The Many Wines from Italy’s Boot

Italy is big into wine. And the numbers testify to that: somewhere around 900 Italian grape varieties are grown in 1,949,000 acres of vineyards in the 20 wine regions. In 2018, 1,447,663 gallons of wine were produced or approximately 7,306,666 bottles.

They also have the biggest classification system with each regions’ own rules about which grapes can used, how much alcohol, how long it must be aged, what place name can be on the label and much more.

The first Italian system of classification was launched in 1963. Since then, modifications were made and grapes were added. The last modification in 2010 conforms with European Union wine regulations.

Many Italian wines are blends of three or more grape varieties and this is strictly regulated for IGP, DOC or DOCG wine. Traditionally, Chianti, a DOC or DOCG wine, from the Tuscany region was a blend of Sangiovese with a small percentage of Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo and Colorino and white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia.

That has been updated. Chianti no longer has to add white grapes and now are able to grow and add – in small percentages – non-traditional grapes such as Cabernet and Merlot.

One limitation still held onto is grape names on the label. When a grape name is listed on the label, it is followed by a “di” or “della” and then the place name. For instance, Barbera d’Asti, Brunello di Montalcino, Fiano di Avellino, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Morellino di Scansano.

To further complicate matters, blends of grapes are also listed with a place name. That’s because everyone in Italy knows what grapes are allowed to grow in a particular region. Amarone (a style) della Valpolicella (an appellation) is probably the most famous blend made with the dried grapes of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella.

There is also Ripasso (style) della Valpolicella which is a fermentation process that passes the wine over the pomace of Recioto (style) della Valpolicella. The Recioto is a sweet, unctuous dessert wine made from very ripe and then dried grapes.

I’m telling you this because I needed to refresh my memory about Italian wines and share some recently great, affordable Italian wines I’ve enjoyed. The one that began this quest was new to me – Otto Bucce, a DOC Rosso from Piedmonte.

In the Piedmonte, in northwestern Italy, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto are the notable red grapes. Less well known and very unique grape varieties are Brachetto, Bonarda Piemontese, Freisa and Albarossa.

The label of this rosso intrigued me with its bunch of red grapes and eight grape names – Dolcetto, Barbera, Bonarda Piedmonte, Merlot, Cabernet, Fresia, Albarossa and Syrah.

This name Otto (eight) Bucce (skins) underscores the unique blend of eight indigenous Piemontese and international grapes which all contribute to this brilliant ruby red with structure, character and a huge amount of fragrance. The wine spends 12 months in the traditional large barrels and ends in neutral French barrique for a smooth, balanced quaff to pair with your next plate of spaghetti.

One of my all-time favorite Italian grapes is Barbera. Barbera d’Asti is a DOCG that lies in the heart of Italy’s Piedmont region. The Lavignone Barbera d’Asti is a classic example. The wine is macerated for a week and then vinified entirely in stainless steel. This would account for the heavenly aromatics and bright flavors of cherries, violets and herbs. Soft tannins and a nice dose of acidity make this wine a favorite with any meal except breakfast.

The Apulia region is in southern Italy, the heel of the boot, and known for producing big reds from Primitivo, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia and Malvasia Nera grapes. Salice Salentino is a DOC of Puglia created in 1976. The area centers on the town of Salice on the Salento Peninsula.

The Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino Riserva DOC has a strong, dark, ruby ​​red color. The bouquet is of delicious, fruity berries with a fine nuance of tobacco and chocolate. On the palate it is smooth. A perfect and harmonious drinking pleasure with a crisp bite and a hint of bitterness for a long-lasting finish.

May your wine adventures lead to many bottles of Italian wine in your cellar.

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