As wine lovers, we always strive to try as many different wines as we possibly can. But what if we didn’t have the ability to try everything and could only taste a limited amount? With that in mind, we reached out to some of the most highly respected Italian wine experts and asked a simple question: What Italian wines should every person drink before they die? Here is what they said…
Dan Amatuzzi – Eataly Beverage Director
If you want vintage specific, seek out these three wines:
Conterno Monfortino Barolo ’78. This wine is considered the holy grail of Italian wine and the best Italian wine ever made. If you can get your hands on it, drink it!
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Sassicaia 1985. A Super Tuscan, this is a truly epic wine from an epic year. It proves great Bordeaux style blends don’t just come out of Bordeaux.
Any ’97 Brunello di Montalcino. Recent ones I’ve had still have 5 to 10 years left in the tank, and currently they’re showing all the hallmarks of a classic Brunello – dried cherry, tar, leather, balsamic, herbs, dusty wholesomeness.
If you don’t care about vintage grab any bottle of wine made by Giulio Ferrari: Ferrari declares vintage years just like Champagne houses – three to four times every ten years – and when they do, give these sparkling wines 7 to 10 years of bottle age and let the games begin. Each bottling I’ve had going back to ’93 has been great.
Keith Beavers – Owner of In Vino
Seek out the oldest bottle of Biondi Santi you can find that is still drinking well right now. Ask your local wine merchant, they should be able to help.
For the ultimate wine experience do a horizontal tasting of 1978 Barolo DOCG from all five communes while in Piedmont during a five to six hour meal. I would be able to die happy after that!
Joe Campanale – Beverage Director of dell’anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio
Fiano – from any great producer such as Pietracupa, Clelia Romano or De Conciliis. This proves without a doubt that Italy is capable of world-class white wines on par with anywhere else (except for maybe Burgundy!).
Gravner “Breg Anfora” – a historic wine. Gravner re-introduced winemaking in amphora clay pots back to Western Europe. His wines are singular and delicious. They are so unique and have inspired many winemakers across Europe to rethink their winemaking styles to something a little more ancient.
Emidio Pepe Montepulciano. The singular vision of Emidio Pepe in the 1960s to produce a great and age-worthy Montepulciano has created five decades of some of the most interesting reds Italy produces. The production is unchanged since the founding, these wines represent artifacts of a way that wine was made in Italy half a century ago.
Sangiovese – Poggio di Sotto or Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello or Fontodi Flaccianello/Chianti – these are the quintessential central Italian reds. They are spicy and complex, full of energy and really good. While the Poggio di Sotto represents the most elegant side of Sangiovese and the Fontodi shows the more powerful side, these are wines that represent the heights of this uniquely Italian grape.
Classic Nebbiolo like a Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Giacomo Conterno or Teobaldo Cappellano. These wines represent the height of elegant, age-worthy and timeless Italian red winemaking. They are some of the greatest and most complex wines not only in Italy but in the world.
Valentini Cerasuolo – there is no rosé in the world that matches it for complexity, age-worthiness (expcept maybe Lopez de Heredia from Rioja) or truly unique individuality. I love this wine and relish any chance I can drink because it is also the most beguiling Italian wine.
David Pinzolo – Domenico Valentino Selections (Italian Wine Importer)
Wines that everyone can relate to:
A great bottle of Pinot Grigio to dispel the myth that this varietal (like Chardonnay, let’s say) can only produce obvious and not terribly profound wines.
A bottle of fully mature Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello – to understand what the fuss is all about.
A carafe of fresh local wine at a local trattoria anywhere in Italy, because local seasonal food and local fresh from the tank wine create magic together.
A great bottle of wine made from an “international” varietal (or a blend made from “international” varietals) coming from an area in Italy where those varietals are considered traditional – to dispel the myth that the resulting experience is anything short of unique and worthy.
Any wine in the company of the person who made it.
Wines for a more obscure, geeky experience:
A bottle of super fresh dry Marsala from a high end producer, like a Fino Sherry, the fresher the better. The resulting experience will be a real eye opener.
A great bottle of Vin Santo Toscano, because this is a wine that should never have cookies dunked into it.
A great bottle of Aglianico (Taurasi, Vulture and a few others), because there is more to Italy than Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello in the high end traditional wine category.
A bottle of Barolo made by Bartolo Mascarello or Giovanni Conterno.
Finally, a bottle of white wine made by Mario Schiopetto, the man himself.
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