Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

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BDavis
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Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#1 Post by BDavis » February 2nd, 2019, 7:16 pm

Hi everyone. First real post, other than the three on Berserker Day, after reading/lurking since 2011. I'm interested in diving deeper into one country. I've chosen Italy for a couple of reasons...I've taken a few trips there, and my wife is Sicilian and loves to cook Italian food. We've always enjoyed the food/wine pairings of Italy when there, but I'd like to learn more about the different regions and varietals.

I had a couple of questions to help get me started...any recommendations or comments would be extremely well appreciated. I'd like to keep the wines under $50/bottle, if possible, but would go up to $100 for 'not to miss' producers or wines that would showcase a particular varietal/region. Would prefer 'traditional' producers, but definitely open to more modern producers, if you feel they are now a good representation of the region.

Let’s assume buying/tasting 3 bottles per week on average, so around 150-160 bottles in the year, if that helps.

1. Using one year, how would you break down the regions by number of weeks/months spent in each one? I know the major regions will have many sub-regions, so I know this could be difficult. Just looking for a general idea of how much time to spend in each region.

2. What producers would you recommend for each region or sub-region? I know there are a number of topics/posts on individual regions, but I'm hoping others would appreciate a centralized list as well. Even links to other topics would be extremely helpful as well.

Thank you again in advance for your help!

Not sure if this list covers the regions fully, so please feel free to edit/add/remove, as necessary.

• Veneto
• Tuscany
• Piedmont
• Emilia-Romagna
• Lombardy
• Umbria
• Abruzzo
• Trentino Alto-Adige
• Friuli-Venezia Giulia
• Marche
• Puglia
• Lazio
• Sicily
• Sardinia
• Campania
• Liguria
• Calabria
• Molise
• Basilicata
• Valle d'Aosta
Last edited by BDavis on February 2nd, 2019, 9:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Cheers,
Brett

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ky1em!ttskus
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#2 Post by ky1em!ttskus » February 2nd, 2019, 8:20 pm

Oh, this’ll be a super interesting/fun thread. [popcorn.gif]

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#3 Post by Rory K. » February 2nd, 2019, 8:57 pm

OH man, that's a big ask, but I love this. I traveled to Italy to study wine back in 08 (I remember there was a rally in Florence when Obama won the election). For reasons of either poor/limited wines or redundancy with neighboring region, I would skip Molise and Lazio, you could even cut out Liguria and Calabria but I gave them 1 each. Don't forget Sardinia though! Your 100$ limit won't be an issue outside of Veneto, Tuscany, or Piedmont. Even 50$ can get you close to the best in most of these regions. Some of my sub-headings are wines and some are regions so sorry if it's confusing. My favorites are Sicily, Friuli, Tuscany, and Piemonte. Other areas like Valle d'aosta are just plain wonderful, but also quite small and so don't need many weeks.

Are you actually planning on traveling and exploring these regions over the course of a year? Or just buying and tasting wines over that time period?


Here is my breakdown, not to be read as a ranking however...

*Veneto - 3
Valpollicella/Amarone, Prosecco, Soave
*Tuscany - 8
Bolgheri/Maremma, Chianti, Montalcino, VNd Montepulciano
*Piedmont - 8
Babaresco, Barolo, Gattinara, Carema, Ghemme, Roero
*E-R - 1
Some interesting stuff here, Sangiovese and Lambrusco are worth exploring
*Lombardy - 2
Franciacorta, Valtellina
*Umbria - 3
Montefalco, Orvieto
*Abruzzo - 1
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
*Marche - 1
Verdicchio
*Trentino A-A - 3
*Friuli - 3
Amazing white wines
*Marche - 0
*Puglia - 1
Some solid reds, Primitivo
*Lazio - 0
*Sicily - 5
Etna, Pantelleria
*Campania - 4
*Liguria - 1
*Calabria - 1
*Molise - 0
*Basilicata - 2
Aglianico de Vulture
*Valle d'Aosta - 3
Great alpine region, beautiful crisp white wines, some sparklers
*Sardegna - 2
Cannonau, Monica
K i n n e a r

ITB

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#4 Post by Kyle Whitney » February 3rd, 2019, 1:55 am

If you're serious, consider this program:

https://www.winescholarguild.org/italia ... rview.html

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#5 Post by PHuff » February 3rd, 2019, 5:12 am

This Website provides some interesting commentary on Italian Wine and Food......I also think that John Fodera posts here on Berserkers.

http://johnfodera.com/
Paul

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#6 Post by Mattstolz » February 3rd, 2019, 5:44 am

there are some great Italian wine courses available online. I think the Napa wine academy has one. But I think in a year its maybe better to choose the MAJOR regions of Italy and get to know them well. For example, Piedmont alone has Barolo, barbaresco, alto-piemonte, barbera, dolcetto, freisa... Thats 10% of your wine right there if you have ONE of each. and that won't get you to know it much. So I would delve into:

Piedmont:
Barolo, Barbaresco, langhe nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto, freisa

Tuscany:
Brunello, rosso di Montalcino, chianti, chianti classico

Veneto:
Prosecco, soave classico, amarone, valpolicella

Sicily:
Mount Etna reds and whites

Franciocorta sparklers, verdicchio, trentodoc.

then you can have several examples of each to get a feel for the region instead of just tasting one of each. You could spend a lifetime learning Italian wines (people have and do!) and not ever taste all the examples! Thats what makes it such a fun wine country!

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#7 Post by R. Frankel » February 3rd, 2019, 7:55 am

Let’s say you went with Rory’s plan. The next question would be - how to pick producers/bottlings? Some regions will generate a lot of suggestions (eg. for Barolo, I’d suggest Francesco Rinaldi’s base Barolo as a good example. Barbaresco try Produttori ‘Torre’) others fewer.

You could do your own research by joining Vinous - a wine review web site - that reviews many Italian wine regions. You will get plenty of ideas of what to try there.
Rich Frankel

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#8 Post by Markus S » February 3rd, 2019, 8:18 am

"One country. One year."

Is this another post about Millennial "goals."?? [pillow-fight.gif]
$ _ € ® e . k @

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#9 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 8:26 am

ky1em!ttskus wrote:
February 2nd, 2019, 8:20 pm
Oh, this’ll be a super interesting/fun thread. [popcorn.gif]
Kyle--I'm hoping so...I assume there are plenty of people here that drink Italian wines frequently, so trying to tap into their wisdom.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#10 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 8:35 am

Rory K. wrote:
February 2nd, 2019, 8:57 pm
OH man, that's a big ask, but I love this. I traveled to Italy to study wine back in 08 (I remember there was a rally in Florence when Obama won the election). For reasons of either poor/limited wines or redundancy with neighboring region, I would skip Molise and Lazio, you could even cut out Liguria and Calabria but I gave them 1 each. Don't forget Sardinia though! Your 100$ limit won't be an issue outside of Veneto, Tuscany, or Piedmont. Even 50$ can get you close to the best in most of these regions. Some of my sub-headings are wines and some are regions so sorry if it's confusing. My favorites are Sicily, Friuli, Tuscany, and Piemonte. Other areas like Valle d'aosta are just plain wonderful, but also quite small and so don't need many weeks.

Are you actually planning on traveling and exploring these regions over the course of a year? Or just buying and tasting wines over that time period?


Here is my breakdown, not to be read as a ranking however...

