One of the pleasures of Italian red wine is its sheer diversity. You’ll find midweek quaffers from Veneto in the north-east that are the perfect match for pizza and pasta; big-hearted fruit bombs from the south; all the way up to epic, ageworthy bottles that stand tall among the best in the world, such as Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany.
You’ll also find a bewildering array of grape varieties. No country has more indigenous varieties than Italy, and while other countries have attempted to adopt them, with the possible exception of Primitivo (aka Zinfandel), they’ve never matched the quality of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Barbera, Aglianico (the list goes on…) grown in their homeland. And in a world dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, this lack of homogeneity should be welcomed.
Chianti and Barolo may have been the flag-bearer for Italian reds for many years but attention is now turning to the new kids on the block, such as aromatic Schioppettino in Friuli; light, fresh Frappato from Sicily; and the powerful Sagrantino from Umbria.
This spirit of exploration is not limited to just grapes; wine drinkers are now exploring some of Italy’s less-high-profile regions, too. You’ll find some of them among the 2020 IWSC award-winners, such as Umberto Cesari’s Resultum Sangiovese 2012 from Emilia-Romagna, which took gold and was described by judges as a wine of ‘charm and character… a polished composition of ripe red cherries with olives, oregano, bay leaf and spice’.
Italy is one of the most exciting wine-producing countries right now, and its reds deliver aromas and flavours that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Here’s a first-rate line-up from the IWSC 2020.
International Procurement and Logistics
A beautiful and classic example with a generous core of dried berry fruits. The sweet fruit flavours are lifted with herbal notes and well-integrated oak. Polished with a great tannic structure and a long lingering finish. 14% RRP £19.75 from Asda
The Best 2018
Stunning poise, with notes of red cherry, raspberry, cranberry and dark crunchy fruits. Focused, with attractive nuances of graphite, limestone and ferrous minerality. The silky palate is harmonious and long with grippy, yet fine tannins, bright acidity, salinity and freshness. 13% RRP £9 from Morrisons
Resultum Sangiovese 2012
A standout wine showing elegance and finesse. A polished composition of ripe red cherries and berries with savoury olives, pepper, oregano, bay leaf and spice. With its fine-grained tannins and defined structure, this wine boasts charm and character. 14% n/a in UK
Co-Op Irresistible 2018
This wine is structured, elegant and balanced. The flavour profile is expressive and complex, displaying juicy ripe currants, blackcurrant leaf and olive. A well-made wine which is delicate, herbaceous and mineral with fine tannins: a benchmark example. 13% RRP £7.99 from Co-Op
Carpanè Corvina 2013
Aromatic and perfumed with cassis, strawberries and rose petals. Bright, expressive and fresh fruit on palate with smooth, lush texture and well integrated tannins . Great typicity with strong ageing potential. 14.5% n/a in UK
Flows from one sense to another, utterly seamless and natural. Giving refined red fruits, chestnut and truffle savoury aromas on the nose with velvet smooth tannins and refreshing bright acidity on the finish. Truly a remarkable wine. 14% n/a in UK
La Villa Paglaia
A huge sense of place and varietal character. Bursting with charm and finesse, vibrant fruit core of blackberry, cherry, plums and a slight earthy note. Fine grained tannins and some beautiful complexity. 13.5% RRP 10.50 from ND John
Villa al Cortile
A smooth offering of wild strawberry, blackberry and tobacco leaf . Tannins are fine and elegant and sweet spices weave through the fruit flavours seemlessly. An excellent example with a long finish. 14% RRP £40 from Tannico
Il Campanile 2016
Chiesa del Carmine
Red berry fruits are perfectly interwoven with fine leathery tannins and fresh acidity. Perfumed herbs on the nose would charm any wine lover. 13.5% RRP £19 from Provenance Wine
Ripe, expressive and rich-fruited nose of black cherries, dried plums and figs with chocolate and liquorice. Dense and concentrated on the palate with balancing freshness and a sweet note to finish. 17.5% n/a in UK
Isobella della Croce
Rich flavours of blackberry and cherry with a hint of menthol. Savoury and leather notes on the palate illustrate well-integrated oak. Excellent typicity and generosity with good fruit definition. 15% n/a in UK
Complexity is evident on the nose with a fresh herbaciousness and underlying waves of summer cherries, vanillin and spice. Combined with finely grained tannins makes this an extremely admirable red. 14.5% n/a in UK
Vinous cherry and black fruit aromas lead to a delicate and tense palate showing good structure, fine grained tannins and a lovely long and warm finish. 15% n/a in UK
Scalunera Rosso 2017
A wondeful collaboration between flavours. Wild herbs and roses, cherries and perfume. A harmony between earthiness and acidity with lovely ripe tannins as the backdrop. 13.5% RRP £15 from Matthew Clark
An intense and generous offering fillled with rich notes of black berry fruits, balsamic, thyme and tobacco. Refined with well-integrated oak and tannins - a classic example. 14% RRP £15 from Drinks & Co
Saletta Giulia 2016
Dense, yet elegant and fresh, with a concentrated ripe nose of bright cherry, damson plum and black fruits, underscored by red stone and earthiness. Generous, with smooth and silky tannins. n/a in UK
Usiglian del Vescovo
Dark, spicy and chocolatey; lovely depth of flavours with generous fruit and some clove spice.