Written by Giulia Minero
Think of autumn, of its typical shades. Fall is red, the colour of passion and warmth… and, yes, we are not referring to leaves but to wine. Indeed, not only red, but a myriad of colours ranging to light yellow to gold.
In this season, harvesting and wine tasting become the absolute protagonist in Italy, starting from the early weeks in September, when top grapes reach the utmost of sweetness and flavour, until mid-November. Italians have a deeply rooted love for the so-called vendemmia, the Italian name for grapes harvesting, which both is a moment of conviviality and the beginning of a complicated, long process culminating in the production of some of the country’s greatest products: top-level wines. Because, it must be said, Italians do love taking their time. Be it chatting, enjoying a romantic dinner with their beloved ones or having a formal meeting, a glass of good wine, with its inebriating notes makes each moment something special.
Analysing all the wine areas in Italy can be quite an engaging and hard task, so our itinerary across the areas considered top-producers for the best labels and wine ‘families’ goes through Norther Italy.
Langhe and Monferrato - Piedmont
Kilometers and kilometres of hills, moving slowly and sinuously between fields and mountains on the background: Piedmont is one of the most loved destinations for wine lovers in Northern Italy. I guess you’ve heard of Langhe or Monferrato at least once in your life. This, because these two geographical areas, separated from each other but equally rich in precious grapes, produce some of the most coveted wine types. Barbera d’Asti and Grignolino del Monferrato, to name but a few, though the list is much richer.
Always talking about strong red wines, it is impossible not to name ‘the king’ of the Piedmontese wine scene: Barolo. Produced in the eponymous city in the Langhe, it is rich in flavour, fruity and perfect to be paired with beef meat cuts. White wine lovers alike can find their share thanks to the delicate Chardonnay, Erbaluce, Malvasia and Sauvignon wines. Both red and white wines can be tasted right at their producers’ during guided tours of the cellars – held all year-round – or during the annual CHEESE event in September in the Langhe: a celebration of traditional flavours featuring tastings of local cheese, cold cuts and wines into a picturesque environment.
Find more info on: www.langhe.net
Franciacorta – Lombardy
Small villages surrounded by golden vineyards, dotted here and there by Medieval castles and majestic villas: welcome to Franciacorta. This area spanning from the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, thanks to its gentle land and an ideal sun explosion offers one of the most precious white grapes of all Italy. What comes to your mind if you say Franciacorta? If bubbles is the answer, well, you are right as this area is one of the leading producers of brut, particularly appreciated as a sweeter alternative to the French Champagne.
Gran Cuvées can be savoured almost everywhere here, from local bistros to restaurants, as well as at some of the biggest wine cellars, which currently open their doors to the wider public, especially in Autumn. Or even, if you wish to combine fine dining, wine tasting and a bite of local culture, you will surely appreciate the Franciacorta in Cantina Festival, held in mid-September and enabling newcomers to the world of wine and experts to fully understand the importance of a preserved, controlled land to produce top-quality labels. Moreover, it is a great chance to discover beautiful customisable itineraries and unveil local beauties. Trying is believing!
Morbegno and Sondrio (Valtellina) - Lombardy
Some of the best wine experiences start here! If you are wondering why, the reasons are many. First, for its almost mountainous position, which provides the area with a beautiful panorama, then for its tiny villages with a charming vintage attire. Last, but not least at all: Valtellina is a treasure trove for food and wine tourism. Its quaint cobbled streets are full of small family restaurants featuring delicacies from the authentic local cuisine such as sciatt or the uber-renowned pizzoccheri to be paired and – why not - sweetened by a glass, or two, of the eponymous Valtellina wine or followed by a Sforzato.
Tell me what your wine flavours are, and I’ll show you your destination! This could be the most appropriate motto for one of the most beloved wine tasting experiences in Norther Italy: Morbegno in Cantina. Each year in October, cellars all sizes, both family-run or producing bottles at a larger scale join forces to open their doors to the public. The itineraries can be divided into tours in discovery of red wines and white wine spots, offering a selection of over 10 tastings per group and enhanced by appetizers made of cold cuts and typical bread with nuts and raisins. Private or group tours of the cellars are also available.
Find more info on: www.morbegnoincantina.it
Trentino Alto Adige
Lakes, Dolomites creating a natural barrier and pure crystalline waters nourishing the uber-green land make Trentino Alto Adige the ideal backdrop for grapes cultivations. Add the fresh mountainous breeze and you are about to sip some of the purest and most particular wines of Italy. Truth be told, any area within this region is acknowledged as suitable for producing wine, from the shores of Lake Garda, to Piana Rotalina, up to the fresh lands near the Valle d’Isarco and the Valsugana territory.
Trentino Alto Adige offers a rich variety of labels especially for what concerns white wines, which are more resistant to low temperatures. Some examples? Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot grigio or Pinot bianco, but also Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner, whose grapes have naturally grow in these areas since time immemorial. Lovers of red wines, you don’t have to feel lost, as Schiava, Lagrein and Cabernet Sauvignon are also produced here and are perfect to enhance each and every flavour of the tasty mountain cuisine. Any time of the year is ideal for wine tasting, but if you feel like living an unmissable experience, you can join the annual Happy Trentodoc event held from mid-November to early December offering the chance to savour a typical aperitivo with the best of local bubbles and traditional appetizers.
Find more in on: www.tastetrentino.it
Golden rules for wine collectors
Before you head to the closest wine cellar asking for a top-notch Italian wine, because yes, I guess such a great variety has made you thirsty right now, please keep in mind three fundamental initials: DOP, IGP and DOCG.
DOP (literally Denominazioni di Origine Protetta) names of protected origins, IGP (Indicazioni Geografiche Protette) protected geographical references and DOCG (Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita) names of controlled and guaranteed origins, all indicate the wine you are about to purchase has satisfied and passed all the tests on its origins. This makes you sure you will sip a 100% Italian wine, with all the authentic flavours of the land it was grown and bottled in. The perfect way to enjoy an ideal journey to Italy even thousands of kilometres away. Cheers!