29 Jul Travel in the Glass – Italy’s Most Famed Wine Regions
If you’ve ever looked at the endless range of Italian wines with an air of confusion, know that you keep good company. We often hear from our customers that their curiosity is offset by their limited knowledge so we thought we might try to demystify some of the great wines of Italy with an armchair tour of Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto. Our tasty selection to launch you out of the starting blocks includes Barolo, Barbaresco, Super Tuscans and Amarone.
Let’s start with the noblest of wines from Piedmont.
Piedmont; famed for the Nebbiolo grape with Barolo and Barbaresco being the most well-known examples. The consistent continental climate of the region coupled with the influences of the Tanaro river produces a unique terroir for Nebbiolo that is not easily replicated in other parts of the world.
What you can expect from Barolo − the “King of Wines and the Wines of Kings”.
Regardless of aging, Barolo from a great site from an outstanding growing season can age for 30-50 years. Even in an average vintage, a Barolo will drink well for 10-15 years. Aromatics are of red cherry, orange peel and tar, as well as notes of cedar (if aged in grandi botti), which change to balsamic as the wine matures after a few years in the bottle. These are powerful wines with rich tannins, yet the best examples offer finesse and elegance and are fine matches with foods such as rabbit, veal and lighter game.
How does Barbaresco compare? Barbaresco is produced from three communes east of Alba and tends to be more approachable than Barolo – many would say more feminine in style. But fear not – Barbaresco also do well with age. The best examples drink well for 20-25 years, perhaps even longer. As the soils are younger here than in Barolo, the wines are not as forceful, but the best examples of Barbaresco offer great varietal purity as well as charm. Best producers include Ceretto; Gaja; Albino Rocca; Moccagatta; Bruno Rocca; Cascina delle Rose; Ca’ del Baio; Sottimano; Bruno Giacosa; Poderi Colla and Produttori del Barbaresco; the single-vineyard offerings here are the essence of Barbaresco.
Also, look for wines labelled Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo, which producers of Barolo and Barbaresco craft as more approachable versions of Nebbiolo and are released sooner than their more famous counterparts (and are also of notable quality).
Now rest a while here in Piedmont, take a sip and enjoy. Soon we will find ourselves down the coast in Tuscany.
We may be under border restrictions, but it doesn’t stop us from tasting the delights of the world. We are in pursuit of decoding Italian wines and where better to explore than the rolling hills of Tuscany.
‘Super Tuscans’; the collective noun for some of Tuscany’s top red wines, such as Masseto, Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Back in the 1960s, some Tuscan producers began experimenting with non-indigenous varieties from Bordeaux, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
So does Masseto stack up? Absolutely, it’s one of the most famous Super Tuscan wines, made entirely from Merlot. It is made by Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia and is known for its aromatic complexity, opulent fruit and tannic structure, and is consistently regarded as one of the top wines in the world with auction prices to match.
Sassicaia by any other name: Tenuta San Guido is much better known by the name of its most famous wine – Sassicaia. One of the original Super Tuscan wines is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Cabernet Franc. It is known for its supple texture, elegance and perfume
Sassicaia (“stony field” in English) was created as an experimental wine in the 1940s by the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta (a cousin of the Antinoris), who dreamed of making wine to rival great Bordeaux. On settling at his wife’s estate, he experimented with several French varieties before focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, noting the similarity between the local gravelly terrain and that of Graves in Bordeaux.
If you’re keen to explore the Super Tuscans firsthand, be sure to linger over our catalogue for August where we have a great range on offer at values that appeal to a variety of pockets.
Veneto: In North-east Italy, this is one of Italy’s most important wine-growing areas, producing wines, such as Prosecco, Valpolicella, and Soave. Overall, Veneto produces more bottles of DOC wine than any other area in Italy. The Amarone della Valpolicella, a wine from the hills around Verona, is made with high-selected partially dried grapes and is among the more expensive red wines in the world.
How to navigate Amarone? Generally, the final result is a very ripe, raisiny, full-bodied wine with very little acid but there is a surprisingly wide spectrum of aromas and flavours typical of today’s Amarone. Three styles dominate current production.
- A simpler version usually with less wood ageing showcases its friendlier side. Many believe that Amarone is best drunk by its 10th birthday when the wine is still all about roundness, softness and harmony.
- Smaller batches of a grower’s very finest fruit are fermented separately and often given extra wood ageing; this ‘premium’ or Riserva version is capable of lasting for up to 20 years or so in bottle.
- Finally, the more ‘modernist’ interpretation of Amarone embraces a more concentrated, longer-lived, and less oxidative style of wine through the use of controlled appassimento and mainly smaller (225L or 500L) new oak barrels.
If you’re interested in having your own Italian wine experience, we have a hand-picked selection on offer in our August auction.
Happy trails everyone.