Italian wines are rated among the best in the world, especially Italian Reds. It pairs beautifully with most types of cuisines and dishes, whether European or Asian. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to go ahead and taste for yourself.
When looking for good Italian Reds, don’t get overwhelmed or confused by the large variety of options. Italy’s best red wines often come with labels that carry the name of the wine appellation, often in combination with the grape variety. Appellation refers to the legally defined wine region, the grape types and sometimes even the wine making process.
Italians love their wines and not surprisingly, there are over 20 wine regions within Italy that grow a variety of grape types and produce wines that are characteristic of that region. Several hundred wineries, big as well as smaller boutique ones, that turn out great wines and make it available to tables around the world.
To buy and appreciate good Italian Reds, you don’t have to memorize all the myriad varieties. Just knowing the major wine regions and the wine names will help keep your shopping list focused and ensure that you have the perfect wine to drink at a moment’s notice. The following shortlist of the best-regarded Italian Red wines helps you do exactly that.
It’s never easy to make lists because preferences vary! That said, there would be near unanimity among wine lovers on the 3 best Italian Reds. Whether it’s the special occasion with your loved ones or a time to celebrate with your business associates and clients, keep these 3 uppermost in your mind:
- Barolo & Barbaresco
- Amarone della Valpolicella
- Brunello di Montalcino
And yes, feel free to drop these names the next time you are with your friends and want to impress them with your knowledge about Italian Reds!
Barolo is the undoubtedly the king of Italian red wines. Made from Nebbiolo, a grape with high tannins and pale color, the wines of this small appellation in Italy’s northwest are among the most ageable in the world. Whether it is saved for next year, five years, ten or twenty years, this is one Italian red that showcases the benefits of aging wine.
The other famous wine made with Nebbiolo is called the Barbaresco, lovingly referred to as the queen to Barolo’s king. Renowned for finesse and perfume, the wines of Barbaresco are among Italy’s best.
Valpolicella is a zone within Veneto, best known for producing Amarone della Valpolicella. Some would argue Amarone vies for the top position as the best Italian Red along with Barolo. It is a powerful and concentrated dry red wine made with dried Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. It is worth every dollar you pay for this delicious wine.
Ripasso, Campofiorin and Valpolicella wines are made with the same grapes and are the more affordable cousins of Amarone.
The Merlot wine arrived from Bordeaux initially in Friuli and Venezia regions, and then quickly spread to the Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige in the north, but it is now found in many other regions of Italy. In Tuscany, the Merlot grape is widely planted and often blended with the native Sangiovese to produce Supertuscan wines. Merlot wines are smooth, soft, and easy drinking with black fruit on the nose but if wood aged, produces great wines.
Tuscany is home to the Chianti region which is the most famous region for Sangiovese. When Sangiovese became the required major grape in Chianti during the 1970s, the other noble grapes, Cabernet and Merlot, ended up creating a new style of wine: Super Tuscan.
Chianti Classico refers to the classic, historic growing area of this iconic Italian red wine. Produced with slightly stricter regulations than regular Chianti, these wines pair easily with a multitude of meals.
Brunello di Montalcino is the top-tier wine made with Sangiovese grapes. This Tuscan Red wine gets its name from the local name for Sangiovese (Brunello) and Montalcino, a small medieval hill town overlooking the Tuscan countryside. These are complex wines with incredible aging potential.
Rosso di Montalcino is often referred to as “baby Brunello.” Made with Sangiovese grown in the same area, this wine is released to market the year after harvest, while Brunello continues to slumber in the cellars of winemakers.
Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s most widely grown wine grapes, are also found in the Tuscany region.
Much of the attention by wine critics and consumers alike over the decades has favored wines from the north.
Yet, Taurasi, without question one of Italy’s most renowned reds, rarely gets mentioned in the same regards as those other wines. That is a shame, as this highly distinctive offering not only offers exceptional quality, but can age gracefully for decades, just like its more famous counterparts. Make no mistake, Taurasi is one of Italy’s essential wines.
Taurasi is produced from a zone of 17 communes in the Irpinia province – also known as the province of Avellino – in the region of Campania. Having a southern Italian origin may help explain the lack of familiarity with Taurasi.
Puglia has amazing valued Reds made with Negroamaro and Primitivo. The fruity Red wines from Puglia are a great way to get started with Italian wines. Most are very affordable and the region has a great number of esoteric sweet red wines that grow nowhere else in the world.
Montepulciano is the primary red grape in Abruzzo and the wines are called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This is a bit confusing because there is also a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is a wine from Tuscany made with Sangiovese. Montepulciano, the grape, makes a dark, rich wine with high tannins and an herbaceous character, and is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.
While this is not a comprehensive list of Italian Reds, this is a great place to get started if this is your new love, as well as a refresher for those who are already familiar with one of the best Reds in the world!
Italian Reds come in all price ranges. Why should good Italian Red wines cost a fortune? Well, it shouldn’t. Check out the great collections of Italian Reds from North Italy, Middle Italy and South Italy in our store.
Handpicked Red Italian wines, amazing prices!