*Veneto - 3
Valpollicella/Amarone, Prosecco, Soave
*Tuscany - 8
Bolgheri/Maremma, Chianti, Montalcino, VNd Montepulciano
*Piedmont - 8
Babaresco, Barolo, Gattinara, Carema, Ghemme, Roero
*E-R - 1
Some interesting stuff here, Sangiovese and Lambrusco are worth exploring
*Lombardy - 2
Franciacorta, Valtellina
*Umbria - 3
Montefalco, Orvieto
*Abruzzo - 1
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
*Marche - 1
Verdicchio
*Trentino A-A - 3
*Friuli - 3
Amazing white wines
*Marche - 0
*Puglia - 1
Some solid reds, Primitivo
*Lazio - 0
*Sicily - 5
Etna, Pantelleria
*Campania - 4
*Liguria - 1
*Calabria - 1
*Molise - 0
*Basilicata - 2
Aglianico de Vulture
*Valle d'Aosta - 3
Great alpine region, beautiful crisp white wines, some sparklers
*Sardegna - 2
Cannonau, Monica
Rory--this is extremely helpful! After reading your post, I forgot to add the number of bottles I'm planning on trying/buying per week. I added it to the original post...approx. 3 bottles/week, or 150-160 bottles/year., though I'm sure I'll taste more per week when I include wines by the glass at restaurants and public tastings at wine shops. I'm hoping I can get a decent sense of the types of wines/varietals in each region...enough to be able to speak somewhat intelligently about wines when seeing them on a wine list, wine store, etc., or find a number of producers/wines to keep for the long haul.

That being said, would your estimates of number of weeks spent in each region still hold? For example, would two cases of wine be enough to get a sense of Tuscany?

Also, there is a small chance of me being to Italy this year, but we'll be travelling there next year. Perhaps this experiment will help us decide on which regions we want to visit.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#11 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 8:40 am

Kyle Whitney wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 1:55 am
If you're serious, consider this program:

https://www.winescholarguild.org/italia ... rview.html
Kyle--I didn't even think of doing some sort of formal training, but this certainly looks intriguing. Looks like it starts 2/25 as well. Thank you for the info!

Did you take this course?
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#12 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 8:48 am

PHuff wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 5:12 am
This Website provides some interesting commentary on Italian Wine and Food......I also think that John Fodera posts here on Berserkers.

http://johnfodera.com/
Paul---John's website looks great...going to read through it today. Really like how he has recipes as well...thank you!
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#13 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 8:54 am

Markus S wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 8:18 am
"One country. One year."

Is this another post about Millennial "goals."?? [pillow-fight.gif]
Markus--haha, not quite. More trying to focus more on trying/tasting wines from one country, rather than being all over the place. I want to make a concerted effort over the next year to buy Italian wines, order Italian wines by the glass at restaurants, etc. I know it's not possible to learn everything, which would take multiple lifetimes, but just get a better sense.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#14 Post by Bob Hughes » February 3rd, 2019, 9:03 am

I've been drinking and collecting Italian wines for 30 years and still wouldn't claim that I "know" Italian wine. But no reason why this needs to be a one year experiment unless you find that you don't like the wines.

I'm going to second Matt Stolz' suggestion about focusing on a region, and given your wife's heritage, I will suggest Sicily. Very food-friendly wines, and as you move around the island, very different styles as well.

You've got Etna wines that are high on the wine geek scale because they focus on two grapes (Nerello Mascalese and Carricante) that aren't well-known grapes. Depending on where you live, there should be multiple producers available to try - Passopisciaro, Terre Nere, Calabretta, Bonavita, Vini Biondi and Graci are just some of the producers you might be able to find.

Then as you move away from Etna, the grapes change and you'll find Nero d'Avola-based wines and other grapes as well. Gulfi makes some of the best Neros, and two other Sicilian producers I tend to like are COS (very traditional) and Arianna Occhipinti (her Frappato can be an excellent intro wine).

Oh, and enjoy your explorations [cheers.gif]

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#15 Post by Gary York » February 3rd, 2019, 9:04 am

It is a laudable goal, but probably impossible. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Italy has 3,000 years of history. And wine is a part of that history. And food too. You are not going to fully cover that in a year. I have been to Italy every year for 23 years and I am still not "finished". Italy has more than you can possibly imagine.
ITB

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#16 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 9:05 am

R. Frankel wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 7:55 am
Let’s say you went with Rory’s plan. The next question would be - how to pick producers/bottlings? Some regions will generate a lot of suggestions (eg. for Barolo, I’d suggest Francesco Rinaldi’s base Barolo as a good example. Barbaresco try Produttori ‘Torre’) others fewer.

You could do your own research by joining Vinous - a wine review web site - that reviews many Italian wine regions. You will get plenty of ideas of what to try there.
Rich---I agree. I think that will be the toughest part as well. Perhaps I'll get into one region, ex. Piedmont, and want to spend all my time there. I just figured places like Barolo, Barbaresco, Montalcino, etc. may start to exceed my $50 ($100, occasionally) budget pretty quickly.

Using Rory's plan of let's say 8 weeks in Tuscany, I would really like to learn from board members here what producers would be best to start with...Rinaldi and Produtorri are perfect examples. I know there are plenty of other topics on the major Italian regions - Tuscany, Piedmont, etc., but would really be curious about the smaller/lesser know regions as well.

Thank you for the Vinous suggestion...will certainly check it out. Read a bunch about Galloni on this site, but haven't looked up his site.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#17 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 9:44 am

Bob Hughes wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 9:03 am
I've been drinking and collecting Italian wines for 30 years and still wouldn't claim that I "know" Italian wine. But no reason why this needs to be a one year experiment unless you find that you don't like the wines.

I'm going to second Matt Stolz' suggestion about focusing on a region, and given your wife's heritage, I will suggest Sicily. Very food-friendly wines, and as you move around the island, very different styles as well.

You've got Etna wines that are high on the wine geek scale because they focus on two grapes (Nerello Mascalese and Carricante) that aren't well-known grapes. Depending on where you live, there should be multiple producers available to try - Passopisciaro, Terre Nere, Calabretta, Bonavita, Vini Biondi and Graci are just some of the producers you might be able to find.

Then as you move away from Etna, the grapes change and you'll find Nero d'Avola-based wines and other grapes as well. Gulfi makes some of the best Neros, and two other Sicilian producers I tend to like are COS (very traditional) and Arianna Occhipinti (her Frappato can be an excellent intro wine).

Oh, and enjoy your explorations [cheers.gif]
Bob---that is exactly right. Sort of an experiment on my part to focus on one country for a period of time, as opposed to being all over the place, so I can figure out what I like. Goal is to find those areas and producers where I can dive down further, and was hoping one year was a decent amount of time to start.

Sicily (with Etna being there), or someplace in the south, was my initial thought as well, as opposed to a larger area like Tuscany or Veneto. I've had many wines from Italy (mostly Chianti, Veneto and Langhe), but never really took a more 'systematic' approach to really paying attention to what I was drinking. Going south to north might be a great way to start. Will do a quick search for producers you've listed above...thank you! Passopisciaro and Calabretta are the only ones I've had in the past, and probably only 1-2 of each, so really have no idea of the region.

I live in Manhattan Beach, so I have access to a ton of good wine shops from West LA to Orange County. It shouldn't be an issue to find producers at retail, and there are a number of restaurants in LA that have pretty decent Italian wines by the glass as well.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#18 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 9:51 am

Gary York wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 9:04 am
It is a laudable goal, but probably impossible. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Italy has 3,000 years of history. And wine is a part of that history. And food too. You are not going to fully cover that in a year. I have been to Italy every year for 23 years and I am still not "finished". Italy has more than you can possibly imagine.
Gary---I agree and perhaps after a year, I may find that staying in Italy is where I'm headed. I may start in Sicily, and find that I stay there for the entire year...just don't know at this point. Living in CA, I've naturally spent my time there, as it's much easier to learn the regions and recognize the producers. Most of the people I drink wine with are the same as well, so I'm trying to switch things up a bit. If I have a focused plan to stick to one region/country for a year, perhaps I'll come away with many new experiences that I can build on.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#19 Post by Doug Schulman » February 3rd, 2019, 10:15 am

I think one year of study and tasting is enough to get a very solid foundation of Italian wine knowledge, as long as you stick to it and spend plenty of time actually studying (not just tasting a bunch of wines).

