Italy has twenty different wine regions stretching from the Swiss border down to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The history of Italian winemaking goes back 4,000 years and wine is an essential part of Italian culture.
Italy is the world’s largest wine producer (4,796,900 tonnes). Much of this is red wine. There are over 500 varieties of red Italian wine to choose from, so it would be impossible to talk about them all, but in our opinion the best red wine varieties to try or use as wine gifts are:
Brunello di Montalcino:
Brunello di Montalcino is a red DOCG wine produced in Tuscany, just outside Montalcino. Brunello is made 100% from Sangiovese grapes.
There are two classifications of Brunello: Normale and Riserva.
Normale has to be aged for 5 years with at least 24 months in oak casks and then in a bottle for four months.
Riserva must be aged for at least 6 years, two of which should be in oak casks and half a year in the bottle.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano:
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is another important wine made from the Sangiovese grapes, coming from the area of Montepulciano in Tuscany
This wine is made of minimum 70% Sangiovese grapes with addition of Canaiolo Nero (10-20%) or other local red grapes.
This wine is known for its darker colour, strong tannins, and higher than average acidity. The wine carries strong aromas and has hints of oregano, tobacco, black fruits and peppers.
Normale must be matured for a minimum of 2 years and Riserva for 3 years. One year must be spent in a cask.
Barolo expresses a high tannin content and overtones of Cherry, Rose petal, cinnamon, raspberry sauce, and pepper. When aged it also features the darker liquorice, chocolate, and leather overtones
Also made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont is Barbaresco. Very similar to Barolo, but more elegant, less tannic, and does not have such a rich flavour as Barolo.
The reason the Barbaresco wines are less tannic than Barolo is the climate of Barbaresco which is more maritime than Barolo and causes the grapes to ripen earlier. However, there is still enough acidity to make the Barbaresco into a great wine.
Regulations state that Normale is aged for at least two years (one year of which has to be in wooden barrels). To be designated Riserva the wine must be aged for 50 months and spend 24 months in a wooden barrel.