What do you know about Italian wine? It’s quite likely that you drink some of it on a regular basis. It might not surprise you that Italy is the biggest wine producer in the world, producing 44.5 million hectolitres in 2021, or 17% of the world’s total. Native Italian grapes like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, Nero d’Avola, Glera and Moscato Bianco are just a handful of the hundreds of grapes used. From massive wineries to local vineyards there are loads of great bottles to explore.
The Italian wine culture
It’s safe to say the Italians like their wine. The average Italian consumes around 54 litres of wine per year, often spread out throughout the week as a glass with dinner or lunch. There is a social culture around drinking, and it is usually consumed with food. Many Italians testify towards the health benefits of drinking wine, such as antioxidants. With an above average life expectancy, sixth highest in the world, they might be on to something.
The Italian wine landscape
There are twenty wine regions in Italy, right from the mountains of the north to the warm Mediterranean climes in the south. These are Tuscany, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Piedmont, Emilia- Abruzzo, Molise, Romagna, Lombardy, Umbria, Sardinia, Trentino Alto-Adige, Marche, Calabria, Lazio, Sicily, Campania, Liguria, Basilicata, Puglia, and Valle d’Aosta. A warm climate with cool winters in the north, rich limestone clay soil, and of course passionate producers mean that the country produces wide and varied wines that are popular at home and abroad.
Categories of Italian wine
There are four major categories of Italian wine. Vino da Tavola (VdT) translates as ‘table wine’ and is pretty unregulated. That’s the cheap stuff. Indicazione Geografica (IGT) refers to wine produced in a specific area but that doesn’t meet strict criteria of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). As well as being produced in specific regions, DOC wines must be made following that protect local wine making practices. The absolute best is the DOCG, which is controlled by stringent rules around yields and production. There are only around 74 Italian DOCGs.
Some famous Italian wines
As you can imagine for such a prolific country there’s just not space to list every wine that the Italians make, but here are few of our favourites.
Prosecco has surged to popularity over the last few years, and is one of our best selling varieties. Made in the northern Veneto region, it uses the Charmat method. The base wine is added to the tank, followed by sugar and yeast, and then a second fermentation. This ensures the bubbles and fresh fruity flavours come to the fore. Estate-bottled vivacious and elegant fizz is what you’ll get from the Sorelle Bronca Modi, Prosecco, NV. Lemony, peachy and floral – yum.
Rich, fruity and full of power, the Barberesco grape made solely from the Nebbiolo grape is sometimes overlooked but well worth a shot. It grows in the Piedmont region, right in the north west on pre alpine hills, and has been in production since 1890. Start with the Barbera d'Asti DOCG, Cantina del Pino, 2017. A high tannin wine, it packs a punch and is amazing with red meats or on a winter’s day.
Coming from the Tuscan hills, Sangiovese is fresh, fruity and spicy when young, but when aged takes on a more smokey flavour. Think sour cherries and tea leaf, and you’re about right. Some claim it goes back to the days of Roman winemaking. If you want a litre of the good stuff, we recommend Conestabile della Staffa - Litro Rosso, 2020.
Very few wine drinkers have even heard of Timorasso, never mind drunk it. Also from the Piemonte region, it’s pretty rare and was on the verge of extinction until Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa revived it in the 1980s. And we’re glad he did. An aromatic variety with a full body and acidity, one of our favourite examples is from Ezio Poggio with their Caespes Colli Tortonesi, Poggio, 2018.
When was the last time you considered orange wine? Still relatively new to many people, it’s a robust and hearty flavour made by keeping the skins in contact for longer. Trebbiano is often considered to be a little bit undistinguished, and bland – although it accounts for over half of the white wines in Italy, but its minerally notes can go a long way. This wine is an orange one, with citrus tangs and almond tones - safe to say we’re big fans of Dinamo - Nucleo X, 2020.
A whistle stop tour of Italian wine. Whatever your favourite flavours, there’s plenty to explore from the world’s largest producers. Dive into our range here.