Italian winemakers have been producing fine reds since antiquity, but a new generation of young artisans is now pushing the envelope. They are bent to producing not only fine wines, but also exquisite ones to compete and even surpass the best in the world.
Geographically, Italian vineyards are ideally located, particularly those in Tuscany and further north i.e Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Trentino-Alto -Adige and Marches. In these regions the summers are hot, with intermittent rain, winters mild to cold, and humidity low.
Italy is in the midst of wine renaissance. After slow, steady improvement over the past three decades a multitude of world-class wines in an array of styles are now produced by well-established and relatively new wineries.
For the North American consumers, indigenous Italian grape varieties represent a problem, as do the geography and a myriad of regulations changing from region to region.
Then of course the famous Italian individuality plays an important role. In the 1960’s when the wine laws were promulgated, most wineries agreed that controls were necessary to improve quality. A decade later the very people who advocated controls found them too restrictive and at the same time not stringent enough.
Marchesi Antinori for example wanted to blend cabernet sauvignon with sangiovese. (The law in Tuscany does not permit this). He then did it anyways and declassified the wine (Tignanello) to the lowest classification of vino da tavola. Of course wine drinkers recognized the value once they tasted the superior quality, and dubbed it the term “supertuscan”. Now the list of supertuscans can be expanded to a dozen of exquisite wines with prices to match quality.
In general the three quality levels of Italian wines from the lowest to the highest are I G T (Indicazione Geografica Tipica); D O C (Denominazione di origine controlata); and D O C G (Denominazione doi Origina controlata e garantita). Then there are the brands like Tignanello, Sassicaia, Marhcesi di Frescobaldi Merlot Toscana, Castelgiocondo Lamaione,Olena e Isole, and Solaia just to name a few.
Only a few years ago Italian wine exporters relied more on low prices to encourage sales; today the emphasis is on quality and value.
Here are some of the best the country offer: Barbaresco Sori Tildin, A. Gaja; Brunello di Montalcino, Altesino; Barolo Le Vigne, L. Sandrone; Tenuta dell Ornelaia Toscana; Barolo Granbussia Riserva, A.Conterno; Solaia, Marchesi Antinori; Toscana Vigna d’Alceo, Castello di Rampola; Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri; Barolo Faletto, B Giacosa; Barolo Brunate, Ceretto; Ornelaia, Tenuta dell Ornelaia; Barolo Vigneto Arborina, Elio Altare; Barolo Cicala, A. Conterno; Barolo Cannubi Boschis, L Sandrone; Barbaresco, A Gaja;Barbaresco Bricco Asili, Ceretto; Barbaresco Sori Burdin, Fontanabianca; Galatarona, Fattoria Petrolo;, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Fattoria dei Barbi e Casale, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Biondi-Santi, Chianti Classico, Castello di Ama; Valpolicella Quintarelli; Amarone della Valpolicella, Quintarelli; Recioto della Valpolicella, Quintarelli; Toar, Agricola Masi; Amarone della Valpolicella, Fratelli Tedeschi; Tignanello, Marchesi Antinori, Teroldego Rotaliano Granate, Foradori; The above are all red. In fact Italy’s best wines happen to be red, but this sunny country also produces extraordinary dessert libations that require a separate article.