Top 10 Italian Red Wine Varieties To Try Now

Looking to try the top Italian red wine varieties? There are hundreds of grape varieties in Italy; every town seems to have its own grape to make delicious wine. It’s easy to see why Italy produces more wine than any other country.

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The Top Italian Red Wine Varieties You Should Try

And although Italian wine producers make lovely white, pink and fizzy wine, Italian red wines are the best known — they’re easy to love. Here are the top 10 Italian red wine varieties. Have you tried them all? This is all you need to know about them.

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1. Sangiovese

Where is it from?

Sangiovese is the king of Italian red grapes, and it thrives in central Italy, mainly in Tuscany and Umbria. Sangiovese is the source of spectacular age-worthy wines and tasty reds for everyday enjoyment. Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino are famous wines made with Sangiovese.

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What does it taste like?

Sangiovese often tastes like tart red cherries with oak spices and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, wines made with Sangiovese are inky, gritty, and acidic.

What to eat with it?

Sangiovese is lovely with red meat and tomato sauces. The grape’s perfect pairing is a famous Tuscan dish, the Bistecca Fiorentina T-bone steak.

Drink or hold?

Sangiovese makes easy-to-drink red wines, but it also produces age-worthy wines that can evolve for decades. Consume most Sangiovese wines within the first five years.

Synonyms:

Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, Nielluccio.

2. Nebbiolo

Where is it from?

Nebbiolo is a famous red grape in Piedmont, northwest Italy. It is best known for being the sole grape in the acclaimed wines from Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo takes its name from the “nebbia” or fog that covers Piedmont’s Langhe and Monferrato ranges.

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What does it taste like?

People often describe Nebbiolo wines as smelling like tar and roses. Floral aromatics and black fruit scents are expected, consistently over a structured palate with piercing acidity and assertive, alcoholic warmth.

What to eat with it?

Nebbiolo wines are fantastic with rustic meat stews, hearty broths, and other meaty preparations like the regional slow-cooked beef shank or osso buco.

Drink or hold?

Most wines made with Nebbiolo, especially in Piedmont, are meant to age and you can enjoy them for at least five years after the vintage. The finest Barolos and Barbarescos are still enjoyable after decades.

Synonyms:

Spanna, Chiavannesca, Picoutener.

3. Montepulciano

Where is it from?

Montepulciano is the flagship red grape in Abruzzo, the mountainous Italian region east of the Apennines mountain range. Montepulciano is the sole variety in the well-priced Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. You’ll also find it in the neighboring Marche region.

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What does it taste like?

Wines made with Montepulciano offer aromas redolent of ripe black fruit, brown spices, and sometimes leather. These wines are robust and acidic, but they have medium tannins.

What to eat with it?

Montepulciano’s classic food pairing is char-grilled lamb skewers, but grilled meat, in general, is compatible with rustic wine.

Drink or hold?

Only a few Montepulciano examples are meant to age, often labeled as Colline Teramane. The rest are best enjoyed young up to three years after the vintage.

Synonyms:

Morellone, Uva Abruzzo, Violone, Cordisco.

4. Barbera

Where is it from?

Barbera is best known for its wines made in Piedmont, in northern Italy. This is Italy’s third-most-planted variety, and although it’s not as popular as Nebbiolo, Barbera has fans worldwide. You can also find Barbera planted in neighboring Lombardy.

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What does it taste like?

Barbera produces plummy, fruit-forward wines with low tannins and noticeable acidity. These are easy-to-drink wines with fruit and floral notes.

What to eat with it?

Barbera is best enjoyed with lean red meat like a fillet mignon and white meat, including pork ribs and roasted poultry.

Drink or hold?

Enjoy wine made with Barbera young up to five years. Most of the wines made with the grape are approachable rather than age-worthy.

Synonyms:

Barbera Fina, Barbera Forte, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera Dolce, Barbera Vera.

5. Corvina

Where is it from?

Corvina feels right at home in Valpolicella and neighboring Bardolino, in the hills overlooking Verona; here, the grape is blended with Corvinone and Rondinella. The region produces red wines at different quality levels, but even the least expensive are fantastic.

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What does it taste like?

This versatile red grape produces acidic, cherry-scented wines with hints of dried herbs and flowers. The finest examples spend time in oak, so they also have brown spice scents. Sweet Passito wines made with the grape are among Italy’s most decadent and longest-lived wines.

What to eat with it?

Wines made with Corvina and blends, including Valpolicella, are delightful with meaty roasts, casseroles, and stews. Mushrooms are also compatible with the wines, and so are sausages and other cured meats.

