Consider Italy: land of superlative cheese with its own geographical distinction, ripe figs hanging from trees on the Tuscan roadside, olive groves, and more. The region’s notable foods, all imbued with a sense of place, are interconnected with its wines — fabled, terroir-driven bottles that express the land from which they were produced. Italian food and wine tend to boast high-quality ingredients, years of generational knowledge, and a commitment to excellence.
At VinePair, we’ve explored four bottles that epitomize some of Italy’s winemaking regions: bottles that demonstrate the breadth, depth, and terroir that Sardina, Trentino-South Tyrol, Valpolicella, and more, in their seemingly infinite wine-producing capacity, have to offer.
As a certified sommelier through the Court of Sommeliers, I recently had the opportunity to taste the newly released vintages of these wines, and I’ve offered up my tasting notes and thoughts about these Italian expressions. Read on for my sommelier-approved picks that demonstrate some of the most intriguing expressions of terroir that Italy has to offer.
Color/Appearance: Bright yellow.
Aroma: Stone fruits — apricots, white and yellow peach — are expressive on the nose, as are citrus, pineapple, and passion fruit.
Mouthfeel: A round, full wine with an intense mouthfeel.
Length: On the long and lingering palate, refreshing-tasting acidity and minerality — a hint of limestone and crushed slate — follow through with lemon peel, white peach, rosemary, and lavender.
I drank this wine, which hails from the Alto Adige in Italy’s Northeast, with a deep chill. It could also benefit from a little bit of time at room temperature to release secondary aromas from the post-fermentation contact with leftover yeast, also known as lees contact. This white treasure is ideal for pairing with simply dressed pasta, wood-grilled seafood entrees, and lighter poultry dishes, as well as with leaner grilled meats.
Color/Appearance: Kettmeir’s straw-yellow Pinot Bianco is aged on the lees prior to bottling.
Aroma: The nose reveals some of that toasty aroma, as well as white flowers, green apple, and zesty lemon peel.
Mouthfeel: Crushed stone and plenty of bright acidity on the palate were tempered by more creaminess from the lees. But this wine, which is fermented in steel, gets all its character from the grapes and their natural characteristics, as opposed to oak intervention.
Length: The palate, long-lived and full of tropical notes, ends with a lively thrum of minerality.
Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot come together for the perfect marriage of depth and softness in this wine that pairs well with tomato-based dishes, poultry, and shellfish. A combination of barrel and barrique — smaller, 225-liter-capacity barrel — aging imparts structure and tannin to this bright and vivacious wine. Drink this wine now or hold it in the cellar for a few years.
Color/Appearance: Cherry red.
Aroma: Offering a clean strawberry and violet nose, as well as secondary notes of blueberry, nutmeg, and roasted coffee, this wine evolved in the glass as I drank it.
Length: On the palate, I was surprised both by its longevity and its smoothness, despite the fresh acidity imparted by the grape blend. A long, soft, and plummy finish seemed to go on for ages. A hint of rosemary and other perennial herbs followed through to the very end.
I tasted the Amarone last, expecting this wine to be the richest of the quartet, and I wasn’t wrong. Produced using the classic grapes in the Valpolicella Classica region — Molinara, Corvina, and Rondinella — all red grape varieties. The grapes go through the appassimento method where they are partially dehydrated prior to being pressed, yielding a deeply concentrated, rich style of wine; the Costasera Amarone still offers considerable brightness. Drink a bottle now and hold a bottle in the cellar for aging; the Veneto’s stellar 2018 vintage means that this Amarone can age for 15 years or more, maturing and evolving along the way. It pairs well with game meats, robust pasta, and aged cheeses.
Color/Appearance: Ruby red with fat, pigmented legs.
Aroma: Notes of plum and cherry on the nose. Secondary aromas gave way to more floral notes: rose petals and violets, along with jammier fruit and deep spice.
Mouthfeel: A chewy texture, chocolate, cassis, and blackberry on the palate.
Length: A lingering finish that allows you to savor every note.
Invest in these wines this year, and drink them now — with dinner, in lieu of a cocktail hour, or with cheese at the end of a meal. And don’t be afraid to hold a bottle or two in the cellar. These vintages can all hold up to at least a year of aging, sometimes more, and you’ll be surprised by how much they evolve. Saluti!
This article is sponsored by Santa Margherita U.S.A.