Narrow Liguria is shaped like an upside down boomerang, with the great maritime city of Genoa in the east-west center. Heavily ensconced with the Mediterranean to its south, Liguria bridges the coastline between France and Tuscany, poignantly preventing Piemonte from having a seacoast. This is the Italian Riviera, a craggy area known for its steep seaside cliffs, where vines have to compete with resort developers for their dollop of sunshine. Soils here are rocky and infertile, which is good for wine if you combine it with a lot of work. Ligurians have done this for two millennia. They are not averse to taking risks (one of them discovered America). Liguria’s mostly small wine growers produce a hundred varieties, but these add up to relatively small production.
Fortunately, the soils in Liguria are limestone-rich, which augurs well for white grapes, lending minerality to the wines. Fragrant white Vermentino is a popular wine here. The local Rossese supports spicy, fruity reds as does Ormeasco, the local version of Dolcetto.
Liguria’s most renowned wine area is the Cinque Terre DOC (Five Lands), at the eastern end near Tuscany. Cinque Terre (named after a cluster of five villages) is known for its dry aromatic white wine, a blend of Vermentino, Bosco, and Albarola. Colline di Levanto DOC makes a similar white and a red with Sangiovese and local Ciliegolo. Golfo del Tigullio DOC produces a number of wines, including Passito (from dried grapes) using strictly Ligurian grape varieties like Bianchetta Genovese. The hills of the moon—Colli di Luni DOC—is partly in Tuscany. Here are found the great quarries of Carerra marble. The red blend must be 50% Sangiovese, but then a flood of local reds can contribute: Canaiolo, Pollera Nera, Ciliegiolo, Barsaglina. White wines form from Vermentino and Trebbiano.
Val Polcevera DOC, smack dab in the middle of Liguria, produces a range of wines in three colors, still and sparkling, including Passito dried-grape wines. White wines look to the local varieties of Vermentino, Bianchetta Genovese and Albarola, reds Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo,
Ormeasco di Pornassio DOC sits at high altitude in Liguria’s northwest. Ormeasco is the Ligurian name for Dolcetto. The altitude results in a brighter Dolcetto than in Piemonte, more perfumed, with ripe tannins.
Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC is a brightly colored, full-flavored soft red made from the local Rossese grape. The wine is tangy with notes of herbs and black currant.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Lombardy is the largest and most populated region in Italy, its industrial heartland and location of its second city, Milan. Even so, the region has a great deal of rural land, covering diverse climates. In the north, the alpine foothills have a continental climate. The sun bakes the slopes and then the vineyards cool rapidly with the alpine evening. In the plains of the south, temperature and humidity are much higher. The stretch of large lakes in the north—Lake Como, Lake Iseo, Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda—gives some water-based cooling effect even though the region is landlocked. Most of the wine from its 22 DOCs and five DOCGs is consumed locally, but several have international repute.
One of Italy’s most highly regarded sparkling wines is northern Lombardy’s Franciacorta DOCG, made in the traditional method (that is, Champagne style, including lees aging), using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, in both vintage and non-vintages styles. Unlike the centuries-old Champagne industry, Franciacorta is only about fifty years old, however.
Another northern denomination of note is Valtellina, the product of a high alpine valley, and unquestionably Lombardy’s most highly regarded still wine. The signature grape here is Chiavennasca, the Lombardian term for Nebbiolo, but these mountain wines are lighter in body that the formidable Barolo and Barbareseco from Piemonte, with aromas of rose water and dried cherries. The regular Rosso di Valtellina is DOC, but the Superiore version has its own DOCG. Valtellina also has DOCG status for its dried grape Sforzato di Valtellina, fermented to dryness just like Amarone, and also Chiavennasca-based.
In the lower-lying south of Lombardy, Oltrepo Pavese DOC (it means “Pavia across the Po”) produces more than half of all Lombardy wine and is considered a Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero) specialist. The region is more than Pinot Nero, however, producing twenty wines. Reds, primarily from Barbera and Bonarda, appear in still, rosé, and as Sangue di Guida (“ Judas’s Blood”) a semi-sweet Frizzante. Whites from Malvasia and Moscato come in sweet and sparkling versions with Moscato also supporting Liquoroso (fortified) and Passito (dried grape) wines. This productive region also makes a range of still and Spumante wines from international varieties. The traditional method Oltrepo Pavese Metodo Classico qualifies as a DOCG.
