The Italian Stallions - Big, bold, and Red

Wine Buzz by JoAnn Actis-Grande / January, 2013

Both wine professionals and consumers agree that Italy’s wines are among the world’s finest, especially their big, bold reds. They are wines that exude class, diversity, and style. Italian reds are perfect companions to Italy’s outstanding cuisine and to our delicious Seacoast winter recipes.

With a wine heritage dating back more than 4,000 years, it is no wonder that Italy is one of the largest wine producers in the world. Wine vineyards blanket landscapes all over the country. For wine lovers, this place is not to be missed—good wine is found on every table and around every corner. More than 60 percent of the wine produced is red. Italy produces and exports more red wine than any other country and offers a large variety from which to choose.

Italy is most noted for its noble reds. The most popular are Amarone, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montelcino, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sagrantino, Super Tuscans, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. But there are certainly others produced throughout the various regions—including well-known wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah.

The country’s unique, elongated peninsula lends itself to producing outstanding wine in every region. Abundant Mediterranean sunshine, cool sea breezes, the flow of mountain air, and hillside vineyards make ideal grape-growing conditions for producing full-bodied red wines.

Italy’s 20 wine regions consist of four sections: the south and islands, the central regions, the north central and northwest regions, and the northeast regions. Within each section likenesses exist in terms of climate and geography, as well as grape varieties, vineyard care, and wine-making practices. But distinct flavors and characteristics are found in every section, even as close as neighboring vineyards. This is what makes Italian wines so interesting and tasty.

The most popular bold reds, and the easiest to find, are produced in the regions of Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto. Lately, many other regions are becoming well known for their robust reds. This is the time to discover Italian red wines!

Great choices abound. Selecting the right red can be confusing; here is a helpful list to get you on your way—or ask your favorite local retail wine shop for suggestions on the big, bold, beautiful Italian stallions. Salute!

Wine List

2007 Masi Amarone Costasera Valpo Classico
One of the boldest wines showing a deep dark ruby color. The nose is full of baked fruit, plums, and cherries, also fruity flavors with traces of coffee and cocoa. Perfect with richly seasoned foods, well-aged cheeses, or in place of dessert. Veneto region

2008 Elvio Cogno Cascina Nuova Barolo
Garnet red with an orange glaze color. Scents of wildflowers and light spice lead to flavors of red berries and fresh spices, with a dry and persistent mineral aftertaste. Great companion for braises, roast beef, game, and aged cheeses. Piedmont region

2007 Ceretto Bricco Asili Barbaresco
Elegantly soft and subtle, showing a red orange color with aromas and flavors of violets, wild roses, raspberries, vanilla, and licorice. Pairs well with risotto, hard cheeses, and stews. Piedmont region

2010 Capestrano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Ruby red color with intense aromas and flavors of black cherry, blueberry, plum, carob, and violet. A well-balanced wine with a persistent finish of deep red fruit and walnut. Best served with flavorful pastas, pizzas, cheeses, grills, and roasts. Abruzzo region

2008 Casali di Bibbiano Ginesio Rosso Toscana
This dark inky wine is made mostly from cabernet sauvignon that is well structured with good balance and long-lasting rich flavors of dark fruit. Pair with aged cheeses, cured meats, and steak. Tuscany region

2009 Nicolis ‘Seccal’ Valpolicella Classico
Superiore Ripasso
A complex wine with mouth-watering acidity intertwined with flavors of dark kirsch and ripe fig. The tannins are prominent with hints of warm spice blending seamlessly into the long, smooth finish. Great with veal parmigiana and traditional pasta dishes. Veneto region

2010 Carpineto Chianti Classico
Traditional character of Chianti Classico with a deep garnet color. The aromas and flavors present strong hints of violets and red and black cherry, as well as some cinnamon spice. Silky, smooth, and well rounded. Perfect with antipasti, pizza, and chicken. Tuscany region

2009 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino
The wine displays a brilliant garnet hue, and its bouquet offers scents of vanilla and spice. The flavors are powerful, full of dark berry, plum, leather, and chocolate. Complements mushroom and truffle dishes, beef, and pork roasts. Tuscany region

Photograph: Fabio Berti/