Italy has more than 1,300 estimated grape varieties, but three red grapes are more noble than all others: Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Aglianico, as they are generally believed to be the three best native red grapes in the entire country. Now, you may know these by their appellation names, such as Barolo for Nebbiolo or Chianti Classico for Sangiovese. You may also recognize them by major producers, including Gaja and Antinori. Are they all a mouthful? Yes. Can you explain the difference? Maybe not, which is why we’re breaking down these three great reds.
Ranging from Piedmont and Lombardy in the north along the border with France and Switzerland where Nebbiolo finds its home, to Campania, encompassing the Amalfi Coast, and Basilicata in the south where you find Aglianico, to Sangiovese’s home in Tuscany and across Central Italy, these regions feature some of the best climates and soils for growing grapes in the boot. There are striking similarities despite their disparate locations, and each region produces sought-after wines designated DOCG—Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita. That is the strictest classification for wines in the country, and guarantees that the bottle you purchase is of the highest quality. From there, it’s all about mood, taste preferences, and well, what you’re having for dinner.
With that, here’s your complete guide to the three great Italian reds.
This article is sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.