A treasure trove for wine lovers, with its vast array of wines as colourful as its cuisine, even with our evolving tastes in food, the flavours of Italy are as popular as ever, whether it’s in our glass or on the plate.
The ancient Greeks called Italy ‘Oenotria’ – the land of vines – with so many regions offering perfect conditions for cultivating grapes. And exploring its wealth of styles will take oenophiles from the snow-capped mountains in the north, to the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean.
While it sounds cliché, it’s important to remember that Italians live to eat – and wine is an essential part of the mix. As the Milanese, Florentines, Neapolitans and Sicilians appreciate, everything tastes better with a good glass of vino.
Indeed, the biggest wine producer in the world, Italy never need a reason to say ‘saluti!’ But if you do, here are six fantastic Italian wines to try now, for a taste of la dolce vita…
1. Co-op Irresistible Gavi Broglia 2017, Italy (£8.50, Co-op stores)
Synonymous with the Italian Riviera and wine bars on seaside promenades, Cortese de Gavi, or just Gavi, is Piedmont’s fashionable, seafood-loving dry white – think spaghetti with shellfish or grilled white fish. This is fresh but soft, with delicate florals, white peach, golden apples, lemony notes and hint of honey on the refreshing finish.
2. Castel del Lago Bianco 2017, Garda DOC, Italy (£9.99, Laithwaite’s)
From the beautiful shores of Lake Garda in Veneto, northeast of the bustling canals of Venice, here we have Soave’s gargenega grape blended with a splash of chardonnay to create an extra dimension to this champion white – Italian wine critic Luca Maroni awarded it 95 points.
Beautifully fresh and ripe, blossomy aromas with a streak of nectarine lead the way in this creamy style, with hints of tangerine, apricot and white peach, brightened by lemony acidity. We love the winemaker’s suggested pairing of prosciutto and melon.
3. Adnams Nero d’Avola 2017, Sicily, Italy (£7.49, Adnams)
Essentially a crowd-pleasing, food-friendly red to style up your thick crusted Sicilian pizza, this juicy, fruity, moreish drop offers an enticing fruit basket of sun-drenched black cherry, wild berries and plummy fruits with a hint of spice on the plush palate, ending with juicy acidity on the finish. It cries out for tomato, anchovies and herb toppings, or pasta alla Norma.
4. Waitrose Ripasso di Valpolicella 2016, Italy (£12.99, Waitrose)
Veneto’s famous red comes in four styles, and this medium tier, double fermented ripasso has all the bright cherry perfumed fruit you’d expect in a basic Valpolicella – except it’s far more fragrant, flavoursome, powerful and tangy, with rich jammy fruit, plums and hints of leather and red liquorice. Pair this gusto red with the flavours of Veneto (bigoli with duck ragu is a favourite), or roast beef.
5. Pillastro Selezione d’Oro 2016, Puglia IGT, Italy (£12.99, Laithwaite’s)
Instantly inviting, the winemaker has nailed the Italian approach to style and art of putting it altogether flawlessly, by taking native grape varieties such as this primitivo and showing the wine to its greatest potential. An inky black beauty, boasting silky blueberry and brambly spiced fruit, it’s oak-tinged with hints of cloves and exotic sweet spice on the smooth, glossy finish. Enjoy with grilled red meats or lamb stew.
6. Tua Rita Rosso dei Notri 2017, Tuscany, Italy (£18.08, Armit Wines)
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most colourful regions, and the hills between Florence and Sienna are home to its most celebrated red, the noble sangiovese grape. But beyond the casual, cherry red chianti’s are the Super Tuscans – based on a Bordeaux blend, and gateway to seriously classy wines.
“Italian wines are more popular than ever and are now outselling France,” says Kirsten Kilby, MD, Armit Wines. “Wine lovers have confidence and knowledge of the Super Tuscans and whilst we’re seeing interest in wider, indigenous grape varieties, you can’t go wrong with the quality and value of estate wines from the top tier, such as this Rosso dei Notri from Tua Rita.”
A blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, it’s a deep ruby red, full-bodied with an attractive bouquet of ripe black cherries and plums with touches of sweet spice. Juicy and smooth, with silky tannins, a lift of freshness and a long, polished finish, serve with spaghetti bolognese and you could be forgiven for thinking it must have been blessed by the pope.