Volumes of books have been written about Italian wine grapes. There are over 1,000 varieties and that is why we decided to include a description of a few of the major grapes.
Major Italian White Wines
Asti: Sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes around Asti in Piedmont. Deliciously sweet, low in alcohol, with pronounced fruity and floral flavors. Usually non-vintage, but freshness and youth are essential to its quality.
Frascati: From the Frascati area, south of Rome and mainly Trebbiano grapes. Dry or slightly off-dry, light-bodied, with crisp acidity and subdued flavor.
Gavi: Dry, medium-bodied wine from Cortese grapes in the Gavi area of Piedmont. Typically crisp with delicate notes of honey, apples and minerals.
Prosecco: This popular sparkling wine is made in the Veneto region in the area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, about 15 miles north of Venice. Prosecco is made primarily with the Glera grape producing strong fruit and flower aromas.
Orvieto: A generally medium-bodied wine made mainly from Grechetto grapes around Orvieto, in the Umbria region. Dry, crisp, with flavors of pear and apple and a pleasantly bitter finish.
Pinot Grigio: Generally light-bodied, dry and crisp with subdued aromas and flavors. Made from Pinot Gris grapes, usually in northeastern Italy. Wines from Collio or Alto-Adige DOCs are usually the best.
Soave: From the Soave zone in the Veneto region, made mainly from Garganega grapes. Generally dry, crisp, un-oaked and light- or medium-bodied, with subdued flavors of pear, apple or peach.
Verdicchio: Dry, medium-bodied, crisp, white with a pronounced mineral flavor and a sea-air freshness. From Verdicchio grapes in the Marche region.
Major Italian Red Wines
Amarone: Lusty, full-bodied wine from Corvina grapes in the Veneto region. It is a dry and firm wine, but its ripe, concentrated fruitiness suggests sweetness. Needs rich, savory foods or flavorful cheeses.
Barbaresco: Made from the Nebbiolo grape. In certain respects it is similar to Barolo, but with less pronounced tannins, making it slightly lighter in body. At its best when aged at least 8-10 years.
Barbera: Varietal wine produced mainly in the Piedmont region. Dry, light or medium-bodied, with intense berry flavor, mouth-watering acidity and little tannin. Particularly versatile with food. Many of the best wines are from the Alba or Asti zones.
Barolo: Dry, full-bodied, majestic wine from Nebbiolo grapes in the Barolo area of Piedmont. Has complex aromas and flavors of strawberries, tar, herbs and earth, as well as a firm tannic structure. At its best when aged for more than 10 years.
Brunello di Montalcino: Full-bodied, intense, concentrated wine from Sangiovese grapes grown in the Montalcino zone of Tuscany. Dry and quite tannic, best when aged for 12 years or more.
Chianti: Very dry, medium-bodied, moderately tannic wine with a lovely tart-cherry flavor, mainly from Sangiovese grapes grown in the Chianti area of Tuscany. Chianti Classico is often the best. Some wines are good young; wines labeled Riserva are generally more concentrated and age-worthy.
Lambrusco: Most commonly a sweet wine with delicious, grape intense flavors. Made from Lambrusco grapes usually in the Emilia-Romagna region. Dry and sparkling styles also exist.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: Generally medium-bodied and flavorful with red fruits and a slightly vegetal note. Lighter examples are smooth and easy to drink; the best wines are concentrated and denser in texture. From the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region.
Salice Salentino: Dry, full-bodied wine from Negroamaro grapes in part of the Puglia region. Generally has somewhat intense aromas and flavors of ripe, plummy, baked fruit and rich, dense texture. Suitable with robust foods.
Valpolicella: Medium-bodied wine mainly from Corvina grapes in the Valpolicella area of Veneto region. Dry, lean and only moderately tannic, with more or less intense cherry aromas and flavors. Some versions, such as single-vineyard wines, are particularly good.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Medium-bodied, dry and lean, with red cherry flavor, similar to Chianti but slightly fuller. Made from Sangiovese grapes in Montepulciano in the Tuscany region.