From the Dolomites in the north east to Calabria at the toe, Italy produces world class and world-famous wines from each one of its regions. Many, like Barolo from Piedmont or Soave from Veneto, need little introduction, but there are dozens more grape varieties and styles from up-and-down this rich country that deserve just as much attention.
Here we take a look – from top to toe – at 10 outstanding Italian wine producers.
Region: Alto Adige
A beautiful winery making beautiful wines. Tramin is one of Italy’s oldest and most respected cooperatives. They have won the ‘three glasses’ award 25 times in the Gambero Rosso making them one of Italy’s most decorated wineries. They make authentic wines that fully express the area, produced from grapes grown by 270 vine growers. What strikes us about the wines is the stunning balance between the purity of fruit and the underlying flavours which stay on the palate.
Winery: Michele Chiarlo
Michele Chiarlo is one of Piedmont’s truly great winemakers. The family owns 60 hectares of vineyards in three of the classic growing areas – Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi – and also have access to another 50 hectares through their long-term relationship with growers. Michele has insisted on quality of fruit above all else since his first vintage in 1956, an ethos which his sons Stefano and Alberto adopt today. The Chiarlo style is highly elegant, they make complex wines that can age for decades but above all reflect their provenance, as well as some of the finest vineyard sites in Piedmont.
Ca’Rugate is one of the most highly-awarded producers in Italy, winning numerous ‘Tre Bicchieri’ gongs. It is also ranked by the New York Times as one of the ‘Top five producers of Soave’ in the world. Wine production at the estate began on a very small scale in the early 1900s when Amedeo Tessari, an innkeeper owning a few plots of vines in Soave area, began making his own wine. The Ca’Rugate vineyards now cover 58 hectares, more than half of which are located within the commune of Montecchia di Crosara in Valpolicella. Its Soaves, Amarones and Valpolicellas are all exceptional and demonstrate classic winemaking with a truly modern twist.
Winery: Umberto Cesari
Umberto Cesari, a life spent in the service of Sangiovese. Umberto built his winery from scratch in 1967 – and set out to make the best possible Sangiovese he could. From those initial 20 hectares in the hills of Castel SanPietro, Cesari has become a pioneer of quality in the Emilia-Romagna and gained international recognition due to his commitment and passion. The winery wins numerous of accolades every year and the quality of their wines is phenomenal.
Winery: Castello Vicchiomaggio
The historical origins of Castello Vicchiomaggio can be traced back to the 5th century. The present owners, the Matta family, acquired the property in 1964 and restored it back to its former splendour. The estate is one of the largest in the area with 32 hectares dedicated to vines. Castello Vicchiomaggio produces several styles of wine, from the traditional to the innovative; in order to achieve this, the estate has been carefully classified according to its soil type and exposure. All production and winemaking is supervised by John Matta, and John’s wines are elegant, perfumed, stylish and beautifully balanced. These wines truly show off the Sangiovese grape at its best. Vicchiomaggio is consistently classified amongst Italy’s top estates and John Matta has been named IWSC Italian Winemaker of the Year four times in the last 15 years.
In 1990 Andrea Crocenzi purchased the centuries-old, 40 hectare Fattoria Laila situated in the Cesano Valley of the Marche overlooking the Adriatic Sea on the east coast of Italy. He invested heavily in improving vineyard planting and, together with Oenologist Lorenzo Landi, turned them into one of the most innovative wineries of the Marche, producing wines under the Libenzi label. This is definitely a winery to watch for the future.
Winery: Valle Reale
This is a young winery and it is already making headlines. It is situated in the rugged and beautiful Canestro Valley in the Majella National Park, a stunning area with bears and wolves often sighted in and around the vineyards. This is the only winery in any National Park in Italy and the wines must be produced with absolute respect for nature. Already regarded as one of the best wineries in Italy, this approach is clearly working.
Winery: Feudi Di San Gregorio
One of the main protagonists in the renaissance of southern Italian wines, Feudi di San Gregorio has carved out a reputation for making truly world-class wines in less than 30 years. Feudi began making wine in the mid-1980s with the aim of safeguarding local traditions, unlocking the potential of key indigenous grapes (Fiano, Greco, Falanghina, Aglianico) and rediscovering less planted grapes such as Syrica. They have truly succeeded at this and produce some of the finest and most interesting wines in Italy and beyond.
Winery: Cantine San Marzano
In 1962 19 vine growers from San Marzano combined their efforts to establish ‘Cantine San Marzano’ – over the years the cooperative has grown significantly and is now comprised of over 1,200 vine growers. They are one of the most professional, forward-thinking companies in southern Italy, with a reputation for producing great wines. Passion is at the heart of all they do, and it is this approach that ensures wonderfully crisp, refreshing white wines and elegant, fruity, well-structured reds that express the character of this fertile and ancient terroir.
Winery: Poderi Parpinello
The Parpinello family has run its 15-hectares of vineyard with passion for three generations. Giampaolo Parpinello’s and his son Paolo’s aim is to maintain the respect for the typicity of the wines from the Sardinian terroir. Modern methods of cultivation go hand-in-hand with a reverence for tradition and consideration to the ecosystem. Unquestionably the most important factor in the success of these wines is the creativity, passion and experience of Giampaolo.
Hallgarten is sponsor of the Scottish Italian Awards 2015, for more info visit: www.italianawards.co.uk