Rory's list is well thought out, but I think it's too focused on reds. You need more wines from Alto Adige for even a basic understanding of that region (don't exclude Kerner), and I'd definitely include Vermentino from Sardegna as well as a couple of other places for contrast (definitely Liguria where it's commonly called Pigato as well as the Tuscan coast and/or Piedmont where it's called Favorita).

For reds, I think a good approach would be to start with Piedmont and Tuscany. In particular, various expressions of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are probably the most important wines of Italy in many ways, and knowing those wines gives a helpful frame of reference on reds from various other parts of the country. This is where I would include the greatest number of wines, since there are quite a few benchmarks of different types for those two grapes and then you have French grapes in Tuscany and several other grapes in Piedmont that you should experience (of course Dolcetto and different styles of Barbera, plus I think it's worth tasting at least a couple of the less famous grapes as long as it doesn't make you exclude important categories elsewhere).

For Campania, make sure you get the 3 major white grapes (Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Fiano) as well as a Taurasi and a less expensive Aglianico (and hopefully a Taurasi Riserva if the budget allows).

I haven't laid this out systematically, so I might be overcommitting with the number of wines.
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#20 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 10:59 am

Mattstolz wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 5:44 am
there are some great Italian wine courses available online. I think the Napa wine academy has one. But I think in a year its maybe better to choose the MAJOR regions of Italy and get to know them well. For example, Piedmont alone has Barolo, barbaresco, alto-piemonte, barbera, dolcetto, freisa... Thats 10% of your wine right there if you have ONE of each. and that won't get you to know it much. So I would delve into:

Piedmont:
Barolo, Barbaresco, langhe nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto, freisa

Tuscany:
Brunello, rosso di Montalcino, chianti, chianti classico

Veneto:
Prosecco, soave classico, amarone, valpolicella

Sicily:
Mount Etna reds and whites

Franciocorta sparklers, verdicchio, trentodoc.

then you can have several examples of each to get a feel for the region instead of just tasting one of each. You could spend a lifetime learning Italian wines (people have and do!) and not ever taste all the examples! Thats what makes it such a fun wine country!
Matt---appreciate the reply, and I know one year won't even come close to doing the country justice. I'm hoping in a year or so, I can learn enough to be able to decipher wines from each regions and find a few producers to keep for the long haul. I think you have a good idea...perhaps focus on the four major region you mention above, spending 3 months or so in each. I'm glad you mentioned Sicily, as that was mentioned a few other times as well, so perhaps I'll start there and move north. Would be a good place for my wife and I to focus on the food from there as well.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#21 Post by Ian Sutton » February 3rd, 2019, 11:33 am

Learning Italian wines in one year is much akin to 'seeing' Italy on holiday in a 3 week visit. Yes some famous places will be visited, but the real Italy runs deeper than that.

However in the spirit of learning, I've put the regions in 'an' order to suggest how the learning might go
• Tuscany & Emilia Romagna & Umbria - explore Sangiovese through very differing interpretations, from the richness of Brunello to the bony structure of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, via Chianti which can go from one extreme to the other. Venture off into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria to taste some less ambitious wines, but also some lesser seen gems. Stay in Tuscany to experience the super-tuscan / international grape wines, plus cleanse the palate with a real Lambrusco and a few slices of salami.

• Veneto - Explore the three (or 4 if you count ripasso) styles of Valpolicella, big Amarone, sweet Recioto and Valpolicella itself. Then hit the whites of Soave, both dry and in their own recioto form. For Soave, Pieropan are a very safe bet, and deserve recognition for carrying the torch through darker times. Personally I prefer Gini, but others will have their own favourites. For the reds, if you see Roccolo Grassi, they'd be my pick for a questing producer with fairly priced wines.

• Piedmont - Yes Barolo and Barbaresco, but don't ignore Ghemme, Boca, Roero, Gattinara, Langhe Nebbiolo, Lessona etc. (and across the border into Lombardia for Valtellina or up to Donnas/Donnaz in Valle d'Aosta). Many of us find joy in the different styles of Nebbiolo. Then venture out into Barbera, Grignolino, Freisa, Dolcetto, Vespolina, Timorasso, Erbaluce, etc. and you'll find some under-rated grapes making a fine variety of wines. Too many recommendations on this forum!

• Lombardy - As well as Nebbiolo from Valtellina, the sparklers of Franciacorta hold a lot of interest / prestige. Less so some of the varietal wines of the region, but as ever, there are always great under the radar wines to dig out

• Abruzzo - Primarily Montepulciano (the grape), but there are other good producers of the much maligned Trebbiano slowly emerging. Styles vary from appetising at the cheaper end, to more substantial, but still appetising. Valentini is off the scale, and Pepe seems to be heading there (cheaper in Italy though). Masciarelli are a safe bet, though I've not always enjoyed their fancier wines.

• Trentino Alto-Adige - Whites tend to hold sway and there are some great ones, including (remarkably) some very decent Muller-Thurgau. Nosiola from Trentino is rarely seen, but I love it in table wines, dessert wines and grappa form. Pinot Bianco, Moscato Giallo, and plenty more white grapes from a region many see as the home of Italian white wine. Some interesting & different reds including Teroldego, Marzemino and plenty using French grape varieties. Foradori's basic Teroldego is a great starting point for that grape.

• Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Not solely orange / natural wines, but it's become what they are best know for. I still find myself intimidated by this region.

• Marche - Try the Verdicchio wines of Metalica / Castelli di Jesi as a start point. Bucci would be a classy place to start

• Puglia - Reds are to the forefront here, from appetising Salice Salentino, to bigger / riper even figgy wines. A personal favourite is Castel Del Monte, with the grape Nero di Troia often to the fore. Some decent whites, but I've yet to have anything but dessert wines to excite (e.g. Moscato di Trani). Rivera's Il Falcone is a wine worth trying, but do also hint out the wines of further south. It's also a region where blind punts can be very variable but also very successful.

• Lazio - In the words of Manuel of Fawlty Towers "I know nothing!"

• Sicily - Was over-enthused with international wines, and there are still plenty, but only a small number that I find interesting. However interest in the local grapes has been huge over the last 1-2 decades. Etna is the hotbed of interest, but I'd also recommend the Malvasia wines of the Aeolian islands - Hauner is a good producer to start with (and for reds, I love their Hiera - modestly priced, wonderfully appetising and with a hint of the volcanic ground it's grown on). Cos or Occhipinti might be good starting points

• Sardinia - A huge gap in my knowledge

• Campania - Reds and whites to excite. As a producer, Mastroberardino is a good safe place to start, but do avoid the very cheap wines in their range (e.g. Lacryma Cristi). Taurasi can age brilliantly, but other places also do good aglianico. Don't ignore the whites, which have surprising freshness and can be wonderful food wines.

• Liguria - In general the wines are off the beaten track. Sciacchetra is a famed 'mediatation' wine and Rossese di Dolceacqua and Cinque Terre whites may appeal, but personally I'd file these as 'try later on the journey'

• Calabria - Again very weak knowledge

• Molise - Tiny, and thus rarely seen. What I've tasted has (IIRC) only been various Biferno wines, which at best are brilliantly simple and appetising food wines, but I've also had one that slathered cheap oak over it - yuk!

• Basilicata - Little knowledge, but a strong word goes in for Cantina del notaio who makes very interesting and approachable wines, often quite rich in style, but rarely over-blown

• Valle d'Aosta - Very small indeed, but very much worth exploring. Some local grape varieties (and a few french) but for me Fumin is the pick of the bunch (sorry). Stylistically I see it as somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, but rarely is it made as an ambitious wine. Do try if you see, but the wines can be hit & miss, but the climate (and terrain) is necessarily challenging.

