Old World Wines Around Town — Italy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

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Many people are intimidated by the topic of wine. This is in part because of the range of wines on the shelves and partly by their limited knowledge of the subject. One tip that will help you understand wine is knowing a little geography. Most New World wines say right on the label where the wine is from (country and region), when it was harvested (vintage), alcohol content, and what grapes were used to make the wine (varietal). 

OId World wine labels mention the vintage also, but they focus more on the country and region than the varietal (actual grapes used). That is because many Old World wines have historically been blended; rarely is 100% of the wine bottled from one single grape. Italian wines, like many European wines, are labelled by where the wine is made and not by the grape that makes the wine. Here is a quick overview of Italy's main grape wine-growing regions, which will be on the label.

While wine is grown all over Italy, the wines I have seen in our market come mainly from three regions: Piedmont in the northwest; the Veneto in the Northeast; and Tuscany in the central part of Italy.


Piedmont — one of the top regions, in quality, variety, and price. This region has an outstanding reputation for red wine production. Piedmont's wine-producing region sits, for the most part, at the foothills of the Italian Alps, and its name means 'at the foot of the mountains'. From this region you will see wines labelled Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Asti, Dolcetto and Gavi.


Barolo DOCG: Considered by some to be the best of all Italian wines, often called the 'king of Italian'. The wine is named after a village but wine can also be made in some of the surrounding areas. It is made exclusively from the Nebbiolo grape, and can be rich, powerful and complex. It is very tannic in youth, and the best take many years to develop. Four years of barrel ageing required for Riserva designation, five years for Riserva Speciale.


Barbaresco DOCG: Also made from Nebbiolo and named after the town of the same name, and its surrounding areas. A 'softer' version of Barolo; in many cases it can be extremely powerful and age-worthy. A little more approachable at a younger age.


Barbera: Barbera is the name of a grape, not a place. This is an earlier-ripening grape that produces approachable fruity wines with well-integrated high acidity. Most popular are Barbera d'Asti and Barbera d'Alba, named after the areas where it is produced.


Dolcetto: Also the name of the grape, it is made into an easy drinking wine similar to a Beaujolais-Villages from Burgundy.


Asti DOCG: This wine is made from the aromatic Muscat grape (Moscato). It is a sparkling wine that is allowed to retain some of its natural sugar by interruption of the fermentation in the tank. It is produced by using a modified version of the Charmat Method, where the must is put into a sealed tank to ferment, but the fermentation is stopped before it is completed in order to retain some of the grapes' natural sugars.


Selections from North-east Italy

Wines labelled Soave are usually white wines made from the Garganega or Trebbiano de Soave grapes. These wines are usually delicate and light, with a gentle acidity. Wines labeled Valpolicella include red wines named Amarone and Recioto made from the Corvina grape. Valpolicella is a simple, everyday wine, yet elegant and easy to pair with food. Its main characteristics are its fruitiness, especially the notes of cherry, and the well-balanced acidity. Amarone is a structured, powerful yet elegant and smooth wine, with a high alcohol content. Wines labelled Bardolino are known for light red/rosé wines made from the Corvina grape.


Selections from Central Italy

Tuscany, one of the most famous wine regions in Italy, is known for red wines labelled Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, all made from the Sangiovese grape, yet each with its own unique style and taste. Its flavour profile is complex, with earthy aromas often overtaking the aromas of fruit, spice, flowers, and oak.

The Umbria region is known for white wines labelled Orvieto or Torgiano made from the Trebbiano grape; there are also some red wines labelled Torgiano that are made from the Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes. The Abruzzo is mainly known for red wines named Montepulciano d'Abruzzo made from the Montepulciano grape. The Trebbiano grape is the main grape in white wines labelled Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.

Jamaica has a wide range of Italian wines available in the market. One just needs to do a little research to find them.


Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord




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