Italy is one of the oldest and largest wine producing regions in the world. Grapes have been grown for purposes of producing wines in Italy for at least 3,000 years and today wines are produced in every one of Italy’s 20 regions.
Italian wines today are celebrated for both their quality and variety. Some wines like Amarone della Valpolicella, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino and Passito di Pantelleria are prized by wine enthusiasts around the world. Other wines like Prosecco, Chianti and Pinot Grigio may lack the quality credentials of the other wines but they nonetheless are extremely popular and enjoyed around the world.
Since Italy has an astonishing array of grape varieties and wine styles it can make the task of selecting the best wines of Italy a daunting task. Despite the challenges, it’s both interesting and worthwhile to try to identify what wines are really the best among the many that Italy produces.
Since there are a lot of really good wines in Italy from which to choose, I had to put a cap on the number of wines selected and limited the number to 40. Since Italy produces a lot really good wines the competition for a spot on this list of 40 is really tough. There were no set, formal criteria to the selection process other than my own sense of quality: these are the wines that have most impressed me at various tastings over time and that consistently garner high praise from both wine cognoscenti and wine rating organizations.
The wines could be red or white, dry or sweet and price was not a consideration. While many of the wines selected bear price tags well into the triple digits, they are not necessarily Italy’s most expensive wines. I tried to include only those wines that consistently express all that is great about Italian wine and winemaking regardless of price.
With few exceptions, the wines selected are ready to drink now but almost all, and most certainly the red wines, will improve over time with some additional bottle age. While the following table indicates a specific vintage for pricing purposes, specific vintages are not crucial. While the wines may evidence nuanced differences in character from year to year, they typically will be of consistently of high quality from one year to the next.
While I did try to achieve some regional diversity in the wines selected, certain wine producing areas are more prominently featured in the selections than other regions. While more than half of Italy’s 20 regions are represented in the listing of Italy’s top 40 wines, almost half (19) of the wines selected are from two regions – Tuscany and Piedmont. Primarily because of the inclusion of many super-Tuscan wines, Tuscany itself accounts for over one-third of the total.
So here they are, my picks for the forty best wines of Italy. The wines are listed alphabetically by wine name.
March 15, 2015
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