Not only does this not even scratch the surface, it's not even going to take the protective wrapper off. However it should be a fun and exciting journey.

Regards
Ian
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#22 Post by Nathan Smyth » February 3rd, 2019, 11:35 am

No one knows Italy.

Spend five or ten minutes at VIVC, and you'll quickly give up on the idea of ever "knowing" Italy [learning VIVC, especially when it comes to Italy, is like trying to read the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary from beginning to end].

Every single Italian crossroads, in the middle of nowhere, grows a unique variety of Vitis vinifera, with a local cuisine which was developed over the course of millennia so as to be paired with that specific varietal.

Italian wine is the synthesis of {Obscure Variety of Vitis vinifera} x {Micro-Local Terroir} x {Unique-to-the-Village Cuisine}, and it really doesn't work if you try to remove any one of those three ingredients.
Last edited by Nathan Smyth on February 3rd, 2019, 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#23 Post by GregT » February 3rd, 2019, 12:33 pm

If you really intend to do this, then you better be bankrolled by Jeff Bozo's ex-wife, and you better have a liver the size of a beach ball.
That would be this guy:
bozo.jpg
bozo.jpg (14.16 KiB) Viewed 1442 times
Not sure if that was intentional or not, but it's as good a summary as any.

I would take six weeks rather than a whole year. Go with Chianti, Barolo, southern Italy, a couple whites, call it over and done and move on to France.
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#24 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 1:35 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:35 am
No one knows Italy.

Spend five or ten minutes at VIVC, and you'll quickly give up on the idea of ever "knowing" Italy [learning VIVC, especially when it comes to Italy, is like trying to read the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary from beginning to end].

Every single Italian crossroads, in the middle of nowhere, grows a unique variety of Vitis vinifera, with a local cuisine which was developed over the course of millennia so as to be paired with that specific varietal.

Italian wine is the synthesis of {Obscure Variety of Vitis vinifera} x {Micro-Local Terroir} x {Unique-to-the-Village Cuisine}, and it really doesn't work if you try to remove any one of those three ingredients.
Nathyn—appreciate the response, and certainly don’t think I’ll ever ‘know’ Italian wine. The number of varieties is immense, as mentioned above by others. However, getting a sense of the regions is my goal, more from a surface level then digging super deep, especially only with an initial goal of one year.

Appreciate the info!
Last edited by BDavis on February 3rd, 2019, 8:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#25 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 1:39 pm

GregT wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 12:33 pm
If you really intend to do this, then you better be bankrolled by Jeff Bozo's ex-wife, and you better have a liver the size of a beach ball.
That would be this guy:

bozo.jpg

Not sure if that was intentional or not, but it's as good a summary as any.

I would take six weeks rather than a whole year. Go with Chianti, Barolo, southern Italy, a couple whites, call it over and done and move on to France.
Greg—you may be right, and after a few months of strictly Italian wine I’ll be ready for another adventure. I’m hoping that isn’t the case, and I find a few regions and producers to follow into the future. I’ll get back to you when I look into France [cheers.gif]
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#26 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 1:43 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:33 am
Learning Italian wines in one year is much akin to 'seeing' Italy on holiday in a 3 week visit. Yes some famous places will be visited, but the real Italy runs deeper than that.

However in the spirit of learning, I've put the regions in 'an' order to suggest how the learning might go
• Tuscany & Emilia Romagna & Umbria - explore Sangiovese through very differing interpretations, from the richness of Brunello to the bony structure of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, via Chianti which can go from one extreme to the other. Venture off into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria to taste some less ambitious wines, but also some lesser seen gems. Stay in Tuscany to experience the super-tuscan / international grape wines, plus cleanse the palate with a real Lambrusco and a few slices of salami.

• Veneto - Explore the three (or 4 if you count ripasso) styles of Valpolicella, big Amarone, sweet Recioto and Valpolicella itself. Then hit the whites of Soave, both dry and in their own recioto form. For Soave, Pieropan are a very safe bet, and deserve recognition for carrying the torch through darker times. Personally I prefer Gini, but others will have their own favourites. For the reds, if you see Roccolo Grassi, they'd be my pick for a questing producer with fairly priced wines.

• Piedmont - Yes Barolo and Barbaresco, but don't ignore Ghemme, Boca, Roero, Gattinara, Langhe Nebbiolo, Lessona etc. (and across the border into Lombardia for Valtellina or up to Donnas/Donnaz in Valle d'Aosta). Many of us find joy in the different styles of Nebbiolo. Then venture out into Barbera, Grignolino, Freisa, Dolcetto, Vespolina, Timorasso, Erbaluce, etc. and you'll find some under-rated grapes making a fine variety of wines. Too many recommendations on this forum!

• Lombardy - As well as Nebbiolo from Valtellina, the sparklers of Franciacorta hold a lot of interest / prestige. Less so some of the varietal wines of the region, but as ever, there are always great under the radar wines to dig out

• Abruzzo - Primarily Montepulciano (the grape), but there are other good producers of the much maligned Trebbiano slowly emerging. Styles vary from appetising at the cheaper end, to more substantial, but still appetising. Valentini is off the scale, and Pepe seems to be heading there (cheaper in Italy though). Masciarelli are a safe bet, though I've not always enjoyed their fancier wines.

• Trentino Alto-Adige - Whites tend to hold sway and there are some great ones, including (remarkably) some very decent Muller-Thurgau. Nosiola from Trentino is rarely seen, but I love it in table wines, dessert wines and grappa form. Pinot Bianco, Moscato Giallo, and plenty more white grapes from a region many see as the home of Italian white wine. Some interesting & different reds including Teroldego, Marzemino and plenty using French grape varieties. Foradori's basic Teroldego is a great starting point for that grape.

• Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Not solely orange / natural wines, but it's become what they are best know for. I still find myself intimidated by this region.

• Marche - Try the Verdicchio wines of Metalica / Castelli di Jesi as a start point. Bucci would be a classy place to start

• Puglia - Reds are to the forefront here, from appetising Salice Salentino, to bigger / riper even figgy wines. A personal favourite is Castel Del Monte, with the grape Nero di Troia often to the fore. Some decent whites, but I've yet to have anything but dessert wines to excite (e.g. Moscato di Trani). Rivera's Il Falcone is a wine worth trying, but do also hint out the wines of further south. It's also a region where blind punts can be very variable but also very successful.

• Lazio - In the words of Manuel of Fawlty Towers "I know nothing!"

• Sicily - Was over-enthused with international wines, and there are still plenty, but only a small number that I find interesting. However interest in the local grapes has been huge over the last 1-2 decades. Etna is the hotbed of interest, but I'd also recommend the Malvasia wines of the Aeolian islands - Hauner is a good producer to start with (and for reds, I love their Hiera - modestly priced, wonderfully appetising and with a hint of the volcanic ground it's grown on). Cos or Occhipinti might be good starting points

• Sardinia - A huge gap in my knowledge

• Campania - Reds and whites to excite. As a producer, Mastroberardino is a good safe place to start, but do avoid the very cheap wines in their range (e.g. Lacryma Cristi). Taurasi can age brilliantly, but other places also do good aglianico. Don't ignore the whites, which have surprising freshness and can be wonderful food wines.

• Liguria - In general the wines are off the beaten track. Sciacchetra is a famed 'mediatation' wine and Rossese di Dolceacqua and Cinque Terre whites may appeal, but personally I'd file these as 'try later on the journey'

• Calabria - Again very weak knowledge

• Molise - Tiny, and thus rarely seen. What I've tasted has (IIRC) only been various Biferno wines, which at best are brilliantly simple and appetising food wines, but I've also had one that slathered cheap oak over it - yuk!