San Colombano al Lambro DOC is a small producer, also in Lombardy’s south. The denomination takes climatic advantage of some of the few hills available in the otherwise flat Po valley. Reds are a blend of Croatina and Barbera, with some Uva Rara (called Bonarda sometimes, but not the same Bonarda grown in Argentina). Whites, which include some sparkling wine, use the dynamic duo of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (without skin contact).
Lambrusco Mantovano DOC is Lombardy’s region for the production of the red sparkling wine Lambrusco, most of which is produced in Emilia-Romagna, on the other side of the River Po. No international grapes here—eight to ten indigenous grapes make the mix. Lombardy Lambrusco is usually made in a dry version, but some off-dry is produced. It has a ruby red color, aromas of flowers (violets), and a generally low alcohol level. It is of note that the sweet version of Lambrusco, largely from Emilia-Romagna, was the most popular Italian wine in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, especially under the popular Riunite brand. (More on Lambrusco in the section on Emilia-Romagna.)
We cover the wine area of Lugana, which is split between Lombardy and the Veneto, in the next section on the Veneto.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Trentino-Alto Adige is the northernmost wine region in Italy. Northern reaches of the region have a significant German speaking population, the result of territorial accessions from Austria. The Trentino portion to the south is largely Italian, Alto-Adige in the north German. The Adige river system flows south through the region and accounts for most vineyard lands. The configuration of the mountain valleys encourages better sun exposure than one would expect for an alpine region.
Alto-Adige in the north, called SüdTirol by German speakers, has an extremely complex system of wine names, made all the more complex since each denomination has both a German and an Italian title. The Alto Adige DOC is an umbrella for them all, allowing a broad range of white grapes for the Valadige Bianco: Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling Italico (Welschriesling), Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Nosiola, Sauvignon and Garganega. Red and rosés avail themselves of the local Enantio, Schiava, Lagrein and Teroldego varieties and international varieties Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In Trentino, the Trentino DOC covers the region with a range of largely varietal wines made from local Schiava, Teroldego and Lagrein, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. One wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Carménère. Cabernet and Merlot blends pay homage to Bordeaux. The white Trentino Bianco is majority Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, with additions of Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau and Manzoni Bianco.
Casteller DOC makes soft reds based on Merlot, Schiava, Lambrusco and Lagrein. Teroldego Rotaliano DOC in Adige specializes in red wine from 100% Teroldego.
Valdadige Terradeiforti DOC in Trentino produces three varietal wines: The deep red Enantio, the rustic red Casette and the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. The reds, if aged, may be labeled Riserva, and the Pinot Grigio has a Superiore category.
Lago di Caldaro DOC (Kalterersee DOC in German), straddles Trentino and Alto-Adige surrounding Lake Caldaro. The region produces a prominent red from variants of the Schiava grape, which may see some minority participation by Pinot Noir and Lagrein. A sweet late-harvest version is produced.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Emila-Romagna has no problem proclaiming itself Italy’s gastronomic hub (what with the wonders of Parma, Bologna, and Modena). The region takes up almost the full width of the Italian peninsula—just a thin bit of Liguria prevents it from having both an east and a west coast. The rolling hills of Emilia make up the western part, the flatter plains of Romagna the eastern. The region produces a great deal of wine to go with that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, that Prosciutto di Parma, that Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (balsamic vinegar), the endless varieties of cured meats (salumi), the tagliatelli Bolognese (and numberless other pastas), the local truffles, the chestnuts of Castel del Rio, the gelato, the pressed flatbread sandwiches called piadine—we could go on, but back to the wine.
About 15% of the wine in Emilia-Romagna comes under the DOC and DOCG designations. By contrast, in the Veneto, the proportion is 25%, and in Piemonte, it is 40%. Whites and reds are about equal here. We will look at the denominations of the region as they seem to slide in a great diagonal from, northwest to southeast.
Colli Piacentini DOC produces both red and white wines, as blends or single varietals from Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, Barbera and Bonarda for reds, and Chardonnay, Malvasia di Candia, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pignoletto for whites. Colli Piacentini has four sub-zones: MonteRosso Val d’Arda, Trebbianino Val Trebbia, Val Nure and Vigoleno. All these zones produce both still and sparkling wine (Frizzante and Spumante), except for Vigoleno, which is known for is sweet Vin Santo style wines.
Colli di Parma DOC generates a range of still and sparkling wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Barbera, Bonarda, Lambrusco Maestri and Sangiovese (for the reds) and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia di Candia, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pignoletto (for the whites). Any of these grapes may be used for single varietal wines. Typical red blends are based on 25-40% Bonarda and Croatina. As for sparkling wines, Spumante and Frizzante styles are made from Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Bianco, or any of the red blends.
Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC produces every style of wine, including four types of sparkling Lambrusco. The denomination makes varietal wines from the major international varieties and from locals Malvasia (di Candia), Spergola and Malbo Gentile.
Reggiano DOC makes sparkling red Lambrusco, dry reds from the local Ancellotta grape, and sparkling white wine. Reggiano is the largest of the five regions that produce Lambrusco. It has a reputation for sweet amabile and dolce versions of Lambrusco. These contain up to 15% partially fermented Ancellotta grapes for natural sweetness, with the remainder Maestri, Marani, Monstericco and Salamino Lambrusco grapes. The sweeter styles are lightly sparkling Frizzante, while the dry wines are darker and fuller bodied. A Bianco Spumante is also made from must fermented without stalks and skins. The rosato (rosé) style is made using some skin contact to let pigment ooze out into the juice.
Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC makes wine from least 90% of the Lambrusco Salamino grape clone. The remainder can be Ancellotta and/or Brugnola. This is the most structured Lambrusco wine, made in dry and semi-sweet versions.
Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC is lightest in color among all Lambruscos and most delicate in aroma and flavor, with bright acidity and a strong mineral edge.
Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC is produced from the Grasparossa Lambrusco grape that grows around Castelvetro di Modena. Darker than most Lambrusco, this wine has aromas of violets, black cherries, strawberries, and plums. It is fuller-bodied, more tannic, and higher in alcohol than most Lambruscos.
Reno DOC makes still and sparkling varietal wines from the local Montuni grape and from the better known Pignoletto. Its white blend is 40% Albana with Trebbiano, combined with an array of other local and international grapes.
Colli Bolognesi means literally “the hills of Bologna.” This DOC makes varietal wines, defined as having at least 85% of the stated variety, using Merlot, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds and Pignoletto, Pinot Bianco, Riesling Italico (Welschriesling), Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay for whites. Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG applies to Pignoletto made in the delimited Classico zone.
Colli d’Imola DOC makes varietal wines from Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Pignoletto, with an 85% minimum rule.
Albana di Romagna DOCG is a white wine from the Albana grape. Sweetness levels are secco, amabile, and dolce. A sparkling version, Romagna Albana Spumante, can also be made but, only under the DOC classification. A dried grape Passito wine has quince and apricot notes, and many loyal devotees.
Colli di Faenza DOC produces reds from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ancellotta, Ciliegiolo and Sangiovese, and whites from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Trebbiano, Pignoletto and Sauvignon Blanc, both single varietals and blends.
Romagna DOC covers the eastern half of Emilia-Romagna for wines made from Albana, Cagnina, Pagadebit, Trebbiano and Sangiovese. The best quality, and for that matter quantity, is the Sangiovese, which comes in both Superiore and Riserva. The typical Romagna Sangiovese tastes of sour cherry, baked plum, herbs, and tobacco.
Colli di Rimini DOC has five major wine styles: a standard Rosso and Bianco, and three varietals. The Rosso wines are made from a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, similar to the ‘Super Tuscans’, while the Bianco counterpart is based on Trebbiano with Bianchello and/or Mostosa. The sparkling wines typical of Emilia-Romagna are not made in this easternmost denomination.
Bosco Eliceo DOC covers the coastal plains east of the city of Ferrara. Red varietals are made from Fortana (Brugnola) and Merlot. White blends are Bosco Eliceo Sauvignon (85% minimum Sauvignon Blanc) and Bosco Eliceo Bianco (70% or more Trebbiano Romagnolo).
The Wine Regions of Italy
Marche is pronounced Mar-Kay, with the stress on the first syllable. It is usually referred to as “the” Marche or Le Marche in Italian. It faces the Adriatic Sea to its east and is otherwise wedged between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo to the north and south respectively with Umbria to the west over the Apennine mountains. The vast majority of Marche wines sell as Vino di Tavola or as regional Indicazione Geografica Tipica IGT Marche, but the region does boast 15 DOCs and four DOCGs. Marche is best known for its whites from various sub-varieties of Trebbiano and from Verdicchio, which it claims as its own. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG and Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG are two of its finest expressions, lively and herbaceous. Both are included in the much larger zone of Esino DOC, which produces a range of reds and whites from Sangiovese and Montepulciano for the reds and Verdicchio for the whites.
The local white grape Bianchello makes up at least 95% of the wine from the Bianchello di Metauro DOC in the Matauro river valley. Pecorino, Pinot Bianco and Malvasia Toscana are also widely planted.
