9 Italian wines you should know (and taste)

wine, red, drink, negroamaro, primitivo, barolo, vermentino, brunello, morellino


For years Britons have drank litres and litres of Chianti. Every Italian trattoria in London used to have the typical wicker wine bottle, and not always of the best quality. Then the Prosecco-madness arrived and Brits were driven towards the bubbly from Veneto, now the most famous Italian wine in the UK.

In this country people might think Italy produced only two wines and that’s it. What about the rest? How is your knowledge of really good Italian wines? We have chosen our top list of wines you should try at least once.

1. Morellino di Scansano. An Italian red wine made in around the village of Scansano, in the Maremma region of Tuscany. Morellino is made of the Sangiovese grape variety. It’s believed that the name comes from the colours of the local horses, morello (brown). But it could come from a variety of cherries called morello.

2. Brunello di Montalcino. This red wine, produced in the area surrounding the town of Montalcino (120 km south of Florence)  gets its name from the diminutive of Bruno, a male given name which means brown.

3. Barolo. Barolo is a red wine produced in the northern Italian region of Piedmont and it’s made from the Nebbiolo grape. Someone considers it  one of Italy’s greatest wines. It has a  tar and roses aroma and it could take more than 10 years to soften and become ready for drinking. Definitely not a wine for stressed people.

4. Amarone. Another great dry red wine made from grapes of the Corvina, Rondinella and other varieties. The name Amarone literally means ‘the Great Bitter’.

5. Lambrusco has been widely underrated for such a long time it deserves its come back in style like a grand dame. Lambrusco is the name of both a red wine grape and the wine made principally from the grape, originate from Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. It was known, cultivated (and drank) by the Etruscans and mentioned by Cato and Virgil. And, a few centuries later, by the singer Luciano Ligabue, maybe not as remarkable as the previous two but much more famous to the public, I bet. Lambrusco is light, flavourful and low in alcohol. Very popular in the Seventies, it went out of fashion - undeservedly - but came back recently.

6. Vermentino. It’s a grape variety and a wine, in Piedmont, Liguria and Sardinia (but also in Corsica and France) and everywhere has a different name (Agostenga, Agostenga blanc, Brustiano, Brustiano di Corsica, Carbes, Carbesso, Favorita, Favorita bianca, Favorita Bianca di Conegliano, Favorita d’Alba, Favorita di Alba, Favorita di Conegliano, Formentino, Fourmentin, Garbesso, Grosse Clarette, Malvasia a Bonifacio, Malvasia Grossa, Malvasie, Malvoisie, Malvoisie Corse are only some of them). It’s very popular in the US, especially California. It’s dry, crisp and aromatic.

7. Aglianico. A black grape from Basilicata and Campania, but apparently originated in ancient Greece, from where it has completely disappeared leaving to the Italians the pleasure of tasting it. The grape likes a hot climate with abundance of sun and volcanic soil.

8. Primitivo. Black skinned wine grape also known as Zinfandel, traditionally grown in Apulia. The name derives from primativus, which refers to the grape’s tendency to ripen earlier than other similar varieties.

9. Negroamaro. Red wine grape typical of Southern Italy, especially Apulia (and in particular the area called Salento very well known by mob of youngsters in summer). The name means ‘black’ and ‘bitter’ and the wine is rustic and vigorous.

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