Looking for the best Italian wine? Want to know which red wine to buy? Read on for the bottles available, then check out the best Italian cocktails to try.
October always marks a change in my drinking habits, as I turn away from crisp whites and refreshing rosés that are so suited to summer and look to the comfort of red wine. More often than not, these will come from Italy. With 4,000 years of wine-making history, Italy is the world’s largest wine producer and has incredible diversity across its 20 wine regions.
From elegant, cool-climate wines in the north and intense and punchy reds in the sun-baked south, to the highly prized and highly priced barolos in Piedmont, Bordeaux blends in Tuscany and dependable bargains in Abruzzo and Puglia, Italian reds really offer something for everybody.
Lovers of light-bodied wines should look for frappato, a native grape of Sicily that, despite being closer to North Africa than it is Rome, is cooled by sea breezes and produces juicy and refreshing frappatos that are often best served slightly chilled. At the other end of the weight spectrum lies appassimento wines, the most famous being amarone, which is made by partially drying the grapes before they’re pressed to concentrate the fruit and make rich, muscular reds, just right for wintery nights.
Many Italian wineries are still family-run, with the younger generation now taking over from their fathers and grandfathers (historically, the Italian wine world was very male-dominated, but this is now changing) and turning away from the post-war reliance on chemicals to keep weeds, pests and diseases at bay. This has led to some shocking deterioration of soil health and biodiversity and, many would argue, quality of wine. Organic farming is now widespread and increasing all the time, with the emphasis on restoring the natural balance of the land.
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Five Italian red wines to try
A bargain red from Puglia, full of blackcurrants, damsons, spice and a little liquorice. A great pizza wine.
Light and juicy frappato that’s brilliant slightly chilled, with so many things – try it with pork and duck rillettes.
Concentrated, ripe fruit; appetising spice; and an opulent, silky texture that makes this a winner with hearty, meaty dishes. This forward-thinking family winery makes an unusual white version, too.
Bright and energetic chianti from a brilliant vintage, with the region’s characteristic acidity – this is fantastic with food. Fermented and aged in oak and cement, it’s bottled unfiltered and un-fined.
Lambrusco is Italy’s most famous sparkling red, traditionally made dry and quite tannic. This is lighter and sweeter, with summer-pudding fruitiness and a gentle 7.5% ABV. Chill it and drink with berry-based puds or a plate of charcuterie.