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Italian wine is, by some, considered the final frontier of wine knowledge. In France, there are only 307 official wine designations and when you take each style allowed into account, France can produce less than 3,000 types of wines. In comparison, in Italy there are 408 DOPs (aka both DOCGs & DOCs), about 350 ‘common’ indigenous varietals grown (with many more that are well-known and up to 2000 that are grown somewhere in Italy), countless traditional techniques, and, more recently, modern innovations and the creation of new styles. So, where do you start? There are 20 main Italian regions to learn and a handful of styles/grapes to know. Just like with any other region, the best way to learn is thru tasting!
- Tenuta del Sarto Soave Classico DOC “Chiaro D’Oriente”: Soave is the Veneto region’s best known still white wine. Veneto is also home to Valpolicello (including Amarone) and Prosecco, and is the most prolific Italian wine region, producing 108 million cases of wine in 2015 (enough to push Germany out of world’s top 10 list if Veneto was ranked separately). The Soave DOC has been around since 1968 and has two separate DOCGs which were created in 1998 and 2001. This wine comes from the historic production area, hence the Classico moniker, and is made just north-east of Verona. It is 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano di Soave with a pale-straw color, a delicate fruity bouquet, and subtle fruit flavors that would pair well with light pasta or fish dishes.
- Boeri Monferrato DOC Dolcetto: The Monferrato DOC is located in Piemonte (see map), which borders both Switzerland and France. It is better known for both Barolo and Barbaresco but has made other reds, like Barbera and Dolcetto popular, plus the white Gavi and sparkling Asti. It has the most DOCGs (17) and DOCs (42) than anywhere else in Italy but has no IGPs. This wine was produced in the Bricco Quaglia hills in Bionzo, a small hamlet of Costiglio d’Asti, and is a single vineyard wine made from 100% Dolcetto. Made from fairly young (8-10 year old) vines that were hand-harvested at the end of September and softly pressed, it was fermented in stainless steel and aged there for 8-9 months. It is a ruby red/purple color with pronounced red fruit aromas and undertones of cherry. This is a fairly intense Dolcetto but does have the distinct finish that distinguishes Dolcetto wines. This is versatile wine that would pair with your whole cheese platter, cured meats, hearty pastas, or with barbecued pork.
- Duca di Saragnano Rosso Toscano IGT “Governo”: This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese made in the traditional Tuscan Governo method. Reportedly invented in the 14th century to help complete fermentation and stabilize wine, it involves saving and drying a batch of harvested grapes. This second batch of dried grapes is then added to the primary batch of must to give the yeast a second source of sugar to complete their fermentation. The process was widely used in Chianti before modern vinification equipment became popular and today it is sometimes used outside of Tuscany, in Marche and Umbria. This wine shows both sides of the technique with notes of both ripe and dried fruits, spiciness, and a softness that makes it an ideal food wine. Pair this with roasted or barbecues meats for a great dinner!
- Duca di Saragnano “L’Opera”: This is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot made in a variation of the appassimento style, where the stems of grapes are cracked before harvest and the bunches are left to hang. This starts a drying process that is similar to what happens during the appassimento method. This is a technique that has roots with the Romans and was one of the 18 written about by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia. The result is a wine with a deep red concentrated color, a rich fruity bouquet that reveals both ripe fruits and some baking spice. Its round nature, soft tannins, and good structure make it ideal for rich meats, matured cheese, and heavy pasta dishes.