Italian Red Wine for beginners and where to buy in Australia
Wine Importer | Wine List Consultant | Speaker
So, you’ve started drinking red wine hey? You have been exploring the world of Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinot Noir and you are able to hold a conversation about them but when someone mentions Chianti, Barolo, Primitivo, Negroamaro or Nero d’Avola, you freeze because you have no idea what they are saying or what language they are speaking.
Welcome to the world of Italian Red Wine.
Over 3000 wines are grown in Italy. 1300 of them are native varietals. It’s impossible to know them all or to understand them all but this guide will help you hold a conversation pretty easily with the mainstream wine drinkers.
Firstly, with Italian wine, most of the grape names are phonetic. Say something exactly as it looks while remembering CH makes a Ci sound and Ci makes a Ch sound. Therefore, Chianti sounds like “Kee-Aunty” and Montepulciano sounds like ‘Mon-tea-pull-chi-ano”. Remember your phonetics when reading and saying Italian Wine Names.
Secondly, it is important to know the different regions and the grapes the region is famous for. For example, Tuscany is to Sangiovese, what Barossa is to Shiraz. It is what they do best. However; once you are in Tuscany, there are so many names for Sangiovese that it is hard to know what is what. Most of the time, the province the wine is grown in will take on a different name. E.g. Sangiovese in the town of Montepulciano is called Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Sangiovese in Montalcino is called Brunello di Montalcino. In the same vein, Nebbiolo from Piedmonte is called Barolo or Barbaresco based on the town it actually comes from rather than the grape.
In saying that, north of Italy has a cool climate and is famous for aromatic but crisp and dry white wines and soft reds like Nebbiolo. As we travel south, the temperature gets warmer and so do the wines. By the time we reach Sicily or Puglia, you can get some gutsy reds like Nero d’Avola and Primitivo as well as negroamaro. These reds can be big, fruit driven and even quite oaky, a lot of them can be laid down for years before consumption.
The most important thing to remember about Italian red wines are that they are made to be drunk with food. You can expect these wines to be high in acid (mouthwatering) and tannin (the drying sensation when you drink) to complement the food of Italy which includes a lot of fat and acid (think veal saltimbocca). A lot of Italian red wines, particularly those from Tuscany, are really easy to drink and great with food, well balanced and not too much fruit or oak.
Note, Italian Reds are a lot softer (and usually lower in alcohol) than Australian Red Wines. Less headaches less hangovers maybe? *do not take this as fact*
I also highly recommend trying Italian Reds with pasta, pizza and red meats.
So there you have it, a little guide to Italian Red Wine. The best place to start is to try a Sensi “Collezione” Mixed Red Pack from our website which highlights the most popular grape varieties from all over Italy. If you want to take it slow and try Sangiovese from all parts of Tuscany, try our Shades of Sangiovese pack or head to a store like Amato’s in Leichardht and have some fun exploring Italian wines from all over the country. Amazing spot! Enjoy!
Receive a case of our most popular red wines!
Sensi “Collezione” Mixed Red Pack
2 x Sensi "Collezione" Chianti DOCG
2 x Sensi "Collezione" Primitivo IGT
2 x Sensi "Collezione" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG
2 x Sensi "Collezione" Sangiovese IGT
2 x Sensi "Collezione" Nero D'Avola IGT
2 x Sensi Negroamero Puglia IGT