• Basilicata - Little knowledge, but a strong word goes in for Cantina del notaio who makes very interesting and approachable wines, often quite rich in style, but rarely over-blown

• Valle d'Aosta - Very small indeed, but very much worth exploring. Some local grape varieties (and a few french) but for me Fumin is the pick of the bunch (sorry). Stylistically I see it as somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, but rarely is it made as an ambitious wine. Do try if you see, but the wines can be hit & miss, but the climate (and terrain) is necessarily challenging.

Not only does this not even scratch the surface, it's not even going to take the protective wrapper off. However it should be a fun and exciting journey.

Regards
Ian
Ian—Really appreciate your detailed response here. I’m certainly going to use your recommendations as a jumping off point. I hope by the end of this experiment I’m able to rattle off similar summaries of the regions and wines. Will let you know when I find an interesting wine from Sardinia, Calabria, and Lazio for you to try [cheers.gif]
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#27 Post by Mattstolz » February 3rd, 2019, 2:48 pm

BDavis wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 10:59 am


Matt---appreciate the reply, and I know one year won't even come close to doing the country justice. I'm hoping in a year or so, I can learn enough to be able to decipher wines from each regions and find a few producers to keep for the long haul. I think you have a good idea...perhaps focus on the four major region you mention above, spending 3 months or so in each. I'm glad you mentioned Sicily, as that was mentioned a few other times as well, so perhaps I'll start there and move north. Would be a good place for my wife and I to focus on the food from there as well.
thats a great strategy. I myself am working on learning Sicilian wines right now. so far I've enjoyed every wine I've had from Terre Nere and Frank Cornelisson. Terre Nere has some pretty good price points, which is nice. I'm also searching out bottles from Salvo Foti.

For Tuscany, I would suggest Felsina, literally everything they make is great, but in your price point you can often find their Chianti Classico Reserve Rancia, which is reliably a killer bottle, and often the Fontalloro too. In for in Montalcino, good QPRs abound but Il Poggione (both their Rosso and the brunellos) are great, but my favorite reliably good representative for brunello is Ciacci Piccolomini. Bonus: if you can find any of the wines from Montevertine in your price range, buy them!

In Piedmont, it sounds like you've got some good options already. I definitely second the Produttori wines.

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#28 Post by R. Frankel » February 3rd, 2019, 4:54 pm

Brett, I really like your plan. It’s totally reasonable, fun, and a good start on Italy. Of course it’s just a scratching of the surface, but why the heck not? And one wonderful thing about Italy is that you can almost certainly find representative wines from every region for under $50. Not the top handful of obsessed-over producers, but that’s just not a big deal in Italy. My one more bit of advice is to pair Italian wine with food. Italian food is a good choice, but most of what is traditional American food will work well too. Italian wine is meant to be part of a meal!

Since this is a web discussion board, there is an inevitable chorus of haters, nay-sayers and discourages. I’m charmed that you have the fortitude to ignore them.

Probably your biggest challenge is to try wines with age (though many are available still). Don’t be afraid to go back 5 or 10 vintages - there are many great sources in CA that will deliver inexpensively or even free.

Finally if you ever get up to San Francisco let me know. Always happy to share a few bottles over a friendly dinner.
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#29 Post by Rory K. » February 3rd, 2019, 7:53 pm

BDavis wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 8:35 am
Rory K. wrote:
February 2nd, 2019, 8:57 pm
OH man, that's a big ask, but I love this. I traveled to Italy to study wine back in 08 (I remember there was a rally in Florence when Obama won the election). For reasons of either poor/limited wines or redundancy with neighboring region, I would skip Molise and Lazio, you could even cut out Liguria and Calabria but I gave them 1 each. Don't forget Sardinia though! Your 100$ limit won't be an issue outside of Veneto, Tuscany, or Piedmont. Even 50$ can get you close to the best in most of these regions. Some of my sub-headings are wines and some are regions so sorry if it's confusing. My favorites are Sicily, Friuli, Tuscany, and Piemonte. Other areas like Valle d'aosta are just plain wonderful, but also quite small and so don't need many weeks.

Are you actually planning on traveling and exploring these regions over the course of a year? Or just buying and tasting wines over that time period?


Here is my breakdown, not to be read as a ranking however...
Rory--this is extremely helpful! After reading your post, I forgot to add the number of bottles I'm planning on trying/buying per week. I added it to the original post...approx. 3 bottles/week, or 150-160 bottles/year., though I'm sure I'll taste more per week when I include wines by the glass at restaurants and public tastings at wine shops. I'm hoping I can get a decent sense of the types of wines/varietals in each region...enough to be able to speak somewhat intelligently about wines when seeing them on a wine list, wine store, etc., or find a number of producers/wines to keep for the long haul.

That being said, would your estimates of number of weeks spent in each region still hold? For example, would two cases of wine be enough to get a sense of Tuscany?

Also, there is a small chance of me being to Italy this year, but we'll be travelling there next year. Perhaps this experiment will help us decide on which regions we want to visit.
Glad to hear it. I absolutely think the numbers stand at 3 per week, and for regions like Tuscany it may be overkill even, depending on how thorough you want to be.

Some further suggestions just as they pop into my head:
Friuli - Ronci di Cialla (lot of diff wines, very representative), try to find a Friulano, Schiopettino, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and even a Picolit if you can find it.
Marche - Villa Bucci, Sartarelli both make superb Verdicchio
Lombardy - Ar.Pe.Pe makes some benchmark Valtellina wine, for Franciacorta I've found Bellavista quite solid
Veneto - Masi makes a lot of amarone/Valpo that are not unreasonably priced, this is a tough category with different styles so I'd defer to others on the region. My favorite Soave producer is Pieropan (La Rocca).
Campania - Someone else mentioned the white wines here are not to be missed and i agree, Feudi di San Gregorio is an excellent jumping off point for both reds (Aglianico) and whites as I believe they make pretty much everything. Try Mastroberardino's Taurasi yes, but also their Fiano if you can find it.
Sicily - C.O.S. and Donnafugata are good to look for (try their Ben Rye Passito!)
Tuscany - you've obviously tried some Tuscan wine, but at least 3 different Chianti (including a Riserva or Gran Selezione), at least 3 Brunello (try and spread it out from different sub regions, one from Castelnuove, one from a northerly cru like Montesoli etc) and avoid Riservas unless you find an old one that's affordable, and make sure you get a Merlot from Bolgheri or Maremma, they're really worth it.
Basilicata - I love Elena Fucci Aglianico but tough to enjoy young, also Notaio is a good, more modern producer.
Umbria - if you have it in your budget a Paolo Bea is worth a go, Caprai is a benchmark but quite a polished modern style that I don't love. The Grechetto blends from Orvieto are wonderful whites as well

Also I see you're in LA, I am as well and am happy to share a bottle or two for 'educational purposes' sometime.
K i n n e a r

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#30 Post by Cris Whetstone » February 3rd, 2019, 8:14 pm

I think Italy would be the last country to try to 'learn in one year'. If you really want to learn it up and down anyway. So many varieties and regions. Plus history. Just look at the regional outlines in the Wine Atlas. In some places the local areas overlap and in some places they don't. And the variety variety is bonkers.

If you just want to learn the top end stuff for keeping up with a good portion of discussions and markets then you just need Barolo/Barbaresco, Brunello/Chianti and 'Super Tuscans'. Maybe some Valpolicella. Maybe some of the Emperor's New Clothes wines like Radikon and Cornelissen just to say you did. Various other particular producers from other areas.

