The Best Regional Wines of Northern Italy

Dall'Uva helps you unlock the secret to good Vino ItalianoWelcome to our second episode of the Dall’Uva “Tasting Notes” Podcast!

Today’s Podcast is the first in a 3-part series where Sommelier Michael Horne unlocks the secret to selecting good Vino Italiano, with an opinionated (but thoughtful) tour of the most popular  Italian regional wines, from top to bottom along the Italian peninsula.

Pour a glass of vino, kick back and join us for today’s Podcast, and be sure to subscribe to our Wine Journal for Michael’s latest recommendations in Italian wine, food and travel.

Tasting Notes Podcast:
The Best Regional Wines of Northern Italy

Episode: 2
Host: Michael Horne
Target Audience: Curious
Enthusiast – Wine Geek
Duration: 8 minutes
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Transcript of this Tasting Notes Podcast

*sniff sniff* -- you smell that? Yours truly checking out new vinoCiao, this is Michael Horne and welcome to Dall’Uva Tasting Notes. I’m your personal Sommelier for today, and in each episode we serve up some interesting stories, news and recommendations on Italian wines, food and travel.

Today we’re exploring the most popular Italian wine making regions and the grape varietals grown there.

I’ll give you some of my current vino recommendations that you can pick up at your local wine shop or online, wines that really show off what the popular wine-making regions can do.

Since there are so many great wine making regions in Italy, I’m going to break this into a 3-part series. In Part 1 we’re going to explore the Northern Italian wine making regions.  In Part 2 we explore Central Italy, and in Part 3 we’ll cover the South.

In each Part, I’ll tell you about 3 distinctive Italian regional wines that you can easily find in wine shops and restaurants.

This is a pretty opinionated list, and I’m sure some of you listening may know of other wines that you love and think should be included here. If you want to share your recommendations with other listeners, please do — just leave them in the comment section below or on our Facebook or Twitter pages

Don’t worry about writing all of this down, you can find a transcript of this podcast in our Wine Journal blog on dalluva.com, with links to where you can locate the wines and references I mention here.

OK, let’s jump right in with the wines of Northern Italy.

Wines of Northern Italy

Barolo Wines

Piemonte is the land of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera winesHands down, the most respected and elegant wines of Italy are in the Northwest corner, near France, in the region of Piemonte. Here you will find powerful red wines from the town and appellation of Barolo.

Barolo wines are classed as DOCG (what does DOCG mean?), and are made from the Nebbiolo grape. Each Barolo wine produced in the area has characteristics and nuances that are unique to the vineyard soils, the micro-climate and the winemaker, but most show very pleasant scents of tar and roses, with herbs and violets, raspberry and tobacco on the nose and palate as they age. Some of these wines can be tannic monsters when they’re young, so you’ll find most Barolo wines are best after some aging, even 7-10 years or more before they start to really come into their own.  If you’re building a wine collection, the classic wines of Barolo are great candidates for long term aging.

There are also many "new school" producers making Barolo in a more international style, most of which don’t require as much aging and can be enjoyed younger. Some of the best Barolo producers can also be the most expensive wines in Italy.

Fratelli Seghesio Barolo La Villa 2007The classic, old-school producers like Angelo Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, and Giacomo Conterno are a couple of the real biggies.  Of the new school Barolo producers, Scavino, Cerretto, and Silvio Grasso are making some blockbuster wines that you can start enjoying 5 years off the vine.

If you’re just starting to explore Barolo wines, you can check out some smaller producers that are putting out some fantastic wines at very reasonable prices. One of my favorites is Fratelli Seghesio, (sorry, they don’t have a website) where brothers Aldo and Riccardo produce their more modern-styled Barolo La Villa. The 2007 La Villa is a great vintage to explore, and it’s running about 40 to 50 bucks on the street today — it’s really an outstanding value for what you get in the glass.

Check out our Wine Journal blog on dalluva.com for links to where you can find and buy Seghesio La Villa online.

Where to find Seghesio Barolo La Villa 2007 online:
Barbaresco Wines

There are other wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape in Piemonte, like Barbaresco and Gattinara — both are more reasonably priced than most Barolo wines.

There are some excellent Barbaresco wines at fair prices being produced by a local Cooperative of Barbaresco producers in the town of Barbaresco. They produce a number of wines under the label of Produttori del Barbaresco, with most of them running 25 to 50 bucks, and you can’t wrong with their base Barbaresco DOCG wine — I like the 2006, but if you can find any vintage from 2003 through 2007, you won’t be disappointed.  They’re probably going to run you somewhere between $25 and $35.

