Five of the best Italian red wines

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There are few things quite like an Italian red wine. With so many producers dotted around the country you are always guaranteed plenty of variety and, thanks to DOC and DOCG regulations, you will generally see a high level of quality as well.

With so much to choose from it can often be difficult to make a selection. Variety is the spice of life but sometimes a little helping hand is needed to make sure you make the choice that’s right for you.

With that in mind, we have compiled a short list of some of the best red wines currently available on our website. Why not try them out for yourself and find a favourite (or two).

Dolcetto

Dolcetto wines are characterised by a fairly light nature that makes them ideal for eating with foods such as pastas and pizzas, which complement the various flavours of the wine superbly. Generally speaking a red wine made from the Dolcetto grape will feature hints of black cherry and liquorice. Some varieties will also feature a flavour similar to that of prunes and most display a fairly bitter finish that beings almonds to mind.

In terms of the nature of the wine, it is generally considered to be a dry red thanks to the tannic nature of the grapes used in its production. This is often a surprise to those who know the literal translation of the word Dolcetto, which actually means something along the lines of “little sweet one”. Generally speaking a Dolcetto features a much more bitter taste than the name implies, making it the perfect accompaniment to more savoury dishes.

Barbera

The Barbera is produced using one of the most popular grapes in all of Italy. In fact, recent statistics show the Barbera to be the third most popular grape variety in the entire country. The grapes themselves are known to contain a high level of acidity, which has led to many producers looking into superior production and fermentation methods in an effort to further improve an already quality product. In many cases the Barbera is blended with lighter varieties of grapes to provide a slightly softer wine, which also means that there is plenty of variety within the Barbera designation.

This all means that Barberas can range from being fairly light and fruity wines through to much more intense flavours that require a fairly cultured palette to truly appreciate. Generally speaking, most wines produced with the grape will have a deep ruby hue and be quite acidic, with fairly high levels of tannin to go along side it. Many producers also use oak barrels to ferment the wine, which often gives it an even richer texture, with plum and spicy flavours becoming more prominent.

Frappato

A variety of red wine grape that is extremely popular in its native Sicily and is an excellent blending grape for a wide variety of wines. The grape produces a rather light bodied wine that is perfect for accompanying and small snack or light dinner, with its distinct grapey aroma proving fairly popular.

Perhaps more prominently, the grape is also used as a component of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is Sicily’s only DOCG regulated wine. Generally speaking the Frappato will make up anywhere between 30-50% of the blend, with the slightly heavier Nero d’Avola making up the rest. The combination creates a wonderful red that is certainly worth a try.

Interestingly, fairly recent studies appear to indicate that the grape may actually have roots in the Sangiovese variety, with DNA experts having found a number of similarities between the two varieties. This has led to some speculation about what other grapes may have been crossed with the Sangiovese to produce the Frappato however, at the time of writing, there are no definitive results.

Amarone

A gorgeous variety of red that is characterised by a full-bodied flavour that is both rich and intense. As such, it is best taken when eating a particularly rich meal and is an excellent accompaniment to particularly strong cheeses.

This high quality comes at something of a cost however, as the grapes used to create the wine are fairly difficult to handle. Getting the production process right is something of an intensive project, meaning only the best wine producers tend to make the effort.

Generally speaking producers will have to be very careful of letting rotted grapes slip through, particularly during rainy months, and oftentimes the wine is not even released until five years after its vintage. However, when it does reach the public the wine features a sweet, though not overbearing, taste that is extremely ripe and contains little in the way of acidity. Hints of raisins are often tasted and this is a definite treat for the true connoisseur.

Chianti

Hannibal Lector’s favourite wine is also a firm favourite in the international market and exudes a certain level of class and sophistication that places it above many other Italian red wines.

Traditionally produced in Tuscany and hailing from the Chianti region, the wine has been favoured in the past due to the use of the old ‘fiasco’ bottling method, however more recent vintages have tended to forego this in favour of more traditional packaging.

Generally speaking the wine is made from a blend of grapes that includes Sangiovese, Canaiolo and others, meaning that each version of the drink will feature a slightly different texture and flavour depending on the producer. The wine is further broken down into Chianti and Chianti Classico, with the Classico featuring a taste that is more in keeping with the Chianti of old that is often favoured by traditionalists.

Of course, there are many other varieties of Italian red wine that are worth your time and this list simply aims to offer you a couple to try out for yourself. Much of the joy of wine tasting comes exploring different varieties and finding which ones best suit your palette so we encourage you to explore outside this list as well in an effort to find the perfect wine for you.

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