Drink or hold?

Corvina makes approachable wines to be enjoyed soon, often labeled as Valpolicella. The Italian red grape can also produce contemplative wines, including the famous Amarone della Valpolicella, which will evolve for decades.

Synonyms:

Corvina Veronese, Cruina, Cassabria.

6. Primitivo

Where is it from?

Primitivo is native to Puglia. If Italy is a Big Boot, Puglia is the heel. Here, the warm Mediterranean climate ripens grapes to perfection, and Primitivo is one of the sturdiest.

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Primitivo Italian red wine varieties

What does it taste like?

Expect dried black fruit aromas, dates, prunes, and hints of dark chocolate. Wines made with Primitivo are rich and alcoholic, sometimes with residual sugar and a bold mouth-feel.

What to eat with it?

Primitivo’s intense flavor and robust mouth-feel are best paired with roasted lamb, goat, pit-roasted meat, game, and other intensely flavored meals.

Drink or hold?

Red wines made with Primitivo are concentrated, so they have relatively long shelf lives of at least five yeasts. The grape is also used to make pink wine — in this case; the wines are best enjoyed young.

Synonyms:

Zinfandel, Crljenak Kastelanski, Tribidrag.

7. Nero d’Avola

Where is it from?

This is another Italian red grape from the warm south. In this case, from Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Nero d’Avola is an ancient varietal, and its name means “the black grape from Avola.”

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What does it taste like?

Nero d’Avola produces concentrated red wines with blackberry, blackcurrant, and dark cherry aromas. If oak-aged, it also displays spices, and floral notes are not uncommon; leathery and earthy undertones are often present as well. On the palate, Nero d’Avola is rich and bold.

What to eat with it?

Nero d’Avola is an excellent pairing for barbecued pork, sticky ribs, lamb racks, and other fatty protein-rich meals. Roasted vegetables are compatible with the Sicilian grape as well.

Drink or hold?

The vast majority of wine made with Nero d’Avola is best enjoyed young. Still, it can produce more concentrated examples suitable for cellaring, especially when blended with Syrah.

Synonyms:

Calabrese.

8. Aglianico

Where is it from?

Aglianico is a hearty red grape from southern Italy. It thrives in the Apennine foothills in Campania and the awe-inspiring Mount Vulture in Basilicata.

What does it taste like?

Aglianico produces some of the most potent red wines in Italy. These wines are fruit-forward but complex, with red and black fruit scents, spices, and animal undertones that make them attractively rustic.

What to eat with it?

Aglianico’s rustic nature makes it compatible with game meat, from rabbit to wild boar. Feathered game and pit-oven lamb and goat are also suitable matches for such a flavorful and intense red wine.

Drink or hold?

Wines from the most acclaimed regions like Taurasi and Aglianico del Vulture can age for at least a decade. Humbler wines are best enjoyed for up to five years.

Synonyms:

Gnanico, Uva Nera, Agliatica, Ellenico, Ellanico.

9. Lambrusco

Where is it from?

Lambrusco is not one grape, but many. This is an entire family of red grapes native to Emilia-Romagna. Producers famously grow Lambrusco grapes near Modena.

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Lambrusco – Italian Red wine varieties

What does it taste like?

Lambrusco is popularly used to make fizzy red wine with an attractive sweetness. Thanks to their cherry flavors and lovely fizz, these are amongst the most approachable Italian wines. Still, Lambrusco grapes are also used to make more serious dry red wines.

What to eat with it?

Sparkling or “spumante” Lambrusco is nice with ham, dry-cured meat like prosciutto, cranberry sauces, and sweet glazes. These wines are compatible with holiday meals.

Drink or hold?

Drink Lambrusco young, as it won’t improve with time. In fact, opening Lambrusco within its first year is the best way to make the most out of its fruitiness.

Synonyms:

Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco di Sorbara.

10. Lacrima

Where is it from?

Let’s end our list with a lesser-known but equally impressive Italian red grape. Lacrima is native to the Marche region, and it’s often compared to the elegant Pinot Noir. The best wines come from the vineyards around Morro d’Alba.

What does it taste like?

Black cherries, mushrooms, and undergrowth over a silky palate with high acidity, low alcohol, smooth tannins, and a long aftertaste.

What to eat with it?

Lacrima is fantastic with oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. It’s also compatible with white meat like chicken and pork.

Drink or hold?

Lacrima produces young and fruity wines. Sadly, they’re not meant to age. Drink wines made with this approachable wine grape in its first three years.

Synonyms:

Lacrima di Morro d’Alba.

Author: Franco

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