Take a tour of Italian wines in the month known for love

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It’s love!

The thing about wine and Italian food is united, it’s bliss. Wine and food go together so well, it’s love!

Italian wines have a diversity of styles, many, many indigenous grape varieties that suit the food and most are good value for money. Romantic candlelight dinners are a happy part of the package along with Italian wines.

The 20 Italian wine regions are distinct, diverse and, therefore, complex. All but three regions border one sea or another – the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and the Tyrrhenian. From the top of the boot near the Alps to the dip in the Mediterranean Sea, each region of the country produces its own wine from grapes that have been growing there for centuries.

Tuscany is the best-known wine region where Chianti (Key-an-tee), Brunello (Brew-nel-low) di Montalcino (Mon-tal-chee-no) and Vino Nobile (no-bee-lay) from Montepulciano (Mon-tay-pull-chee-a-no) are made from the Sangiovese (San-gee-oh-vay-say) grape. Indeed, 64% of the vines planted in Tuscany are Sangiovese.

The 350 officially recognized grape varieties and strict regulations make Italian wines even more complicated. We are going to explore some of the lesser known grapes here.

As for the regulations, here is the translation of some of the most significant words on the label:

There are strict regulations for the production of a wine which must be DOCG or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the top classification for Italian wines. This includes which grapes can be grown, where and how long the wines should be aged.

Less strict DOC or Denominazione di Origine Controllata wines have rules but are less strict than DOCG.

And then there is IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica. First designated in 1992, this classification allows winemakers to use grapes and craft styles not permitted by DOC and DOCG regulations. These wines are very often very good deals.

The Riservas are wines aged longer than usual depending on the region.

Superiore is a higher quality appellation, next to the regional name.

Classico is a wine from an area within a region (Chianti Classico). It is considered the original and oldest area of ​​a region.

A few of the lesser known wine regions – Abruzzo, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Molise and Veneto produce delicious wines and cuisine to explore. So here are a few Italian wines 101.

The Abruzzo wine region is located on the calf of Italy’s boot. Mountainous on its western edge, it overlooks the Adriatic Sea to the east. On its southern border is the wine region of Molise with Marche to the north and Lazio to the west.

Montepulciano is the fifth most planted red grape variety in Italy. In Abruzzo it is the main grape variety for DOC wine, producing dark colored wine with low acidity and high value. It’s your everyday pizza, lasagna or spaghetti with red dago meatballs.

The Campania wine region surrounds Naples and looks west over the blue Tyrrhenian Sea. First colonized by the Greeks and then the Romans, this fertile valley is home to the Amalfi Coast, Vesuvius and the island of Capri.

Here the vines are planted with red Aglianico (Al-ee-ah-nee-co) and white Falanghina (Fal-an-ghee-nah), Malvasia (Mal-vay-see-a) and Fiano (Fee- a-no). Whites are crisp with acidity and pair naturally well with many fish dishes.

Aglianico, like Nebbiolo, takes its time to age. A 10-year-old Aglianico would be heaven for a rich dish of osso bucco, sage-scented cannellini or roasted Portobello mushrooms.

Emilia-Romagna (Ro-mawn-ya) is another fertile wine region in central Italy. Here, the ubiquitous Lambrusco is made. Both a red grape variety and the name of the wine made with this grape variety, this wine benefits from DOC status. The grape has a long history dating back to the Etruscans and Romans. It was highly valued for its productivity and high yields.

Today’s Lambrusco has shed the ignominy of its cheap predecessors. Thanks in part to new independent winemakers who have embraced modern techniques and styles. No longer overly sweet, Lambrusco is now fermented in a crimson, frothy, totally dry style.

Emilia-Romagna, the breadbasket of Italy, is the homeland of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. A dry Lambrusco goes well with an antipasto platter of salami, prosciutto, bologna and bresaola. It’s also good with pizza!

Liguria is an Italian wine region located in northwestern Italy along the Italian Riviera. It’s a long, narrow coastline, around the Gulf of Genoa, with a mild climate, picturesque landscapes and some of the most obscure Italian grape varieties you’ve ever heard of.

Liguria has several DOC regions, which produce fresh and light white wines from grape varieties such as Albarola, Bianchetta, Bosco, Moscato, Pigato, Trebbiano and Vermentino. These wines pair well with local seafood dishes prepared with any combination of anchovies, calamari, eel, lobster, mackerel, octopus, tuna and/or whitefish.

The Veneto region stretches north and west from the city of Venice on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most productive wine regions in Italy and best known for Prosecco. Made primarily from a grape called Glera, there are boatloads of Prosecco available today, but look for the best from a hilltop region called Valdobbiadene (Val-doh-bee-ah-dee- nee), if you want to impress or take it to a new level.

In the cooler climate near the Alps, Veneto produces a crisp white wine Soave (So-a-veh), made from the Gargenega (Gar-gen-eh-ga) grape. Soave Classico is the quintessential seafood wine, crisp, lean and dry, it pairs well with rich seafood dishes or chicken parmigiana.

Closer to the Adriatic Sea, notable reds from this region are Valpolicella (Val-pol-ee-chela) and Bardolino (Bar-do-lee-no). By law, Valpolicella is produced from Corvina (Cor-vee-nah), Rondinella (Ron-di-nell-ah) and Molinara (Mol-ee-nair-ah) grapes. Valpolicella comes in several interpretations where Corvina is the main grape for Valpolicella quality, and for Valpolicella Ripasso (Ree-pas-so), Amarone (Am-ah-row-nee) della Valpolicella, and the most delicious dessert wine Recioto (Rah- cho-toe) della Valpolicella.

With the exception of Recioto, pair a delicious Amarone or Ripasso with lamb stew, braised ribs or mushroom risotto. For the Recioto, chocolate cake is the ultimate pairing.

Enjoy your lunch !

Mary Earl has been educating Kitsap wine lovers for a few decades, is a longtime member of the West Sound Brew Club, and can pair a beer or dinner with wine in a snap. She volunteers for the Clear Creek Trail, is a member of the Central Kitsap Community Council and a long-time supporter of Silverdale.

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