But you might also consider tackling another country first depending on your goals.
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#31 Post by GregT » February 3rd, 2019, 8:43 pm

Maybe some of the Emperor's New Clothes wines like Radikon and Cornelissen
[wow.gif]

Did anyone say heresy?
G . T a t a r

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#32 Post by BDavis » February 3rd, 2019, 9:08 pm

Mattstolz wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 2:48 pm
BDavis wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 10:59 am


Matt---appreciate the reply, and I know one year won't even come close to doing the country justice. I'm hoping in a year or so, I can learn enough to be able to decipher wines from each regions and find a few producers to keep for the long haul. I think you have a good idea...perhaps focus on the four major region you mention above, spending 3 months or so in each. I'm glad you mentioned Sicily, as that was mentioned a few other times as well, so perhaps I'll start there and move north. Would be a good place for my wife and I to focus on the food from there as well.
thats a great strategy. I myself am working on learning Sicilian wines right now. so far I've enjoyed every wine I've had from Terre Nere and Frank Cornelisson. Terre Nere has some pretty good price points, which is nice. I'm also searching out bottles from Salvo Foti.

For Tuscany, I would suggest Felsina, literally everything they make is great, but in your price point you can often find their Chianti Classico Reserve Rancia, which is reliably a killer bottle, and often the Fontalloro too. In for in Montalcino, good QPRs abound but Il Poggione (both their Rosso and the brunellos) are great, but my favorite reliably good representative for brunello is Ciacci Piccolomini. Bonus: if you can find any of the wines from Montevertine in your price range, buy them!

In Piedmont, it sounds like you've got some good options already. I definitely second the Produttori wines.
Thank you Matt---it looks like I have a few producers to seek out in Sicily: Terre Nere, Salvo Foti, Cos, Occhipinti, Gulfi, Calabretta, Passopisciaro, etc. These should easily keep me busy over the next few months. Frank Cornelisson looks like it's tough to find in LA...perhaps at a restaurant.

I will keep you Tuscany recs in mind, once I make it north!
Cheers,
Brett

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#33 Post by Gary York » February 3rd, 2019, 11:42 pm

You should focus on the big three first. And add a couple other areas of special interest. Learn the rules, and then the exceptions.

1. Piedmont
2. Tuscany
3. Veneto

Sicily - Etna
Campagna
Trentino - Alto Adige
Friuli
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#34 Post by Kyle Whitney » February 4th, 2019, 1:45 am

Kyle Whitney wrote: ↑Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:55 am
If you're serious, consider this program:

https://www.winescholarguild.org/italia ... rview.html
Kyle--I didn't even think of doing some sort of formal training, but this certainly looks intriguing. Looks like it starts 2/25 as well. Thank you for the info!

Did you take this course?
This program began as the French Wine Society, then later expanded to offer classes covering Spain and Italy, changing its name to the Wine Scholar Guild. I took the full French Wine Scholar program that covers the entire country, and some classes that drilled down into each region. I took the Bourdeau, Burgundy, Rhone, Provence and Languedoc/Roussillon programs. They are terrific. I highly recommend them (and recommend them when straight, too). I have also taken WSET classes (advanced) and these classes are at the same level, if not deeper than the WSET level three classes.

I have wanted to take the Italian program, but haven't been able to for personal reasons.

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#35 Post by Gary Schulte » February 4th, 2019, 4:53 am

Brett - Take a peak at Tom's Wine Line blog as he is an Italian wine lover. .... https://ubriaco.wordpress.com . You will find some good information on the regions and wines he has tasted.

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#36 Post by John Kight » February 4th, 2019, 7:16 am

Rory K. wrote:
February 2nd, 2019, 8:57 pm
Here is my breakdown, not to be read as a ranking however...


*Umbria - 3
Montefalco, Orvieto


Good list, but one significant omission in Umbria would be Sagrantino di Montefalco (and if you only drink Paolo Bea from here, that's okay....).

Also, from the Campania area, in addition to Mastroberardino, you need to try the various bottlings of Terredora di Paolo...and instead of Caprai (which, for reasons stated in another post above, is not so great or typical) maybe try another modernist-leaning producer that has only just recently gotten its act together (after years of chasing Parker points with ultramodern goopy wines), which is Feudi di San Gregorio. Their Taurasis are now quite delicious!

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#37 Post by David Cooper » February 4th, 2019, 9:05 am

My Italian wine learning curve hasn't been as steep as this by any means. I think if you want to have the authentic experience you may want to spend about a quarter of your effort on the well known and recommended wines listed here and in books. The rest of your effort should be spent on going into a well stocked store and choosing wines you know nothing about. Believe me there will be many and I'm sure it's the way most of us have come to understand the 3,000 plus grapes of Italy.

After 30 plus years of drinking Italian wines I am always able to find a bottle I have never heard of before, even in BC.

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#38 Post by Kelly Walker » February 4th, 2019, 9:46 am

A really wonderful thread with lots of great info. You can see how daunting it can be but does not have to. As others have posted I have been traveling to Italy every year for close to 25 years. I think one of the best ways to focus your learning is to develop a passion for a region, its people and foods. If there is a place in Italy that intrigues you go visit. Not just to site see but immerse yourself in the culture. The learning experience will further the passion in the direction you want to go, which may be different than you originally thought.
White wines matter

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#39 Post by Kelly Walker » February 4th, 2019, 9:51 am

BTW, after 25 years of drinking and collecting Italian wine, I don’t know much, but much more than enough to have loved the journey.
White wines matter

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#40 Post by Mark Cochard » February 4th, 2019, 10:35 am

Here is another good site. Founded by former director of education for the Society of Wine Educators and vice president of wine education for Winebow,
https://italianwinecentral.com/

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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#41 Post by Gary York » February 4th, 2019, 10:45 am

The Winehouse has a lots of good wines. Prices are OK, especially for the West coast. Just scrolling through the first few pages for Italy shows some nice and interesting choices. Manhattan seems OK also. Seems to have a smaller selection. But it might just be the websites.
Last edited by Gary York on February 4th, 2019, 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#42 Post by Mikael OB » February 4th, 2019, 1:46 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:33 am

• Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Not solely orange / natural wines, but it's become what they are best know for. I still find myself intimidated by this region.

• Sardinia - A huge gap in my knowledge
Excellent breakdown provided by Ian.

Can add a few humble notes about Friuli and Sardinia (for Basilicata look out for aglianico):

Friuli - very interesting wine region (border to Slovenia and influenced by alps and Mediterranean climate) with plenty of good (smaller) winegrowers and interesting grapes - native and international varieties. For red look out for schippettino, pignolo and refosco dal peduncolo, regional high quality grapes. International varieties such as cabernet franc and merlot can be very good as well. For whites fruliano, ribolla gialla (a bit of skin contact gives depth), verduzzo and picolit (sweet wines) are very interesting. Carso area near Trieste have refosco and terrano (similar but not same) reds native to Istria, as is white Malvasia. Vitovska is another native white worth exploring grown in both Italian and Slovenian Karst. Yes many Amber (to various degrees) and “natural” high quality wines.

Sardinia - many interesting native grapes and to me, one of the most beautiful and places in the Mediterranean, diversity in each corner of the island. Among red, Cannonau is widely available and can in the right hands be very good. Dettori perhaps polarizing, and can be profound if to your liking. Argiolas’ Turriga probably the most famous.
Carignano del Sulcis Is another interesting red. For white wines Vermentino from the north (Gallura) is worth a try. Rare and if you like oxidative white wines, try a Malvasia di Bosa. Plenty of lesser known grapes to explore.

Enjoy the journey!

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David Mc
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#43 Post by David Mc » February 4th, 2019, 3:20 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:33 am
Learning Italian wines in one year is much akin to 'seeing' Italy on holiday in a 3 week visit. Yes some famous places will be visited, but the real Italy runs deeper than that.

