Before being featured in Bravo’s Top Chef and becoming entrepreneurs, we explored Italy to the fullest! Imagine being surrounded by rolling landscapes and stunning architecture that is characteristic of this beautiful country. We fell in love instantly and continue to uniquely combine traditional Italian dishes with our own culinary perspective. But a great Italian meal is not complete without great wine and we’ve visited some of the best wine regions in Italy. Whether your preference is white or red, Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine. It has a long history that can be traced back to various provinces and is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions globally.
How It All Began
Grapes – the end. Not really but they obviously play a major role in making great wine! Generally, grapes that are grown in a country with various microclimates and ideal soil conditions can produce superior wine. Other factors that play an important role in exceptional wine is the shape and elevation of the vineyard, local yeast cultures, seasonal conditions, and grape species.
According to the earliest archaeological evidence, Georgia is the official birthplace of wine in 6000 BC. Other early wine traces have been linked to Sicily and Persia, which is now Iran. One of the earliest wineries was found in Armenia and evidence has shown that a similar alcoholic drink was present in China around 7000 BC. Wine spread throughout the West through Phoenician trade which included the Mediterranean and continued throughout Egypt. Eventually, the Ancient Roman Empire planted vineyards to produce wine locally and many of these areas are now famous for wine production as well.
Best Wine Regions in Italy
It’s important to note that Italy is divided into regions in which different townships and estates exist. Wine brands are typically named after the estates and regions from which they come and producers with DOCG status have been certified as achieving the strictest and highest level of quality in winemaking. Look for this designation on your next bottle of wine and you’ll know you are getting the absolute best. There are so many interesting Italian wine regions that it was challenging to pick a few. We’ve been able to narrow down a few of our favs. Here’s our picks:
- Sicily – As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily boasts a number of wine regions and dozens of wineries due to its ideal environment for wine production. In fact, it has the most vineyards in all of Italy and for good reason. The distinctiveness of the area’s volcanic soil-landscape and weather are renowned for producing Italian red wines from the Etna Bianco estate including Rosso. This estate also features exquisite white wines like Planeta made with a rare grape variety called Minella Bianca. Another great red from Sicily is Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which features a robust soft and smooth flavor that perfectly complements chicken, tuna, and duck dishes. Yet, the best known Italian red wines from this region are Nero d’ Avola infused with black cherry and plum fruits.
- Tuscany – The most famous of all the Italian wine regions, Tuscany is centrally located and defined by romantic hillsides and warm weather. The area’s temperature variations help to create a delightful balance of sugars, aromas and acidity for a robust wine red drinking experience. With a long history of winemaking dating back to the 8th century BC, Tuscany wine comes in many varieties. Infamous for Italian red wines, the Sangiovese grape is a featured staple in numerous reds around the world and featured in the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is celebrated for its high acidity and firm tannins that is also included in other popular wines like Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The best Tuscan white wine is Vernaccia di San Gimignano made from the Vernaccia grape variety. It’s crisp and citrus undertones make for a great pairing with fish and white meats.
- Prosecco – Another one of the most famous Italian wine regions, Prosecco is unmistakable. The terrain is similar to mini-mountains where the Glera grape is grown and flourishes to produce the sparkly wine. Since it is quite rainy in this area, the flavors tend to be crisp with less acidity than champagne. As a quick public service announcement, Prosecco is different from champagne. The term “sparkling white wines” is a very broad term used to describe both Prosecco and Champagne. The difference is in how they are made and where they are from. Again, Prosecco is an Italian dry wine made from the Glera grape, while champagne is made with chardonnay, pinot noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes in France. Both use very different production methods with different tasting notes and food pairings. For instance, Prosecco tends to be on the sweeter side and pairs well with fruity appetizers and cured meats. Champagne has an almond-like flavor that pairs best with shellfish, fried appetizers, and even potato chips!
- Umbria – Located at the heart of the Italian peninsula, this wine region is characterized by quaint villages, rolling hills, and iconic towns. It is the lesser-known and less traveled part of Italy. With a similar climate to Tuscanny, most of the vineyards are planted in terraces cut into the hillsides and is the only region without a coastline or international border. Also renowned for dry Italian wine, Trebbiano, also referred to as Procanico, is the grape variety of choice. This area produces both red and white Italian wine types. Montefalco Sagrantino, made with a very unique grape variety called Sagrantino, is a bold and robust red wine with very high tannin. It’s best paired with aged cheeses, braised beans, and dishes with enough proteins to bring balance to your pallet.
- Friuli – One of the smallest and culturally diverse regions in Northeastern Italy, the area is surrounded by mountains and overlooks the Adriatic sea. With only 600, 000 inhabitants, the wine produced in this area is heavily influenced by Germanic and Slavic culture. Bordering the Alps, some of the region’s best white wines are produced near the foothills using over 30 different grape varieties grown in the area. Pinot Grigio and Merlot are among the top wines produced in Friuli.
- Trentino – Alto Adige – As Italy’s northernmost wine region, this area is located near Austria and produces high volumes of white wines. Trentino – Alto Adige also produces Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, with a population of 1 million people. The warm alpine air helps to keep vine diseases and fungal infections away. The region is divided into two provinces, with Trentino speaking almost entirely Italian and Alto Adige speaking predominantly German.
- Emilia Romagna – Last but certainly not least of the Italian wine regions, this region may be best known for its capital, Bologna, and listed as the best place to see in Europe. Featuring an 11th-century university and over 4 million inhabitants, it is also one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in all of Europe. Not only is this region home to some of the finest wines, but it is home to Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Ducati among other luxury brands. It is also home to the world’s finest balsamic vinegar, Modena. The geographical diversity is credited for producing the finest Italian wine types, including Lambrusco and Malvasia. The intense flavors are best paired with game birds like turkey and ham.
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