Italy’s 20 regions all produce outstanding terroir-driven wines, so you really can’t go wrong wherever you end up. Below are just a few places I’d like to highlight and personally recommend visiting. Check back often, as this list will be expanding.
Piedmont: Barolo’s Kingdom
Piedmont, in Italy’s northwest doesn’t get the tourism recognition it deserves. Partially because it’s not on the central train line, and partially because the foggy weather isn’t as ideal as sunny Tuscany or Southern Italy. This makes visiting Piedmont that much better. While some larger producers are set up for tourism, the majority are still small family owned vineyards that welcome you into their homes to taste and learn about their wines at their kitchen table or rustic, ancient cellar. Honestly, the wines are often so good that any fancy decor would just be a distraction and a waste. Piedmont is one of the few places where I was so over-whelmed by the wines that I ignored the surroundings and truly became enveloped in the taste and aromas of my glass.
Nebbiolo (from the word nebbia aka fog) is an extraordinary grape and Piedmont shows it off in a few different styles. Iconic Barolo, elegant Barbaresco and the young Rosso all portray varying degrees of the power and finesse for which Nebbiolo is renowned. In addition to Barbera and Dolcetto reds, Piedmont also produces great indigenous whites like the spunky Arneis, which I highly recommend trying as well. Lastly, the Metedo Classico sparkling wines from both whites and reds are equally fantastic and undervalued. If you can only visit one wine region in Italy, I’d recommend Piedmont. The food, the traces of Northern European influence and the beautiful landscape will captivate you. Last but certainly not least, the incredibly warm people you meet will impress you even more than the wines.
Treat yourself to an array of excellent sparkling wines, whites and reds at Adriano Marco E Vittorio in Alba. Tradition meets innovation at Adriano and they come together beautifully. I was blown away by the Arneis and Sauvignon Blanc as well as their Barbaresco. They’ve recently renovated their cellar to ensure that the family business continues to thrive when it’s time for the grandchildren to take the reigns.
Tuscany: Sangiovese – So Many Ways
To simplify things, I’ll begin with what is considered to be the best of Tuscany, the town and area that is Montalcino, located in southern Tuscany. While there are great wines to be found in nearly every other corner of this vast region, I personally appreciate the character of Sangiovese Grosso, the specific clone grown in Montalcino. Both the world renowned DOCG Brunello di Montalcino and the young Rosso di Montalcino use this clone to create incredibly enjoyable and age-worthy wines you will remember. A few great Brunello producers to consider are, Sesta di Sopra, Podere Le Ripi, and Col d’Orcia.
In Northeastern Tuscany just south of Florence, Chianti and it’s ever expanding zone can sometimes be hit or miss. That said, there are still some great Sangiovese wines to be had at affordable prices. The sub-zone of Chianti Classico, or the original historic center of the zone, used to be your best bet in terms of quality, but now there are many great producers making declassified wines without either designation. Here are a few recommended producers in or around Chianti. Pācina, a historic organic wine producer and agriturismo, Podere Le Boncie, a small and phenomenal natural producer, and Fèlsina, who make a range of lovely whites, reds and olive oil.