Sangiovese and Montepulciano are Italy’s top two producing red grapes, and Le Marche produces them both in abundance, the most prominent denomination being Rosso Conero DOC and Rosso Conero Riserva DOCG, where they blend with Ciliegiolo, Pinot Nero, Lacrima di Morro and Vernaccia Nera, the “black” Vernaccia to produce full-bodied tannic wines. This black Vernaccia is used for the red sparkling wine Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG, which, unusually, undergoes three fermentations: the first of regularly harvested grapes, the second of dried grapes, the third in tanks using the Charmat (Martinotti) method. The result is mouth-watering intense red fruit. Terreni di Sanseverino DOC also makes wine from Vernaccia Nera (at least 50%) blended most commonly with Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC produces dry and sweet Passito wine using the red Lacrima di Morro, meaning “teardrops from the town of Morro d’Alba.” These wines undergo a second fermentation in which the must (or juice) of partially dried grapes is added to the mix. Most are 100% Lacrima grapes, but they are allowed up to 15% Montepulciano or Verdicchio (yes…a white grape).
The Colli Maceratesi DOC is a vast region producing white wines from the local Maceratino grape and reds primarily from Sangiovese.
The Offida DOC around the town of Offida produces reds (from mostly Montepulciano, with Cabernet Sauvignon), and Vin Santo (from the Passerina grape). Two varietal white wines qualify for the higher level Offida DOCG: Pecorino and Passerina, both Marche natives. The Pecorino is gaining a reputation for dry, mineral-rich wines, with floral aromas of jasmine and acacia, a certain spiciness, and firm acidity that is friendly with food.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Lazio is Rome’s region, once the center of empire, and heir to a wine tradition that goes back millennia. Over 200 grape varieties call Lazio home. Lazio’s volcanic hills feature tufo and lava soil that is rich in potassium, an excellent environment for white wine production. Major white grapes include Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia. The light, acidic wines are designed to drink young, the acidity cutting through the rich meats and sauces characteristic of the substantial local cuisine. Reds are made from the ubiquitous top two of central Italy—Sangiovese and Montepulciano—as well as Cesanese, Merlot, Nero Buono di Coro, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo.
Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone DOC north of Rome has perhaps the most unusual wine name in the country. The story behind it is this: in the 12th century, a German bishop on his way to Rome to meet the Pope would send his prelate up ahead to scout out the best inns for wine. The prelate would chalk the Latin word “Est,” meaning “it is,” on the doors of the most promising inns in this regard. At Montefiascone the prelate liked the wine so much that he wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! on the door, giving the wine its present name. Or so the story goes (they did not have CCTV in those days so it is hard to substantiate). Most critics give this high acid, apple-tasting white wine low points beyond its touristic value (which accounts for nearly all its consumption). It is mostly Trebbiano Toscano with Malvasia Bianca and the local Trebbiano Giallo.
In the north, Lazio shares the Orvieto DOC with Umbria for white Trebbiano Toscano and Grechetto. Aleatico di Gradoli DOC is a red wine denomination producing wines from the Aleatico grape, as well as white grapes destined for Est! Est!! Est!!! Colli Etruschi Viterbesi DOC (known locally as Tuscia) produces Rosso blends from Sangiovese and Montepulciano, Bianco blends from Trebbiano and Malvasia, and varietal wines from Merlot, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Moscato Bianco. Growers here also contribute to Est! Est!! Est!!!
The Cesanese del Piglio DOCG is Lazio’s only DOCG wine. The red Cesanese grape, native to Lazio, ripens quite late, but if the grower sees the long season through, the reward is an earthy red wine with bright red cherry fruit, floral notes and some red pepper. Cesanese del Piglio must be made from at least 90% Cesanese grapes. Most of these wines are dry, but semi-sweet and fully sweet versions are also produced. The Cesanese di Affile DOC nearby produces Cesanese wines on less prestigious terrain.
Castelli Romani DOC stretches over the fourteen villages in the hilly region southeast of Rome. The area has a cooler climate than the plains below it. Vines here grow in high-yielding and fertile volcanic soils. Whites, mostly still and dry, are made from the classic blend of central Italy: Trebbiano and Malvasia, reds from the equally classic Sangiovese and Montepulciano combination.
