Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: Italian wines from three largest regions deliver star quality | COMMENTARY

Every major wine producer in Europe harbors indigenous grapes that are the backbone of their wine-making history. France and Italy are the major contributors in the Old World with Spain a close third.

Most of the wine currently produced in the New World, including North and South America, as well as the far-flung outposts of New Zealand and Australia, are from grape varieties that originated in France or Italy. However, the Italians and French to a large extent have stuck to their traditional wine-growing areas and indigenous grape varieties.


Overall, they have dramatically improved wine making in their countries. Today, many winemakers are graduates of special university programs and have learned modern scientific winemaking techniques. Improvements in vineyard management have drastically improved the quality of wine grapes available to vintners.

We recently sampled a variety of Italian red wines made from indigenous grapes in their traditional heritage growing region. The tasting highlighted the quality of Italian wines as well as the star quality of the varietals from each region.


The three largest regions by volume of wine produced are Veneto. Tuscany and Piedmont.

We tasted an amarone from the Veneto, a barolo from Piedmont and a chianti classico from Tuscany. These wines represent some of the best efforts from producers in each region and are iconic in their own right. They are from indigenous grapes and grown on historical vineyard land and vinified using traditional techniques modified by modern science to capture the essence of each region.

We also tasted two other red wines from less prominent Italian areas that we included in our tasting to showcase these lesser-known regions.

The first of these was the Torrevento Infinitum Primitivo Puglia IGT 2020 ($15-20). Made from the tannic, intensely flavored primitivo grape, this wine is built for bold cuisine. Depending on the source, the primitivo grape is either the same or an intimate relative of the zinfandel grape. Primitivo has found a home in the Puglia region of Italy between the Apennine Mountains to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east on the lower boot of Italy.

This example exhibited grapey, intense black cherry notes with a spicy finish. Not overly complicated, this wine is a winner and an outstanding value.

We also sampled Nestore Bosco Pan Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2017 ($20-25) crafted from the montepulciano grape and made in Abruzzo just a bit north of Puglia on the Adriatic Coast. This example was a significant departure from the fresh, fruity exuberance of the primitivo. Dried cherry notes with leather accents dominated this classic Italian wine.

The most widely recognized red wine from Italy is certainly chianti or its upgraded brother chianti classico from Tuscany, both crafted from the indigenous sangiovese grape.

Our example was the Castelli Del Grevepesa Clementine VII Chianti Classico 2018 ($20-25). Castelli Del Grevepesa is the largest wine cooperative producing chianti classico wines from more than 120 grape growers.


This very drinkable wine exhibited notes of cherries, plums a hint of leather and vanilla. A very nice approachable example of the appellation that is fairly-priced.

Bertani is justifiably lauded for their Amarone Della Valpolicella, the epitome of quality from Valpolicella. The Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2011 ($125-140) is crafted from the corvina and rondinella grapes that are dried on mats for 120 days to reduce moisture content and concentrate flavors. The resulting wine carries a substantial 15 percent alcohol content. Dried cherries and berry notes are present in a warm smooth silky robe that is a delight to drink.

Pio Cesare is a superstar in Piedmont. Its barolos and barbarescos are sought by consumers and collectors.

We tasted the Pio Cesare Barolo 2017 ($70-85). Berry and black cherry fruit are accented by tar and rose notes that frame a delightful drink. This wine can be sampled now or enjoyed over the next 10 years.

Here are some other Italian wines made from indigenous grape varieties:

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($33). This sangiovese from a classic vintage brings respect to chianti. Balanced, delicious with layers of spicy aromas and juicy red fruit flavors.


Perla Terra Barolo 2018 ($40). Reasonably priced for wines from this neck of the woods, the Perla Terra’s light color is deceiving. After it is open for a while, it demonstrates some nice depth and length. Ready to drink, it has cherry flavors with hints of licorice, tobacco and leather.

Garofoli Supera Verdicchio di Matelica DOC 2021 ($16). Verdicchio is one of the under-the-radar wines that we love to introduce to friends. From the Marche region, Supera is the family’s first verdicchio DOC wine from the Matelica Valley. Orange zest and almond aromas are followed by bosc pear and herbal flavors.

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La Valentina Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2021 ($18). Pecorino is more than cheese. It’s a grape that does well in high rocky slopes of Abruzzo. This one has round and generous pear notes. It ages on the lees for two months and spends more time in stainless steel and bottle.

Alois Lageder “Versalto” Pinot Bianco Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2020 ($18). We loved this wine from Alto Adige where pinot bianco has been grown since the mid-19th century. Expressive mineral and lemon aromas with lingering peach and apple flavors. Low in alcohol (11.5 percent) it can be poured to a crowd.

Inama Carbonare Soave Classico DOC 2020 ($30). Soave can be very boring and one-dimensional, but this one from Inama is an exception. From Veneto region, old-vine garganega is native to the area. Big citrus and stone fruit notes with balanced acidity, a mineral thread and a bright finish.

Passione Sentimento Bianco Veneto IGT 2019 ($16). Citrus, apricot notes with a round finish. It is made from garganega grapes.


Wine picks

Decoy Chardonnay 2021 ($20). Clean, medium bodied with little oak interference, this simple chardonnay is a great value. Apple and peach notes with a brush of vanilla and creamy mouthfeel.

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($16). From Chile’s Leyda Valley, this beautifully textured sauvignon blanc exudes citrus and floral aromas. Brisk acidity and grapefruit, citrus flavors with a touch of minerality.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at They can be reached at