When one thinks of dry wines from Italy’s Piemonte, they are usually red wines. There is a white wine though that should be on everyone’s radar. I am speaking about Arneis. It is the perfect white for transitioning from summer to autumn. Arneis is both the name of a wine and the grape from which it is made. The name means “little rascal” in Piemontese dialect, so named because it can be difficult to grow. Historically that difficulty was because the better situated vineyards were planted with the “more important” red nebbiolo grape leaving the “lesser” sites for Arneis.
As the weather finally begins to get warm, my thoughts again turn to white wines. The southern Italian region of Campagna produces some very good red wines (see my previous articles on Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio and Taurasi ), but they also make a trio of white wines that should be on any wine lover’s radar. The trio of Greco di Tufo (GREK-koh dee TOO-foh), Fiano (fee-AH-noh) and Falanghina (fah-lahn-GEE-nah) are three white grapes and that are being made into admirable wines that should be on any wine lover’s radar. All three of these grapes date back to ancient times and were on the verge of extinction before being saved within the last few decades.
Near the Austrian border in northern Italy, from the region of Alto Adige comes an excellent red wine called Lagrein (pronounced la-GRINE) that really hits the spot on a winters night dinner table. Lagrein is also the name of the grape from which it is made. As was discussed here , the area of Alto Adige is very close to the Austrian border and has a shared history with both Italy and Austria. Hence, the German language is spoken frequently and either or both languages may appear on a wine label. You can find it made as both a red wine, often called Dunkel in German and Scuro in Italian, or a Rosè, called Kretzer in German or Rosato in Italian.
Some of the great wines in Italy, and the world, hail from Tuscany. Other articles have discussed Super Tuscans , and some of the great wines based on the Sangiovese grape including Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino . In this article, another great Sangiovese based wine is explored: Vin Nobile di Montepulciano. The name of this wine can be confusing. Long ago these wines became the chosen wine of nobility hence the Nobile part of the name.
In the region of Campania (see related article on Lacryma Christi ) there is red wine that is worth knowing about and which merits acquisition. This wine, named Taurasi, is made from the Aglianico grape, the same grape discussed in the article on Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata. Indeed, the Aglianico grape is utilized over much of southern Italy. For reasons which will be explained below, the Aglainicos from Campania are some of the best made anywhere.
The Piemonte is one of the finest wine regions in the world. Wine is made there utilizing so many different grapes. This column has discussed Barolos (made from Nebbiolo), Barberas and the light sparkling wine Moscato d’Asti. This article will examine another great Piemonte wine: Dolcetto.
The region of Calabria is the proverbial toe in the boot shape of Italy with a long history. Its first name was, in fact, Italia most likely derived from the Italic tribes who inhabited the region. They in turn most likely took their name from the word vituli which was the local word for the numerous caves which dot the mountainous area. The Greeks then came to the area bringing the art of winemaking. They called the area Enotria which meant “land where the vine is cultivated high above the earth.” There are records from the 4th century B.C. which indicate a vineyard in this area was worth six times the value of the same size field planted with grains. In fact, there is a group of people living today called the Grecanici who allegedly trace their roots back to Odysseus and the survivors of the Trojan War. The area was named Calabria in the 7th century by the Byzantines.
Vermentinos are not native to Italy; they were originally brought by the Spanish. At the beginning of summer, I discussed the Vermentinos of Sardinia. There is another region of Italy that excels in Vermentinos, the region of Liguria.
The fourth most widely planted grape in Italy is Barbera. In the Piemonte, it is the most widely planted grape and accounts for over 50% of the annual DOC red wine production and 35% of the vineyard area. Thought to be native to the Piemonte, Barbera has been grown there for centuries. It is most likely the grape written about by Paul the Deacon in his description of the Battle of Refrancore in 663 when the Longobard troops of Grimaldo defeated the Franks after getting them drunk on wine. He confirmed that the Longobards filled amphorae with wine and scattered them around the surrounding fields. The Franks found these jugs and drank voraciously from them making them unfit for battle.