However in the spirit of learning, I've put the regions in 'an' order to suggest how the learning might go
• Tuscany & Emilia Romagna & Umbria - explore Sangiovese through very differing interpretations, from the richness of Brunello to the bony structure of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, via Chianti which can go from one extreme to the other. Venture off into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria to taste some less ambitious wines, but also some lesser seen gems. Stay in Tuscany to experience the super-tuscan / international grape wines, plus cleanse the palate with a real Lambrusco and a few slices of salami.

• Veneto - Explore the three (or 4 if you count ripasso) styles of Valpolicella, big Amarone, sweet Recioto and Valpolicella itself. Then hit the whites of Soave, both dry and in their own recioto form. For Soave, Pieropan are a very safe bet, and deserve recognition for carrying the torch through darker times. Personally I prefer Gini, but others will have their own favourites. For the reds, if you see Roccolo Grassi, they'd be my pick for a questing producer with fairly priced wines.

• Piedmont - Yes Barolo and Barbaresco, but don't ignore Ghemme, Boca, Roero, Gattinara, Langhe Nebbiolo, Lessona etc. (and across the border into Lombardia for Valtellina or up to Donnas/Donnaz in Valle d'Aosta). Many of us find joy in the different styles of Nebbiolo. Then venture out into Barbera, Grignolino, Freisa, Dolcetto, Vespolina, Timorasso, Erbaluce, etc. and you'll find some under-rated grapes making a fine variety of wines. Too many recommendations on this forum!

• Lombardy - As well as Nebbiolo from Valtellina, the sparklers of Franciacorta hold a lot of interest / prestige. Less so some of the varietal wines of the region, but as ever, there are always great under the radar wines to dig out

• Abruzzo - Primarily Montepulciano (the grape), but there are other good producers of the much maligned Trebbiano slowly emerging. Styles vary from appetising at the cheaper end, to more substantial, but still appetising. Valentini is off the scale, and Pepe seems to be heading there (cheaper in Italy though). Masciarelli are a safe bet, though I've not always enjoyed their fancier wines.

• Trentino Alto-Adige - Whites tend to hold sway and there are some great ones, including (remarkably) some very decent Muller-Thurgau. Nosiola from Trentino is rarely seen, but I love it in table wines, dessert wines and grappa form. Pinot Bianco, Moscato Giallo, and plenty more white grapes from a region many see as the home of Italian white wine. Some interesting & different reds including Teroldego, Marzemino and plenty using French grape varieties. Foradori's basic Teroldego is a great starting point for that grape.

• Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Not solely orange / natural wines, but it's become what they are best know for. I still find myself intimidated by this region.

• Marche - Try the Verdicchio wines of Metalica / Castelli di Jesi as a start point. Bucci would be a classy place to start

• Puglia - Reds are to the forefront here, from appetising Salice Salentino, to bigger / riper even figgy wines. A personal favourite is Castel Del Monte, with the grape Nero di Troia often to the fore. Some decent whites, but I've yet to have anything but dessert wines to excite (e.g. Moscato di Trani). Rivera's Il Falcone is a wine worth trying, but do also hint out the wines of further south. It's also a region where blind punts can be very variable but also very successful.

• Lazio - In the words of Manuel of Fawlty Towers "I know nothing!"

• Sicily - Was over-enthused with international wines, and there are still plenty, but only a small number that I find interesting. However interest in the local grapes has been huge over the last 1-2 decades. Etna is the hotbed of interest, but I'd also recommend the Malvasia wines of the Aeolian islands - Hauner is a good producer to start with (and for reds, I love their Hiera - modestly priced, wonderfully appetising and with a hint of the volcanic ground it's grown on). Cos or Occhipinti might be good starting points

• Sardinia - A huge gap in my knowledge

• Campania - Reds and whites to excite. As a producer, Mastroberardino is a good safe place to start, but do avoid the very cheap wines in their range (e.g. Lacryma Cristi). Taurasi can age brilliantly, but other places also do good aglianico. Don't ignore the whites, which have surprising freshness and can be wonderful food wines.

• Liguria - In general the wines are off the beaten track. Sciacchetra is a famed 'mediatation' wine and Rossese di Dolceacqua and Cinque Terre whites may appeal, but personally I'd file these as 'try later on the journey'

• Calabria - Again very weak knowledge

• Molise - Tiny, and thus rarely seen. What I've tasted has (IIRC) only been various Biferno wines, which at best are brilliantly simple and appetising food wines, but I've also had one that slathered cheap oak over it - yuk!

• Basilicata - Little knowledge, but a strong word goes in for Cantina del notaio who makes very interesting and approachable wines, often quite rich in style, but rarely over-blown

• Valle d'Aosta - Very small indeed, but very much worth exploring. Some local grape varieties (and a few french) but for me Fumin is the pick of the bunch (sorry). Stylistically I see it as somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, but rarely is it made as an ambitious wine. Do try if you see, but the wines can be hit & miss, but the climate (and terrain) is necessarily challenging.

Not only does this not even scratch the surface, it's not even going to take the protective wrapper off. However it should be a fun and exciting journey.

Regards
Ian
Excellent summary Ian!

I've explored Italian wines in depth for 5+ years now and have also barely stretched the surface. I went through Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia in detail and married that up with the wine bible to create the list below. Unfortunately it doesn't render here but would be happen to send you my spreadsheet.

My additions:
* Basilicata - explore Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG producers such as Elena Fucci for aglianico.
* Peidmont - add white grape arneis
* Sardinia - red grape Cannonau (Cannonau di Sardegna) is granche. Hard to believe the wine is the same as from Rhone (and California) , much lighter in style and has a nice salinity.
* Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Refosco is worth hunting down. But like other non-prestigious regions, availability and quality is sometimes lacking.
* Trentino Alto-Adige - look for Elena Walch, endless variety (including a reisling-chardonnay blend!) and Colterenzio