Frascati DOC is one of the fourteen Castelli Romani villages. The wine dates back to ancient Rome, it was extremely popular during the Renaissance, and became the “with it” wine for the La Dolce Vita people in the 1960s. Quality gave way to quantity after that, but the wine is once again on an upswing with the application of modern techniques. The basis for Frascati is the familiar Trebbiano and Malvasia, with dollops of indigenous Greco Bianco and Bombino Bianco. Additional grapes, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, are permitted up to 30%. The Frascati Superiore and the Cannellino di Frascati, a sweet dessert wine, both qualify for DOCG labeling.
Marino DOC, although next to Frascati, has a climate better influenced by the sea. Its white wine is produced in a manner similar to Frascati, but it has a more concentrated quality.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Abruzzo covers a chunk of central Italy between across the Apennines from Lazio to the west with the Adriatic Sea to the east. Sixty percent of this region consists of national parks, in which the intrepid explorer can find Gran Sasso, at 9500 feet, one of Italy’s highest mountains. From the sea into the mountains, climate and terrain vary a great deal. Cool air from both the mountains and the sea accounts for excellent diurnal temperature swings, beneficial for the region’s two dozen species of olives as well as for Abruzzo’s grapevines. The gently tannic red Montepulciano grape is king here, accounting for two thirds of production, followed by the two whites Trebbiano and Pecorino, which together account for a further quarter. Cooperatives make 80% of Abruzzo’s wine.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG is the region’s sole DOCG. The Teramo hills are located between Gran Sasso National Park and the Adriatic. This is a complex red wine that combines earthy-ness with a smooth delivery, reminiscent of a good red Burgundy. Montepulciano must be at least 90% with a possible 10% Sangiovese. The wine must be aged two years, three for Riserva. This area offers a rather special treat. A local winery maintains a wine fountain for pilgrims taking the Cammino di San Tommaso, a trek from Rome to Ortona on the Adriatic where the bones of St. Thomas are said to be housed.
The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC covers the entire coast of Abruzzo to a depth of twenty miles inland, a vast area that supports much production. A good deal of this deeply colored gently tannic low acidity easy drinking wine is exported. The wine must be 85% Montepulciano. The most common blending partner is Sangiovese. In the dead center of this DOC, the Villamagna DOC specializes in Montepulciano.
Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC, as the name implies, specializes in white wine made from the Trebbiano grape. The zone covers exactly the same area as the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. A combination of Trebbiano Toscano or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo must make up 85% of this wine. The remainder may be the locals Cococciola, Passerina and the more international white Malvasia.
Controguerra DOC is an area in northern Abruzzo that sees innovation in the face of so much tradition. The DOC produces (85%) varietal wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ciliegiolo, Malvasia, Merlot, Trebbiano Toscano, Moscato Amabile, Passerina, and Pinot Nero. The tannic Rosso blend leads with Montepulciano and usually rounds it out with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The dry fruity Bianco blend is largely Trebbiano Toscano and Passerina, with little international element. The sparkling whites vary in composition depending on their intensity of bubbles. The Bianco Frizzante is similar to the Bianco blend, while the more forceful Spumante mixes Trebbiano Toscano (60–85%) with Chardonnay, Verdicchio and/or Pecorino. Controguerra red Passito from dried grapes is often 100% Montepulciano. The white Passito relies on Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia, and Passerina. If either red or white Passito is barrel aged at least 30 months it earns the title of “Annoso,”
The Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC creates a cherry-colored wine (cerasuolo means cherry), lighter in color than standard Montepulciano, by limiting grape skin contact during fermentation. The resulting wines are also fruitier and less tannic. While other grapes are allowed, most Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is 100% Montepulciano. Theoretically, this wine can be made anywhere in Abruzzo, but most is produced in the low-lying south east of the region.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Small, mountainous Molise does not get much attention as a wine region (even though it has a wine history as old as any other on the peninsula). Located on the Adriatic coast between major producers Abruzzo and Puglia, it was politically part of Abruzzo until 1963. Molise has three DOCs, all of which overlap to some extent.
The Biferno DOC makes white blends with Trebbiano Toscano (65–70%) accompanied by Bombino (25–30%) and Malvasia (5–10%). The reds and rosés are largely the familiar Montepulciano.
The Pentro di Isernia DOC produces whites from similar constituents as Biferno but uses up to 55% Sangiovese for reds and rosés, as well as the local Tintilia.
