For many people the best Italian wine is enjoyed over a nice meal with a group of friends, however, in Italy things are occasionally done a little bit differently.
Many Italians also enjoy what is known as an ‘aperitivo’, which is a term that is somewhat foreign to people outside of the country. Despite this, it is in fact one of the most enjoyable ways to drink a good Italian wine and serves to open the palette in preparation for an upcoming meal in addition to providing plenty of opportunity to enjoy spending a little bit of time with your friends.
So what exactly is an aperitivo and why should you look to engage in a little aperitivo time? Let’s take a look.
What is an Aperitivo?
The closest association that can be given to an aperitivo in the terms of the United States or the UK is the idea of ‘happy hour’ in a bar. Even then, the comparison is not wholly accurate as happy hour denotes a period where you are able to buy drinks at a cut price. However, they do share one thing in common in that they allow a group of friends to get together and enjoy a drink, often before they share a meal.
This is the important thing to remember about an aperitivo in Italy. It is intended as a pre-meal drink, almost an appetizer of sorts in and of itself. The idea is to enjoy a fairly light wine that opens your palette and prepares you for the meal that is on its way, whether this be at a restaurant or at home.
It is an opportunity to relax and socialise with the people who are nearest and dearest with you, often with a number of light snacks that can be enjoyed alongside the wine but don’t diminish your appetite to the point where you won’t eat the upcoming meal.
As such, you will often find that an aperitivo at an Italian bas will actually see the wine cost just a touch more than you would normally pay to account for the snacks that will be served alongside it. This is something that you must be prepared for if you are looking to enjoy aperitivo time away from home, but is less of an issue if you are drinking at home with your friends.
Generally speaking though, an aperitivo is often best enjoyed as an after-work drink. Many bars in Italy offer them at around 7-9pm to cater for this, though it is often common to enjoy a mid-afternoon aperitivo as well. The key is to determine the best period of time for getting everybody together so that you can unwind from the stresses of the day with a gorgeous Italian wine.
There are many different drinks that can be enjoyed during aperitivo time, with many people favouring light cocktails or even partaking in non-alcoholic drinks depending on their preferences.
When it comes to wine though, the best drink to enjoy is practically always a sparkling white wine. This is because they not only offer a lightness in flavour that ensures that they don’t overwhelm the palette before you have an opportunity to tuck into the main course, but they also offer a fresh and fruity taste that is refreshing and enables you to quickly settle in and relax a little with your friends.
Because of this, it is usually a bad idea to drink a red wine as an aperitivo, especially if it is renowned for its complexity and deep character. Keep it light and easy at first, then enjoy a more complex wine when the meal arrives. With that in mind, we have compiled a short list of suitable wines for an aperitivo:
The perfect aperitivo and one of the most popular white sparkling wines in the entire world. Prosecco is perhaps best known to people outside of Italy as a celebratory drink that is enjoyed in much the same way as champagne, however in Italy it is for more commonly consumed as an aperitivo.
Prosecco features a light and fruity taste with just a little bit of zest to it, making it the perfect drink to truly open the palette. Couple that with the fact that there are some truly stunning examples of the drink that are currently available and you have one of the most popular wines around.
This wine is perhaps a little less well-known amongst wine enthusiasts, at least outside of its native country, but it has many of the same qualities as Prosecco while also bringing more than a little of its own personality to the table.
Like Prosecco, it is a sparkling white wine. However, it is made primarily using Chardonnay grapes, with just a touch of Pinot Nero to help balance the flavours out. This gives it a very distinctive taste that will be especially suitable for those who enjoy a classic Chardonnay themselves.
Continuing the tradition of sparkling white wines as part of aperitivo time, the Monsupello Brut is another fine offering that is well worth your time. Much like its cohorts, it offers a fresh and fruity taste that is perfect for preparing you for the upcoming meal without overpowering your senses and making it difficult to enjoy the flavours of whatever you choose to eat.
In contrast to the Franciacorta Brut, the Monsupello Brut is comprised primarily of Pinot Nero, with around 10% of Chardonnay included into the mix. This gives it an at once familiar and yet unique taste that ensures that it can stand alongside the others in this list without being overshadowed by either of them.
Regardless of the wine you choose to enjoy during aperitivo time, the key is to enjoy the period and use it to unwind and catch up with the people who are nearest and dearest to you. It is a time for chatter, gossiping and putting the world to rights after a particularly stressful day at the office.