Italy is home to large amount of grape varieties. Sangiovese, Barbera and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo are well-known throughout the world and are the basis for many fantastic wines. Most known where these grapes are grown but what is with Fiano d’Avellino, Vermentino, Aglianico or Corvina? The latter one for example is the basis for all Amarone wines.
Here is an alphabetical list most Italian grape varieties. The most important ones are highlighted.
Native grape of the Emilia-Romagna. Albana di Romagna DOCG is famous throughout Italy.
Primarily grown in Campania and Basilicata. Aglianico del Vulture DOCG is a stunning wine from Basilicata.
Often found in Puglia and other Southern Italian regions. Many desert wines are made from this grape.
This grape has its home in Piedmont. Mostly grown in the hills northwest of Alba. Roero DOC wines made with Arneis are usually dry, full body white wines. Grappa is also manufactured from Arneis grapes.
Very few wine producing nations bring as much panache to their tastings as do the Italians.
The Italian Trade Commission recently sponsored its ninth annual tasting in Vancouver.. The Italians have sponsored tastings in Toronto and Montreal for 19 years; those cities are the major Canadian markets for Italian wine. In the last decade, Italy has made more of an effort in Western Canada as well, trying to win away consumers that buy most of their wine from Australia, California, South America and British Columbia. Perhaps half of the 37 wineries at the Vancouver tasting have no wines in the market. Those wineries were looking for agents and listings in the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. The LDB currently lists 460 Italian products, including multiple sizes and fortified products. Sales of Italian wines in British Columbia in the 12 months ended September 30 totalled $59.2 million, up five per cent from the previous 12 months. It is a sliver of the market. The LDB’s total sales in the same 12 months were just under $3 billion. But the Italian sliver is worth exploring, to discover the excellent “new world” styling of the wines. In the past decade or two, Italian producers have really raised the bar. And they are doing it with varietals that grow primarily in Italy. The taste profile of Italian wines is a refreshing change to palates that may have become jaded with Merlot and Shiraz. Their edge comes from using varietals not even grown in much of the rest of the wine world. When you add those novel flavours to modern wine making, you get crisp, fresh whites without a trace of oxidation and you get juicy and appealing reds without the hard tannins of yesteryear. Italy still offers the familiar brands that have been on the market for years and years, but made to improved quality standards. One example is a 45-year-old brand, Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Classico ($14.99), a crisp, refreshing white still being sold in the green hourglass shaped bottle. Many of us bought it initially because the bottles, like the Chianti in the “fiasco” served well as candle holder. Fazi Battaglia is an example of why the Italians are competitive. Verdicchio is an ancient variety that is planted widely in central Italy but hardly anywhere else. The LDB’s tasting notes speak of flavours of baked apple, hazelnut and ripe melon. The wine is light but it has its own personality... ...The bottom line is that the Italians, by adopting cutting edge winemaking techniques but not jettisoning their traditional varietals, are producing wines that are unique.
Rosso Piceno is a little known DOC in the Marche region on Italy's east coast. I've already written up Fattoria Laila's delicious Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi, and the best reds from this region are dominated by the Montepulciano grape. Sangiovese is the other major varietal. Prior to 2005, Sangiovese was required in the blend to the tune of 60%. But now Montepulciano can presumably go as high as 70%, although the producer's website claims this wine is 80% Montepulciano. It's certainly confusing. But, what is not confusing is that this wine is an excellent $9.99 value. The almost opaque ruby color certainly looks more like Montepulciano than Sangiovese and initially reticent aromas gradually opened with airing to reveal dark cherry, cola, coffee and minty notes. Attractive dark berry flavors are buffeted with excellent acidity and a lightly tannic finish. This everyday winner has good concentration and lift and went well with grilled lamb burgers with grilled onions and raita.
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