The Tintilia del Molise DOC was approved only in 2011 (30 years after the other two), producing a varietal red from the local Tintilia grape.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Basilicata sells 98% of its wines as either the country-wide vino or the regional Indicazione Geografica Tipica IGT. It nevertheless has four DOCs, and one astonishing tannic red wine, Aglianico del Vulture DOC, grown on the slopes of around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano. The soil here is richly volcanic. The climate is hot here in the far south, perfect for the late ripening Aglianico grape. The high altitude of the vineyards, over 1000 feet, assures those cooler, acid-retaining nights winemakers dream about. The 100% Aglianico wine when young has dark fruit, but as it ages, it takes on essences of earth, tar, dark chocolate, leather. An Aglianico Spumante is also produced.
Grottino di Roccanova DOC gives us Bianco primarily from Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata, Rosso and rosato from 60–85% Sangiovese; 5–30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5–30% Malvasia Nera di Basilicata; and 5–30% Montepulciano.
Matera DOC makes a Rosso from Sangiovese, Aglianico and Primitivo, white varietals from Malvasia Bianca and Greco, a rosato from Primitivo, a blend called Moro from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; minimum 20% Primitivo; minimum 10% Merlot, a varietal (90%) Primitivo, a Spumante from 85% Malvasia, a rosato Spumante from 90% Primitivo, and dried grape Passito wines from both Primitivo and Malvasia.
The Wine Regions of Italy
Calabria is the mountainous toe of the Italian boot. The region’s olive industry far eclipses the wine grape here. Vineyards are widely dispersed, and cooperatives have never taken hold. Calabria’s twelve DOCs (no DOCGS) account for only five percent of its wine.
The Cirò DOC is one of the oldest wine names in the world. Bianco is a minimum 80% Greco, rosato and Rosso minimum 80% Gaglioppo; maximum 20% Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and/or Sangiovese. Gaglioppo is local to Calabria (75% of production), making spicy red wines with berry and cherry flavors. The denomination has two classico sub-zones: Cirò and Cirò Marina DOC. The Melissa DOC overlaps Cirò, producing white wines from Greco and reds from Gaglioppo.
Bivongi DOC makes rosato and Rosso from 30–50% Gaglioppo and/or Greco Nero; 30–50% Castiglione, Nero d’Avola, and/or Nocera, and whites from Greco Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, and Ansonica.
Greco di Bianco DOC produces a golden colored dessert wine from dried grapes. The “Bianco” in the DOC title refers to the town of Bianco, not to the color of the grapes, called, confusingly, Greco Bianco.
Lamezia DOC specializes in reds from the Sicilian red varieties Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio, with local reds Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nocera and Calabrese (Nero d’Avola). Whites are composed of Greco Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, and Ansonica grapes.
The S.Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto DOC is on Calabria’s eastern coast. Is applies exclusively to red and rosato wines made primarily from Gaglioppo.
Savuto DOC in western Calabria is red and rosato only from Gaglioppo, supported by Malvasia Nera, Greco Nero and Sangiovese,
Terre di Cosenza DOC takes up the whole of Cosenza province. It produces its Rosso from the local Magliocco Canino grape, and varietal wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola,
Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Magliocco, Merlot and Sangiovese. The white blend is Greco, Guarnaccia, Montonico Bianco and/or Pecorello. White varietals include Greco Bianco, Chardonnay, Guarnaccia, Malvasia Bianca, Mantonico Bianco and Pecorello. A full run of sparkling, dessert and specialty wines is on the list.
The Wine Regions of Italy
The island region of Sardinia is our last among Italy’s twenty. The island has a long history of conquest by other Mediterranean countries and forces. It has been, and still feels, apart from the rest of Italy, and it lacks the pervasive wine culture of the other nineteen regions. French and Spanish grapes predominate here: the Spanish Garnacha (Grenache in France) is Cannonau here. While Sardinia has a number of localized DOCs, it also has several that apply throughout the island.
Cannonau di Sardegna DOC applies to red and fortified wines made from Cannonau, including a Riserva version aged two years. A sweet fortified Cannonau liquoroso is also produced.
Monica di Sardegna DOC applies to the unique Sardinian Monica grape, produced nowhere else in the world. Up to 15% of other red grapes may be blended in. Monica di Sardegna Frizzante is the lightly sparkling version.
Moscato di Sardegna DOC gives us a dry wine from a minimum of 90% Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc à Petite Grains), a Spumante, Vendemmia Tardiva, and Passito from the same grape.
Sardegna Semidano DOC avails itself of the white Semidano grape, unique to Sardinia, for Bianco, Spumante, and Passito wines
Vermentino di Sardegna DOC gives us whites and sparkling wines from the Vermentino grape, which inhabits much of the western Mediterranean (Rolle in French). The grape is widespread, and shows particular adaptability in Australia.