My favorite Produttori wine - Montestefano Riserva 2005If you’re willing to spend a few more bucks, check out my current favorite, the 2005 vintage of their Montestefano Riserva, one of several highly localized bottlings that they produce each year from specific vineyards around the town of Barbaresco. You could spend months exploring all of the Produttori wines and vintages, without breaking the bank.

Where to find Produttori del Barbaresco wines online:
  • Pastaworks (Oregon)
    • NB: Peter & Kevin de Garmo at Pastaworks are huge fans of the Produttori wines and are well connected to the Cooperativo – I buy my personal stash of Barbaresco wines from them.
  • Zachy’s Wines (New York City)
Friuli is the land of mono-varietal wines like Pinot GrigioPinot Grigio Wines

OK, let’s move over towards Venice, near the border with Slovenia where you’ll find another big Italy favorite, the Pinot Grigio wines produced in the region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia. I’m willing to bet that if you’ve had an Italian Pinot Grigio, it’s probably been from Friuli. These wines are hugely popular in the States, and I have to admit that most Italian Pinot Grigio wines haven’t really impressed me — until I discovered the wines of Russiz Superiore.

Russiz produces wines in the DOC zone of Collio Goriziano, or what is usually nicknamed "Collio." The Collio DOC zone is best known for in purezza wines, meaning wines made purely (100%) from a single grape varietal.

Russiz makes over a dozen wines, and many of them are quite nice, but I recommend that you check out their Pinot Grigio 2009.  This wine really shows off what the Collio region can do with the Pinot Grigio grape, and is probably one of the best examples of Italian Pinot Grigio wine that you’re going to find.

Russiz Pinot Grigio -- very tastyTake a sniff of this wine and you will find young red apples, bosc pears and carnation flowers, they just immediately hit you. When you take a sip, all of that fruit and floral notes come through, plus you’ll find honeydew melon and tart lime that is quite pleasant for enjoying with lighter food fare.

You can find the Russiz Pinot Grigio 2009 in the stores for about 20 to 25 bucks a bottle, and I have placed some links on the website so you can find it online.

Where to find Russiz Pinot Grigio 2009 online:

One thing you should know about Italian Pinot Grigio wines — these wines are really meant to be drank young.

With very few exceptions, you should be looking for wines produced within the last 2 or 3 years, and most of these wines really peak in the first year after release. If you find an older Pinot Grigio in the store or restaurant, say one that’s 3 to 5 years old, I suggest you skip it and keep looking for the latest release.

Podcast Wrap-Up

Okay, that’s it for Part 1 of our 3-part series on Italy’s best regional wines.  I encourage you to head to your local wine shop and pick up a bottle or two of the Barolo, Barbaresco and Pinot Grigio wines I’ve recommended, and start exploring the scents and flavors of Italy’s most popular wines.

In our next episode of Dall’Uva Tasting Notes, I’ll take you on a tour of the most popular wines from Central Italy.  We’ll explore the wines from Tuscan hilltowns, and I’ll give you some wine recommendations for Brunello, Vino Nobile, and good ol’ Chianti Classico.

I’m Michael Horne with Dall’Uva, and thanks for listening.

Ciao!


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One Response to “The Best Regional Wines of Northern Italy”

  1. Michael Horne 26 Jul 12 at 7:37 AM #

    Ciao Tutti — Eric Asimov of “The Pour” in the New York Times just published a great list of wines under 20 bucks.

    Two of his favs comes from Piemonte, and are worth checking out:

    Burlotto Langhe Freisa 2010, about $18:The Piedmont region of northwestern Italy is best known for its nebbiolos and barberas, but oddball grapes like the freisa lurk there as well. Burlotto makes excellent Barolos, yet its 2010 Langhe freisa is fascinating. It’s reminiscent of nebbiolo with its combination of textural lightness, firm tannins and deep flavors, and if it is maybe more Naugahyde than leather, it’s perfect for burgers and sausages off the grill. It might even benefit from another year of aging.

    Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, about $15:Produttori del Barbaresco is one of the world’s finest wine co-ops, offering great values throughout its range. The Langhe nebbiolo is generally made from the grapes of young vines, or grapes that for one reason or another don’t go into the Barbarescos. This is a lighter gauge than a true Barbaresco but still offers all the classic leather, floral and red fruit flavors.

    Check out the full list here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/07/25/dining/20120725-twentywines.html

    And the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/dining/reviews/wines-sweet-spot-is-a-20-bill-the-pour.html?_r=0

    Ciao
    — Michael

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