In certain parts of the world, wine is an integral element woven into the fabric of the culture and community. France, Northern California, Australia are a few examples. Another wine capital of the world is certainly the nation of Italy. Italians are the largest producers of wine, and Italian wine accounts for about 20% of all wine produced in the world. For centuries, Italians have paired their wines with pasta, meat, and fish dishes. This completes the meal, giving it more structure, taste, and balance.
Tuscany is one region rich in history and cuisine. In Tuscany there are traditional Tuscan wines and Super Tuscans. The traditional Tuscan wines use mainly sangiovese grape varieties, and they must be native grapes to the region. Super Tuscans blend international grapes sometimes with local grapes, and do not adhere to the DOCG standards, which are governmental certifications. Super Tuscans may include Syrah grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even Merlot. In central Tuscany, the region of Chianti is located. Any wine from this area is called Chianti, as long as it uses 80% Sangiovese grapes. There is also a minimum alcohol level to qualify as a certain Chianti. Chianti Classico is a minimum 12%, and when young, emanates strong scents of cinammon. As it ages, Chianti Classico will begin to evolve into a tobacco scent.
Another northern region in Italy is Veneto, which includes it’s regional capital, Venice. A few wines that especially make their mark in this region are Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, and Valpolicella. Valpolicella is prevelant across western Veneto. A couple of Valpolicella wines that contrast significantly are the rich wine Amarone della Valpolicella, which has a strong sour cherry finish, and the lighter Valpolicella DOC. The Amarone is sometimes nicknamed the “Big Bitter”. Other Valpolicella varietals include Recioto della Valpolicella, a dessert wine where the fruit is dried much longer, and a Ripasso (re-pass), which is a Valpolicella that has been fermented twice. Prosecco is an important ingredient in the brunch beverage, Mimosa. It is almost always a sparkling wine. Pinot grigio is a white wine that is extremely popular all over the world. These grapes are grown over a large swath of northern Italy. The Italian version of this wine is somewhat acidic.
The Piedmont region of Italy boasts some truly original and delicious varietals, including Barolo. The Barolo wines are extremely tannin-rich. Tannins will leave somewhat of a bitter and dry after taste. Barolo wine is produced in a tiny area that is only about five miles wide. Yet there are half a million cases of Barolo wine produced each year. Barbaresco and Moscato are other popular wines from this area.
Lombardy is a large region that is very populated, and produces a very wide variety of wines. It is mostly famous for it’s sparkling varietals, but you can certainly find quality roses, and still whites and reds. The Nebbiolo grape, which is predominantly found in the Piedmont region, also flourishes in Lombardy. In some of the northern areas, the vineyards are built on south-facing slopes, which consist of rocky soil. These rocks and this sunshine help to keep the grapes warm, and help to produce Nebbiolo.
Umbria is in central Italy, and is very famous for it’s delicious Sagrantino and Sangiovese red wine grapes. The Sagrantino is special in many ways, including one study that purports that Sagrantino is higher in antioxidants than any other wine in the world!
Tutto Fresco Italian Restaurant in Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland is an authentic Italian kitchen that now serves some of these delightful wine varietals from the old country. Tutto Fresco has become one of the premier places in Bel Air to enjoy red, white, or sparkling wine, and has become the perfect place to pair those gems with mouthwatering Italian dishes.