The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Italy is pizza. Then we think of mozzarella cheese, pasta, and many other wonderful dishes. But Italy is not just someplace where you can feast on great food, but also the home country of some pretty amazing red wines. Red wines that are cherished both there and abroad.
What follows is an introduction to what we believe are the top Italian red wines. So, hold on to your glasses. Here are some of the best Italian red wines:
Sangiovese is traditionally grown in Tuscany, as well as in some southern and central regions. It is the main variety used to make Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Wines based on the Sangiovese variety are high both in acidity and tannins, whereas their flavor can go from fruity to rustic. Typically, these wines feature notes of dry herbs, tobacco, spices, and cherries. In terms of food pairing, it goes well with matured cheese varieties, charcuterie, grilled meats, pasta, and pizza.
Every Chianti wine needs to contain at least 70% Sangiovese grapes. These wines are made everywhere across the Tuscany region and are praised for their flavors and aromas, which include herbal nuances, and cherry fruits. In terms of food pairing, Chianti wines pair well with roasted meat and various appetizers.
Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo variety that grows in the Piedmont region that has particular climate conditions and rare soil. This wine was first produced at some point in the 19th century, and since then, it is one of the favorite wines among European nobility.
All Barolo wines are aged for a minimum of four years. If the wine is aged five years or more, then it gets the Riserva label, which is very prestigious. What’s very interesting about the Barolo wines is that they are very robust, but at the same time, they are very elegant. Their high concentrations of tannins tend to soften up with time.
Barolo wine features high notes of tar, mocha, tobacco, truffles, dark fruit, and rose petals. Because of all that, it can be paired with all sorts of dishes such as truffle sauces, aromatic tomato, game meat, and beef. It all goes nicely with blue and aged cheese.
One of the most exciting aspects of Primitivo wine is its origins. After detailed research during the early nineties, it was discovered that it shares many traits with the Californian Zinfandel. However, soon after, the researchers found something even more fascinating – both varieties come from an old Croatian variety called Crljenak Kastelanski.
In Italy, this variety is heavily influenced by the terroir, which makes it quite different from the mentioned varieties with whom it shares the same lineage. Most of this variety in Italy is grown in the Apulia region. There, they use this variety to make intense, dark, and rustic wine, which has a high concentration of tannins. Thanks to that, it tends to mellow as time goes by.
Primitivo features fruity aromas of blackberries, plums, and cherries. Once it ages, it shows notes of spices, tobacco, and cocoa.
In terms of food pairing, it goes perfectly with aged cheese, vegetable dishes, and meat dishes.
This is one of the most planted varieties in Italy, which is quite common in the Piedmont region. In the past, it was mainly used for making cheap, everyday wine. However, nowadays, winemakers understand its potential and use it to produce top quality wines.
Most Barbera wines tend to feature high acidity and to be low in tannins. In terms of flavors, the typical combination is strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries. Very often, there is a subtle note of other spices. Many winemakers use oak-aging to influence the tannin structure within wines based on the Barbera variety.
Of course, some would disagree with our selection and include their favorites. That is why it is only fair to mention the following wines: Corvina, Nebbiolo, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Bardolino. Each of them carries something special that makes it exceptional and unique. After you are done testing out the top five wines, there is no reason why you shouldn’t move to these wines as well.
PS: If you prefer Italian sparkling wine, check out our post which walks through the best sparkling wines in Italy!