromas of the sea breeze. Electrifying acidity and a fresh palate laden with lemon will make you dream of the Sicilian coast.
Wine combination: Carricante + sea salad
This Italian white wine is ideal with all kinds of seafood, but a fresh seafood salad is a superb blend. The minerality of the wine nicely complements the salty flavors of the Mediterranean. While fresh lemon and herbs insalata di mare enhance the citrus flavors of the wine. The seafood salad is also delicate enough to allow the aromas of the blossoming wine to shine.
Aglianico from Campania
We are now returning to Campania on the mainland of Italy. The ancient Romans considered this region of Southern Italy to be the final terroir for viticulture. Campania is home to many intriguing indigenous varieties. Among them you will find Aglianico, one of the most prestigious grapes in the south.
Aglianico wines are attracting increasing attention throughout the wine world due to their unmistakable salty flavors and depth of character. Although Aglianico grows throughout Campania, look for Taurasi DOCG wines for the best quality.
Their deep, inky color alludes to the robust tannins and whole body that the variety offers. Expect flavors of black cherry, black plum and white pepper. Over the years, Aglianico develops ever softer, dusty aromas and aromas of dried figs, leather, chocolate and smoke. These earthy, rustic red Italian wines will transport you to a bathed Italian village. Although the initial Aglianico is capable of aging in your cellar for five to seven years, Taurasi DOCG wines from good vintages mature well for up to twenty-five years.
Wine mix: Aglianico + Braciole beef
A rustic, robust wine like Aglianica requires a plentiful homemade meat dish. The classic Italian comfort food, beef braciole, is a great combination of this abundant Italian red color. Tender slices of beef are wrapped around a filling of pecorino romano cheese, garlic, parsley, pine nuts and prosciutto. Then the beef rings are tied together and simmered for hours with celery, carrots, onions, red wine and tomato sauce.
Aglianica tannins are softened with meat and a salty, salty dish. While the acidity in the tomato sauce perfectly complements the high acidity in the wine. In addition, the aromas in beef braciola enliven Aglianic’s aromas of dark fruit and spicy notes.
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG from Veneto
One of the largest Italian regions, Veneto is home to easy drinks and extremely complex Italian wines. Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is definitely among the latter. Located northwest of Verona, Valpolicella exhibits a variety of soil types, including limestone, clay, volcanic, gravel and sand. This diverse topography means that the region is capable of successfully growing a wide range of grape varieties. Nevertheless, Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella are the three local varieties used to produce Valpolicella DOC wine. These Italian red wines are fruity with red cherry flavors and light tannins.
The real magic begins with the Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG These wines are made from withering method, signed winemaking practice Veneta. The grapes are harvested early when the acidity is still high, and then left to dry indoors, placed on straw mats to concentrate the aromas of sugar. They are later fermented during the winter months. This process produces wines with a larger structure and more concentrated flavors. Amarone wines are full-bodied with high alcohol, medium to high tannins and intensely concentrated flavors of dried cherries, dark figs and dark chocolate.
Wine pairing: Amarone dellal Valpolicella + braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta
Short ribs sautéed for hours in red wine, tomato sauce, herbs and garlic until they fall off the bones are an extraordinary blend for Amarons. Pairing that could only be improved by adding gorgonzola polenta. The whole body and plush tannins of Amarone are an ideal addition to the rich, fatty stewed short ribs. While creamy polenta with sweet, spicy gorgonzola flavors will highlight the aromas of chocolate and dried fruit in the wine.
Ribolla Gialla from Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Finally, we will complete this taste of the Italian tour in the northeastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Tucked between the foothills of the Alps in the north and the Adriatic Sea in the south, the Friulian alpine climate is perfect for white wine. The northern vineyards at the foot of the Alps are cooled by mountain air, while the Adriatic moderates the warm temperatures in the southern plains. The warm sun ripens the grapes beautifully during the day. Then, these alpine and Adriatic at night affect lower temperatures, preserving flavors and acidity. These unique climatic and geographical conditions of Friuli enable the success of white varieties.
Ribolla Gialla is one of the most exciting, but rarely talked about, Italian wines in the region. Enjoying this wine is like enjoying a sunglasses. The bright citrus aromas practically explode from a glass of quality Ribolla Gialla. Expect spicy aromas of lemon and sweet mandarin, plus floral notes and vibrant, vibrant acidity. When grown in warmer vineyard locations, Ribolla Gialla also shows aromas of peach and apple. Find the best Italian wines of this variety in Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC and Collio Goriziano DOC
Wine pairing: Ribolla Gialla + mixed fried fish
Ribolla Gialla is full of refreshing acidity, which is perfect for fried foods. Fritto misto di pesce, or mixed fried seafood, available by the sea on almost any Italian coast, begs for a glass of Ribollo Gialla. Fresh squid, shrimp and various small fish are lightly dug into the semolina, fried and served with fresh lemon wedges. The result is a crunchy bite of celestial seafood that tastes like the salty surrounding seas. The high acidity of Ribolla Gialla cuts through the fat of fried seafood, and the delicate salty seafood flawlessly elevates the lemon and floral notes of the wine.
Are you ready to pour a glass of Italy?
This blog post was written by Nicole Dickerson of the Palace Club:
The Palate Club is on a mission to help you find the wines you love. Our professional sommelier produces sustainable, craft wines from around the world. Only 5% makes the cut! All our wines are delivered blindly, so you can rate the wines in our app objectively based only on your taste. We then use machine learning with more than 200 hundred wine properties to gift wines to your unique taste. Basically, the Palace Club is like owning your own wine buyer.