With more than a million vineyards and more than 2,000 types of grapes, Italy's winemaking is simply an art form.
Despite many new entrants garnering attention, only France and sometimes, Spain, competes with Italy for the distinction of world's largest wine producer. The United States is third.To understand Italian winemaking, you need to know the most planted grapes:
- Sangiovese: Tuscany and Umbria
- Trebbiano: Central and southern Italy (Emilia Romagna, Marche and Abruzzo)
- Montepulciano: Several eastern central regions, but not the town that bears its name
Don't confuse the Tuscan town with the grape, although it's easy to do. A wonderful wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is produced in Montepulciano with Sangiovese, not Montepulciano, grapes.
Sound complicated? We'll try to simplify.
Sangiovese Known for Brunello and Chianti
Chianti is the most famous wine made from Sangiovese grapes, but it's not the only one. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, mentioned above, is another. Tuscany is known for being warmer and drier than average, yielding big, juicy, ripe Sangiovese grapes.
A highly recommended red wine with a price tag to match is known today as Brunello di Montalcino, a DOCG wine, which began production in the late 19th century after the unification of Italy. Montalcino is a small town in Tuscany with ideal grape growing conditions with a long storied history of red wine production going back to the 14th century.
Brunello distinguishes itself because its grapes are fermented separately from other varieties; fermented once, not twice; and aged in wooden barrels. With a very dark red color and rich flavor, Brunello is one of the strongest tasting wines in Tuscany. The second grape to know is Montepulciano.
Montepulciano a Thick Skinned Variety
The world famous Montepulciano grape is the hallmark of two popular Italian wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Offida Rosso, classified as DOC and DOCG, respectively. Only Sangiovese grapes are more widely produced than this type, and it's known to hold up well to tough conditions, unlike thinner skinned varieties.
This grape is grown in eastern central Italy and most heavily featured in wines that come from the Abruzzo region. Its wines are noted for low acidity and the soft taste of tannins that don’t overload the taste buds. The most important thing to remember when drinking "Monte" with food is to make sure whatever you’re eating is heavy and strong in its taste because the wine will cut straight through the flavor.
Offida Rosso is produced in the Marche region of central Italy using red Montepulciano grapes, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination of these two grapes gives this wine a sweet, fruity taste and a strong aroma that’s hard to miss. It’s also known as a wine that ages well. In total there is a 30-month aging process, which adds to the rich taste and aroma of the wine. Its strong and fruity taste makes it a great companion to braised and roasted meats.
The Hardest Working Grape
Finally, we have the Trebbiano grape, the most popular white grape for winemaking, so popular it's spread into France and other countries and mixed with a multitude of other grapes to form wines and also authentic balsamic vinegar.
Trebbiano grapes have a dry taste and is can be seen all over Tuscany. Most of the wines made from it are classified as DOC, a level below the more prestigious DOCG. This humble grape is a staple of Italian winemaking, also used to make brandy.
To learn more about trips to Italy that include wine tours, talk to one of our travel experts at Bella Vista Tours. Many of us have lived or worked in Florence, and would love to share our suggestions with you for what you might like. Call 877-723-0802.