Little-known Italian wines and wine-growing areas that deserve your attention and more Latest news here

As Italy’s wine industry is largely defined by native grape varieties, the country’s most important wines are all about distinction. Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany is 100% Sangiovese, Barolo and Barbaresco are produced exclusively from Nebbiolo in Piedmont, while Soave, the famous Venetian white, is made mainly from Garganega.

These are some of the most well-known Italian wines, but there are hundreds of others that are also singular, but rarely get much attention. Here are four wines and one wine-growing area – which are particularly special, ranging from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (often referred to simply as Friuli) in the far northeast to Campania in the southwest of the country.

Carso – Carso – known as Karst in the local dialect – is a small wine district in Friuli that breaks the mould, so to speak, as there are three main wines – two whites, one red – produced here which are among the most distinctive of all Italy. If you haven’t heard of Carso or don’t know where it is, don’t feel bad, because even some Italians don’t know about this area. It is the southeastern part of Friuli which juts out into the Gulf of Trieste; it’s easy to see on a map of Italy, as it looks a bit like a pinky finger sticking out of Friuli.

Carso is actually a plateau; the name Karst describes a specific topography of a dissolution of soluble rocks such as dolomite and limestone. Thus Carso is known for its underground cellars, and wine producers there generally raise their wines in deep and quite cold underground cellars; on a summer visit several years ago, I had to wear a jacket to ward off the cold deep in the cellar.

Carso is an ideal growing area for cool climate varieties; here the producers specialize in Malvasia and Vitovska for the white, Terrano being the main red variety. Malvasia and Vitovska have a naturally high acidity, which means these wines can age for many years, ten to twenty years, depending on the quality of the vintage. Local producers tend to give these two wines long skin contact to extract not only more complexity, but also deeper color; many examples have an orange tint. The best ones are dry and display a lovely texture and complexity, and while they are fascinating to eat on their own, they also pair well with sushi, Thai and Chinese dishes, or any fusion cuisine.

Terrano, Carso’s main red, is a delight, with bright, juicy plum flavors and moderate tannins; it is a red that is often tasted slightly chilled; pair Terrano with a variety of foods from prosciutto to lighter game birds; it is best enjoyed within four to five years of the vintage.

The best producers include Skerlj (their Malvasia 2018 is exceptional and a great example of this type of wine), Zidarich, Vodopivec and Sark.

Lacrima of Morro d’Alba If you think the wines of Carso are not well known, consider Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. First, there is probably confusion with the name of the wine. Lacrima, the name of the grape variety, which means “tears”, is also the name of three different wines – red, white and rosato – from Campania; these wines are known as Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio. So the word Alba could be confused with the town of Alba in Piedmont; however, this wine comes from the town of Morro d’Alba in Le Marche, about 15 miles west of Ancona.

Now that we have it all figured out, let’s talk about the wine, which is a lovely medium-bodied red with bright cherry and strawberry notes; in many examples there is an appealing note of nutmeg along with other tantalizing spices. Tannins are moderate and there is good natural acidity; pair it with many types of pasta, while eggplant or even pizza would be a great pairing; taste Lacrima di Morro d’Alba no more than four to five years after the vintage date in most cases.

Major producers include: Velenosi, Mario Luchetti, Vicar and Umani Ronchi.

Coda di Volpe – Irpinia in the Campania region is home to two of the most famous white wines in all of Italy, namely Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. But another Irpinia white, Coda di Volpe, is also very intriguing. The wine and the name of the grape variety, Coda di Volpe, are the same; the term means “fox tail”, because the clusters of grape clusters resemble this shape. While Coda di Volpe generally lacks the complexity and texture of Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino, a handful of producers craft excellent versions. Medium-bodied, Coda di Volpe wines typically offer aromas of citrus, melon and yellow flowers, while top wines like Vadiaperti’s “Torama” or Terredora di Paolo “Le Starse” display scents of jasmine. , quince and chamomile, and are structured for longer aging potential than the typical offering. Enjoy Coda di Volpe with most seafood; wine tends to be at its best within four to five years of vintage; the best examples can be enjoyed for a decade or more.

Major producers include: vadiaperti (also known as Traerte), Terredora by Paolo, Tenuta Cavalier Pepe and Fiorentino.

Grignolino – The The Piedmont region is famous for its powerful reds such as Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as Barbera, the most planted red grape in the region, as well as Dolcetto, a charming fruity red intended to be drunk early in most cases. But there are also other individualistic reds in the region; one of my favorites is Grignolino.

Grignolino (pronounced green-nyo-leen-o) is named for the seeds (nibbles); the grape contains about three times more seeds than Barbera, Dolcetto or Nebbiolo. Although the grape is rather tannic, the producers take care to give the wine a minimum of contact with the skin to attenuate the tannins; this in turn gives a red wine with a very light red color, almost pink, somewhat resembling a rosé.

This gives the wine instant appeal, and often the wine is served chilled. Still, there are examples that can drink well after five or seven years, or even later. Two of the best are the “Limonte” from Braida and the Accornero “Bricco del Bosco Vigne Vecchie”; these two wines are perfect with white meats, soups and vegetables; the latter is particularly rich for Grignolino and would work wonderfully with game birds or heartier pastas.

“It’s not the first wine people ask for when they visit Piedmont,” says Raffaella Bologna, co-owner of Braida, located in the province of Asti, “but it’s part of our culture, especially in the Monferrato”.

Major producers include: Braida, Tenuta Garetto, Accornero and Neive Castle.

Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera – This is perhaps the most obscure red wine in all of Italy. First, consider the name – does it even sound Italian? The wine is made in the Lucera region of Puglia, not far from the iconic Castel del Monte. Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera is a blend of Nero di Troia (the grape variety that is believed by many to be the best wines in the region, including myself), Montepulciano and the white Bombino grape. White; other authorized grape varieties are Malvasia, Malvasia Nera and Trebbiano Toscano. Also consider that less than a dozen producers make it, and you have a largely unknown red wine, because it is difficult to find outside its territory.

Medium-bodied, the wine combines the fruitiness and tartness of a Dolcetto with the spice and earthiness of a French Côtes du Rhône; it generally tastes best within four to five years of vintage and pairs perfectly with spicier pastas as well as lighter red meats.

Major producers include: Alberto Longo, Canteen La Marchesa and Agricola Paglione.

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