Have you received some Italian red wine from your wine club and are interested in learning about Italian reds?
Suitable for just about any occasion, they range from cheap and cheerful to cellar-worthy and expensive. Let’s find the Italian red wine that is right for you.
What makes Italian wine special?
Italy produces a wide variety of wines and has done so for over four thousand years.
Because the country has such a great climate for growing grapes (and due to the country’s long history of winemaking), wines from Italy are popular all over the world.
What are the most popular Italian red wines?
- Chianti: This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano grapes that have been dried in the sun before being turned into wine.
- Nebbiolo: These wines are deep red in colour and have a strong taste. They tend to be more expensive than other wines as they are difficult to grow. The best Nebbiolos come from Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Carema.
- Sangiovese: This grape is used to make many different types of Italian red wine but is most commonly used for making Chianti.
- Nero d’Avola: This grape originates from Sicily and is often compared to Syrah/Shiraz because of its rich flavou
- Barbera: This type of red wine has a high level of acidity which helps bring out the fruits flavours such as cherries or plums in this wine. It also has low tannins so it’s not very astringent or bitter-tasting when you drink it. The best Barberas come from Piedmont.
- Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: Native throughout central Italy, Montepulciano vines can be found growing near almost any major city along its path towards Tuscany and Umbria.
Is Italian red wine dry or sweet?
A good rule of thumb is that Italian wines are generally dry. But it’s important to understand the difference between sweet and dry wine.
Dryness in wine has nothing to do with how wet the wine feels in your mouth. It doesn’t mean you’ve got a soggy wine on your hands.
The term is actually more about the perception of sweetness in the wine, or rather, its lack of sweetness.
To be technical about it, dryness is all about sugar levels: it refers to wines that have had most of their sugar converted into alcohol during fermentation.
Sweetness, however, refers to wines that still have some residual sugar (meaning, sugars left after fermentation) left in them.
This could be as little as 5 grams per litre or as much as 45 grams per litre—the latter would taste very sweet indeed!
In addition to dry/sweet, there are other ways to describe a wine’s flavour profile such as fruit-forward or earthy/woodsy; tannin-heavy or light; acidic or mild; and full-bodied or lighter-bodied.
Italian vs French red wine: What’s the difference
In terms of taste, You’ll find Italian red wines are often more acidic and complex than their French counterparts, and also tend to be less tannic, smoother, and more aromatic. This means you can typically drink Italian reds immediately upon opening, while most French wine requires several hours of airtime before hitting its stride
Both French and Italian wines are made from grape varietals that are native to their respective countries. The “big five” grapes used in most of Italy’s reds include Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Barbera—while the “big three” varietals used in France are Grenache, Syrah and Merlot.
In Italy, the hot summer sun is balanced out by cooler temperatures at night. This climate produces bolder wines with more intense flavours than those produced on the other side of the Alps.
Italian wines tend to feature higher acidity as well as strong tannins. You’ll also find less oak influence in Italian reds than you would with a comparable French counterpart. Italian red have a tendency towards being smoother and fruitier (with lower tannins)
That said, many producers in both countries are now using more modern techniques to make their wine—including aging them in more neutral oak barrels instead of traditional ones.
What red wine do they drink in Italy?
You probably know about the famous Italian wine varietals, like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. But how much do you know about Sangiovese?
We’ll give you a hint: it’s the most widely-grown grape in Italy. In fact, it’s one of the country’s only native grapes that is still widely used today.
When you eat Italian food, especially if you’re having tomato-based dishes, Sangiovese is one of your best options.
This Italian red has a lot on offer, from notes of juicy cherry to leather and other savoury flavours.
Most Sangioveses are not aged in oak, so this wine will be light in body with a fresh acidity and delicate tannin.
Is Pinot Noir French or Italian?
You may be thinking, “Pinot Noir is French, not Italian.” And you are correct.
Pinot Noir is a red grape variety that originated in the Burgundy region of France (where it’s called Pinot Noir) and has been grown in many parts of the world ever since.
It was one of the first wine grapes to have its DNA analyzed, studied extensively as an example of how grape varieties evolved and spread around the globe.
Scientists estimate that it’s descended from two older grape varieties that ripen at different times: Prie Blanc and Gouais Blanc.
Growers selected Pinot Noir because they could harvest it early; they could get their hands on this fruit before more disease-prone species had a chance to rot on the vine.
Since then, Pinot Noir has become one of those classic vines beloved by producers everywhere—including Italy—and is used in many different wines all over the planet.
What is considered to be the best Italian red wine?
It’s difficult to say what is considered by many to be the best Italian red wine.
For example, Super Tuscans, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino are all held in equally high regard but there is still a large variation in quality and price.
Sagrantino di Montefalco is an up and coming wine that is also worth considering, while Amarone remains a very popular choice.
Is Chianti An Italian wine?
The answer is yes. The Chianti region is situated right in the heart of Tuscany, roughly an hour south of Florence.
Chianti wines are made from a blend of grapes, most notably Sangiovese. While they can be crafted as both white and sparkling wines, they are most well known for their red wine offerings.
To qualify as a DOCG, the grapes must have been grown in this one specific geographic region
Additionally, to qualify as a DOCG (the highest designation for Italian wine quality), at least 80% of the wine must come from the area in which it was produced and taken from any number of grape varieties that are allowed within that region’s boundaries.
In addition to being DOCG-certified, Chianti wines almost always carry with them an additional label that provides more information about what you’re drinking (where it came from; how much alcohol it contains; etc.). This is called a “tag line” or “tag mark”.
Is Merlot an Italian wine?
Yes and no. Merlot is a French wine, produced in the Bordeaux region of France. But Merlot grapes are also used to produce Italian wines.
Merlot grapes are dark-skinned, meaning they have more tannins than white wine grapes such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.
They are very popular with winemakers because they pair well with a wide range of dishes, from lamb chops to pizza to chocolates.
You’ll find many different types of merlots on the market today: dry ones called “table wines,” semi-sweet ones called “rosés,” and sweet ones called “dessert wines.”