Italy is one of our favourite places to visit, not only for its fascinating history and mouth-watering cuisine, but also for the stunning wines lovingly crafted across the country’s famed regions. We’ve picked five of our favourites to help you decide the location of your next wine-filled wanderings. Salute!
Sardinia generally doesn’t do wide, expansive vineyards – indeed, there weren’t many at all until the second half of the twentieth century. That isn’t to say that the island doesn’t have an ancient tradition of winemaking – farmers, shepherds, and other landowners have tended their own tiny vine plots for centuries. Cannonau is the most commonly grown grape here, a variant of Grenache and known for thriving in the warm and dry conditions that the island provides. These grapes produce full-bodied, fruity red wines that go well with the island’s tangy, herby cuisine, in which boar and rabbit feature heavily. The best way to get acquainted with Sardinian wines is to visit one of the many small Cantine across the island, where small winemakers gather to share and sell their vintages.
Where to stay – Hotel Su Gologone
Sequestered away in the foothills of the Supramonte mountains, Hotel Su Gologone is a beautiful tribute to authentic Sardinian culture and cuisine. Traditional canti a tenores performers will serenade you as you sip on locally produced wine and devour hearty Sardinian fare.
Tuscany is perhaps Italy’s most famous wine region, thanks to a number of extraordinarily popular wines. Indeed, the distinctive Chianti bottle, or ‘fiaschi’ has become shorthand for ‘rustic Italian charm’ in restaurants across the world. Sangiovese, ‘the blood of Jupiter’, is the grape variety you will see as you drive through miles of rolling, vine covered hills. This grape is used to make Chianti, the fruity, full-bodied most recognisable of Tuscan wines, but it is also the base of both Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Head to the walled hill-towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino to try these wonderful wines at an Enoteca, a local wine shop established to showcase the wines of smaller growers.
Where to stay – Il Falconiere
A lovingly restored 17th-century villa, Il Falconiere is nestled within hectares of lush vineyards. Enjoy a bottle of the world’s first sparkling Sangiovese with a meal cooked up in owner Silvia Baracchi’s Michelin-starred kitchen.
One-third of Italy’s population lives in Milan, Turin and throughout the Po Valley, an ideal region for winemaking. This is thanks to its relatively wide daily temperature range and good soil, perfect for both red and white wines. Nebbiolo is the most popular grape variety throughout Piedmont, closely followed by Barbera and Dolcetto, each producing smooth, smoky, dark cherry-tasting red wines such as Barbaresco, Barbera d’Asti and Barolo. Spumante also stars along the white wines and has become a popular summer tipple worldwide. The smooth reds of Piedmont go extremely well with the rich, hearty and buttery cuisine of the region – indeed, sometimes the local egg pasta is doused in Dolcetto-derived wines just prior to serving.
Where to stay – Villa Crespi
A bedazzling Moorish pleasure palace perched on the edge of Piedmont’s Lake Ortu, Chef Antonino Cannavacciulo’s outstanding Michelin-starred restaurant makes Villa Crespi a must-visit for anyone who loves good food and good wine.
Sicily has a reputation for producing sweet white and fortified wines like Muscat or Marsala, but in recent years the island has extended its repertoire and is now a producer of a number of red wines using Nero d’Avolo and Grecanico grapes. That’s not to say that you won’t find many wineries on the high volcanic slopes still producing the classic Marsala and Muscato wines, from Catarrato and Moscato grapes respectively. In centuries past, these wines were exported in great quantities not only to the mainland but Greece, Turkey and North Africa as well. The Sicilian cuisine reflects this cultural exchange in its original take on Italian favourites, changing the flavour by adding spices such as clove and nutmeg, and the white wines that are popular here provide a lovely counterpoint.
Where to stay – Hotel Villa Carlotta
Breathtaking sea views make this boutique gem in Taormina one of our favourite getaways in Sicily. Enjoy a sweeping panoramic vista of glittering azure waters and the verdant slopes of Mount Etna from the hotel’s restaurant, or enjoy a glass of something local in the atmospheric bar tucked within ancient Roman catacombs.
The foothills of the Alps that dominate the region provide the cool, crisp climate needed to produce great white wine. Garganega is a popular grape variety here and it makes up the smooth, crisp Soave family of wines. The world famous Prosecco also originates here, along with its little sister, Frizzante, which is semi-sparkling. Both are produced from the Giera grape. If visiting Venice, make sure you visit Harry’s Bar, the home of the famous Bellini cocktail, which is a delicate blend of Prosecco along with Martini, simple syrup and peaches.
Where to stay – Venissa Wine Resort
An enchanting hideaway in the peaceful Northern Lagoon Park, Venissa Wine Resort is located within the last surviving medieval walled vineyard in Venice, producing the long-lost Dorona variety. Enjoy a glass of the ‘Golden Grape of the Doge’ with a meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant.