Piedmont (Bruno Giacosa, Coppo, Quorum)
Primary grape varieties: (w) Arneis, Cortese, Moscato; (r) Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo
Piedmont, meaning "foot of the mountain", is Italy's westernmost region, sharing a border with Switzerland and France. For craftsmanship, respect for tradition and devotion to native vines in their historical habitats, the Piedmontese have no rivals in Italy. Nebbiolo reaches its highest level of expression in Barolo and Barbaresco, while other indigenous grape varieties, such as Dolcetto and Barbera, offer exceptional quality but more readily accessible wines. Although its sweet bubbly Asti has given the region popular recognition, it is Piedmont's red wines that explain why it is often referred to as Italy's answer to Burgundy- scholarly, insular and abounding in single vineyard cru bottlings. Piedmont has the most DOC/DOCG zones with 52 and stands proud as the region with the largest percentage of its wines officially classified. It has no IGT.
Tuscany (Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, Masseto, Luce della Vite, Ornellaia)
Primary grape varieties: (w)Trebbiano, Vernaccia; (r) Sangiovese
Tuscany is the best-known Italian wine region, blessed by a landscape of undulating hills, relatively high altitudes and a temperate climate. Historically known for its popular Chianti in straw-covered flasks, Tuscan viniculture is still dominated by Chianti, but the zones around Montepulciano, Montalcino and Bolgheri receive notable international recognition with their production of some of the most esteemed and expensive red wines of Italy. Sangiovese is at the heart of these wines, and when cultivated with low yields, it produces a wine with great concentration of color and flavor. The emergence of "Super Tuscans", wines that blend Sangiovese with such international varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, has elevated the international recognition of Tuscany and created an exclusive and expensive class of wines adored by critics and collectors alike.
Umbria (Arnaldo Caprai)
Primary grape varieties: (w) Grechetto, Trebbiano; (r) Sagrantino, Sangiovese
The winemaking industry in Umbria is relatively new with eight of the 13 DOC(G) zones created after 1980. Traditionally known for a sweet white wine from Orvieto, Umbria is drawing international recognition for the rich, spicy and full-bodied Sagrantino de Montefalco, elevated to DOCG status in 1992. Sagrantino is a rare grape, with approximately 400 acres known to exist, and the wine it produces is dense, tannic and with an incredible aging potential.
Primary grape varieties: (w) Catarratto, Inzolia, Malvasia, Zibibbo; (r) Nero d'Avola
Sicily is a true melting pot of every great civilization of the Mediterranean — Greek and Roman, Arab and Norman, and French, Spanish and Italian. This rich history has influenced both the cuisine and wine culture of the largest island in the Mediterranean. Indigenous varieties and wine styles abound from age-worthy passito wines of Pantelleria and the sweet amber Marsala to deep, dark reds made primarily from the Nero d'Avola grape. Sicily has more vineyards than any other Italian region, and while the island was historically known for large cooperatives churning out quantities of wine, there has been a notable shift to progressive grape growing and winemaking methods, smaller production and an emphasis on quality. This change has simply reinforced the natural bounty of Sicily and its ideal climate of sun-filled, hot, dry weather for growing premium wine grapes.
Veneto (Villa Sandi)
Primary grape varieties: (w) Garganega, Trebbiano, Prosecco; (r) Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella
Veneto, where small independent wineries coexist with some of the biggest commercial producers, is the largest producer of DOC wine and the best known of the Tre Venezie region. Internationally recognized for Soave and Valpolicella, it is also famous for its Amarone wines. The main grapes from the region include Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave, traditionally used to produce Soave, and Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella, used in Valpolicella. The wines are crafted in a hierarchy of styles from crisp, cherry-red Valpolicella made from "fresh" grapes to sweet Recioto and dry Amarone, wines made from grapes left to dry on straw mats to concentrate their sugar and fruit extract (a process known as appassimento). The region is also home to Veneto's most celebratory wine, Prosecco, one of Italy's most popular sumantes. Made from the Glera grape using the Charmat process, these dry sparklers are highly aromatic and offer a softer, fruitier style to champagne.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Attems, Danzante)
Primary grape varieties: (w) Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco; (r) Merlot, Cabernet, Refosco
Italy's northeast corner is known for setting the trends with modern Italian white wine. It is bordered by Austria and Slovenia and the northern Adriatic Sea, a geographical position that ensures interplay of cool Alpine breezes and warm Adriatic currents to help grapes mature slowly and evenly. Drawing from a selection of native varieties and international grapes, Friuli white wines are distinctive for either an extreme fresh and bright style, or a minimal intervention approach resulting in wines with rich, complex characters.