Popular Italian Varietals: Reds

There are hundreds of varietals in Italy, with more than 350 authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Here is a look at some of the most common Italian varietals and their characteristics. This post focuses on red wines.

Barbera
Barbera is the most common grape grown in the Piedmont and southern Lombardy areas of Italy. It is often named after its town of origin (Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti).
Barbera characteristics: light to medium bodied, fruit forward with notable acidity and low tannins.

Dolcetto
Dolcetto is a grape from Piedmont known as “little sweet one” because it grows easily and makes good wine.
Dolcetto characteristics: fuller body and dry, with notable tannins; dark fruit notes of concord grape and blackberries.

Montepulciano
Montepulciano, not to be confused with the town of Montepulciano, is grown on Italy’s opposite coast in Abruzzo. Montepulciano characteristics: medium-bodied, dry wine with light tannins; fruity with some acidity.

Nebbiolo
Nebbiolo means “little fog,” named for the region of Piedmont where it is grown. It produces well-known wines Barolo and Barbaresco, regarded as some of the best DOCG wines in Italy.
Nebbiolo characteristics: light in color but full in body with notable tannins and scents of anything from roses and tar to herbs, cherries and tobacco. The wines are often aged for a long time.

Nero d’Avola
Nero d’Avola, grown in Sicily, is somewhat of a newcomer to the international market but is known as one of Italy’s most important indigenous grapes.
Nero d’Avola characteristics: medium to full bodied; sweet tannins with flavors of pepper and dark fruits like plums.

Sangiovese
Sangiovese is one of the most well-known Italian varietals hailing from Tuscany. It produces Chianti (Classico), Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montepulciano among others and is used in many Super Tuscans.
Sangiovese characteristics: medium-bodied, dark fruit like cherries, earthy and oaky.


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