Best Italian red wines to buy
As the seasons change, this diverse country offers great choice. Our wine expert shares her picks of the best Italian red wines to buy
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. We've also picked more of the best Italian wines to buy here focusing on unsung heroes for new unusual picks. If you fancy something a little more bubbly, check out our guide to Italian sparking wines.
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.
While this latest generation of winemakers is often looking to the past to revive ancient varieties and techniques, it's also breaking traditional boundaries by coming up with modern and innovative wines and ways of marketing them.
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Best Italian red wines at a glance
- Best bargain Italian red wine: Il Sarmento Nero di Troia, £7.15
- Best Italian red with food: Famiglia Pasqua Passione Sentimento Rosso, £11.99
- Best chianti: Fattoria Rodáno, Chianti Classico 2018, £18.75
- Best sparkling red wine: L’Occhiolino Lambrusco, £12
Best Italian red wines to try 2023
Il Sarmento Nero di Troia
- Available from Co-op (£7.15)
Best bargain Italian red wine
A bargain red from Puglia, full of blackcurrants, damsons, spice and a little liquorice. A great pizza wine.
Famiglia Pasqua Passione Sentimento Rosso
- Available from Majestic (£11.99)
Best Italian red with food
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.
Fattoria Rodáno, Chianti Classico 2018
- Available from The Good Wine Shop (£18.75)
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.
The Good Wine Shop (£18.75)
- Available from Laithwaites (£12)
Best sparkling red wine
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.
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