Country Region Leading Sub-Region Type Grape Drink Range
Italy Piedmont * Barbaresco Red Nebbiolo 5-20
Italy Piedmont * Barbera d'Alba Red Barbera 5-12
Italy Piedmont * Barbera d'Asti Red Barbera 3-8
Italy Piedmont * Barolo Red Nebbiolo 8-25
Italy Piedmont * Dolcetto Red Dolcetto 1-5
Italy Piedmont Gattinara Red Nebbiolo (Bonarda, Vespolina) 6-15
Italy Piedmont Ghemme Red Nebbiolo (Bonarda, Vespolina) 4-15
Italy Piedmont Nebbiolo d'Alba Red Nebbiolo 4-10
Italy Piedmont Spanna Red Nebbiolo --
Italy Piedmont * Arneis White Arneis 3-5
Italy Piedmont * Asti White Moscato Upon purchase
Italy Piedmont * Gavi White Cortese 2-3
Italy Piedmont * Moscato d'Asti White Moscato Upon purchase
Italy Lombardy * Valtellina Superiore DOCG Red Nebbiolo 5-15
Italy Lombardy * Valtellina Rosso DOC Red Nebbiolo
Italy Lombardy * Sforzato Red Nebbiolo
Italy Lombardy * Franciacorta DOCG Sparkling Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 2-5
Italy Lombardy Terre di Franciacorta DOC Both International 1-3 white, 3-8 red
Italy Liguria Various DOCs Both Numerous
Italy Valle D'Aosta Various DOCs Both Numerous
Italy Trentino-Alto Adige * Alto Adige Both Teroldego, Schiava, Lagrein, Kerner 2-5 white, 2-10 red, 1-3 sparkling
Italy Trentino-Alto Adige * Trentino Both Teroldego, Lagrein, others
Italy Veneto * Amarone della Valpolicella (DOCG) Red Corvina, Rossignola, Begrara, others
Italy Veneto * Valpolicella (Superiore) Red Corvina, rondinella, molinara Upon purchase, 2-5
Italy Veneto Valpolicella "Ripasso" DOC Red Corvina, rondinella, molinara 6-15
Italy Veneto Bardolino Superiore DOCG Red Corvina, rondinella, molinara
Italy Veneto * Soave Classico DOC White Garganega, others 1-4
Italy Veneto * Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Sparkling White Upon purchase
Italy Friuli-Venezia Giullia * Friuli-Venezia Giullia Red Refosco, Schioppettino, tazzelenghe 3-8
Italy Friuli-Venezia Giullia * Friuli-Venezia Giullia White Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, others 1-3
Italy Tuscany * Chianti Red Sangiovese 3-5 (everyday), 4-8 (mid), 6-20 (classico)
Italy Tuscany Carmignano DOCG Red Sangiovese 4-10
Italy Tuscany * Brunello di Montalcino Red Sangiovese 10-25
Italy Tuscany Rosso di Montalcino Red Sangiovese 5-15
Italy Tuscany * Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Red Sangiovese 6-25
Italy Tuscany Rosso do Montepulciano DOC Red Sangiovese 5-15
Italy Tuscany * Super Tuscan Red Sangiovese, Cabernet, others
Italy Tuscany Toscano IGT Red Sangiovese, Cabernet, others
Italy Umbria Orvieto DOC White Trebbiano Upon purchase
Italy Umbria Torgiano DOC Both Various 1-5 (white), 3-8 (red)
Italy Umbria Torgiano Riserva DOCG Red Various 4-20
Italy Umbria Montefalco Sagrantino DOG Red Sagrantino 3-12
Italy Latium (Lazio) Lazio IGT, other Both Various
Italy Emilia-Romagna Emilia White Lambrusco, trebbiano, albana, others
Italy Emilia-Romagna Romagna Red Sangiovese di Romagna, others 3-7 (sangiovese)
Italy Marche Rosso Conero DOC, Rosso Piceno DOC Red Montepulciano, Sangiovese 6-25 (Conero), 4-10 (Piceno)
Italy Marche Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi White Verdicchio 1-4
Italy Abruzzi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC Red Montepulciano 4-8 (cerasuolo), 8-20
Italy Abruzzi Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC, others White Bombino, trebbiano 1-3
Italy Molise Molise Both Various
Italy Campania * Taurasi DOCG Red Aglianico 5-10 (some 20)
Italy Campania Falerno del Massico DOC Both Aglianico, falanghina, fiano, greco 3-7 (red), upon purchase (white)
Italy Puglia Puglia Red Primitivo (zinfandel), Uva di troia
Italy Basilicata Aglianico del Vulture DOC Red Aglianico 6-20
Italy Calabria Calabria Red Gaglioppo, greco di Bianco
Italy Sicily Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, Vittoria DOC Red Nero d'Avola, Nerello (frappato)
Italy Sicily Etna Red Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio
Italy Sicily Sicilia IGT Both Various
Italy Sardinia Sardegna Semidano DOC Red Cannonau
Italy Sardinia Vermentino di Gallura DOCG White Vermentino
Mc = M c I n t i r e

Gary York
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Location: Richmond, Va.

Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#44 Post by Gary York » February 4th, 2019, 9:21 pm

ITB


BDavis
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Joined: October 25th, 2011, 10:03 am
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#46 Post by BDavis » February 5th, 2019, 7:51 am

Gary York wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:42 pm
You should focus on the big three first. And add a couple other areas of special interest. Learn the rules, and then the exceptions.

1. Piedmont
2. Tuscany
3. Veneto

Sicily - Etna
Campagna
Trentino - Alto Adige
Friuli
Gary—based on the above, would 3 months each in Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto, with a month in each of the remaining four be a ‘good’ way to break down a year for me? Again, just trying to get a sense of the wines produced in each region, so I have more of a base than my current knowledge, which is trying to remember a Chianti Classico from a few months back, etc.
Cheers,
Brett

BDavis
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Joined: October 25th, 2011, 10:03 am
Location: South Bay (Los Angeles)

Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#47 Post by BDavis » February 5th, 2019, 7:54 am

Gary York wrote:
February 4th, 2019, 10:45 am
The Winehouse has a lots of good wines. Prices are OK, especially for the West coast. Just scrolling through the first few pages for Italy shows some nice and interesting choices. Manhattan seems OK also. Seems to have a smaller selection. But it might just be the websites.
Thank you Gary—was thinking of starting at The Wine House, K&L, Wine Expo, Manhattan Fine Wines, and perhaps WineX and Wine Exchange.

Finding aged bottles is going to my main challenge, but was planning on looking at K&L auctions, Benchmark, and maybe the Wine House.
Cheers,
Brett

BDavis
Posts: 29
Joined: October 25th, 2011, 10:03 am
Location: South Bay (Los Angeles)

Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#48 Post by BDavis » February 5th, 2019, 8:43 am

R. Frankel wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 4:54 pm
Brett, I really like your plan. It’s totally reasonable, fun, and a good start on Italy. Of course it’s just a scratching of the surface, but why the heck not? And one wonderful thing about Italy is that you can almost certainly find representative wines from every region for under $50. Not the top handful of obsessed-over producers, but that’s just not a big deal in Italy. My one more bit of advice is to pair Italian wine with food. Italian food is a good choice, but most of what is traditional American food will work well too. Italian wine is meant to be part of a meal!

Since this is a web discussion board, there is an inevitable chorus of haters, nay-sayers and discourages. I’m charmed that you have the fortitude to ignore them.

Probably your biggest challenge is to try wines with age (though many are available still). Don’t be afraid to go back 5 or 10 vintages - there are many great sources in CA that will deliver inexpensively or even free.

Finally if you ever get up to San Francisco let me know. Always happy to share a few bottles over a friendly dinner.
Thank you Rich---really looking forward to trying to learn as much as I can in a year. I agree with the food pairing...when visiting Italy a few years ago, I had one of owners of Isole e Olena say something that really stuck with me..."Italian wines are not conversation wines. You don't sip on them while chatting. You have them with food. If you need a wine to sip while chatting, try our Vin Santo"
Cheers,
Brett

Gary York
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Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#49 Post by Gary York » February 5th, 2019, 8:47 am

BDavis wrote:
February 5th, 2019, 7:51 am
Gary York wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 11:42 pm
You should focus on the big three first. And add a couple other areas of special interest. Learn the rules, and then the exceptions.

1. Piedmont
2. Tuscany
3. Veneto

Sicily - Etna
Campagna
Trentino - Alto Adige
Friuli
Gary—based on the above, would 3 months each in Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto, with a month in each of the remaining four be a ‘good’ way to break down a year for me? Again, just trying to get a sense of the wines produced in each region, so I have more of a base than my current knowledge, which is trying to remember a Chianti Classico from a few months back, etc.
You would be OK with that plan. Although I would shave some time off the Veneto and add it to Piedmont and Tuscany.
ITB

BDavis
Posts: 29
Joined: October 25th, 2011, 10:03 am
Location: South Bay (Los Angeles)

Re: Learning Italian Wines in One Year?

#50 Post by BDavis » February 5th, 2019, 9:41 am

Doug Schulman wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 10:15 am
I think one year of study and tasting is enough to get a very solid foundation of Italian wine knowledge, as long as you stick to it and spend plenty of time actually studying (not just tasting a bunch of wines).

Rory's list is well thought out, but I think it's too focused on reds. You need more wines from Alto Adige for even a basic understanding of that region (don't exclude Kerner), and I'd definitely include Vermentino from Sardegna as well as a couple of other places for contrast (definitely Liguria where it's commonly called Pigato as well as the Tuscan coast and/or Piedmont where it's called Favorita).

For reds, I think a good approach would be to start with Piedmont and Tuscany. In particular, various expressions of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are probably the most important wines of Italy in many ways, and knowing those wines gives a helpful frame of reference on reds from various other parts of the country. This is where I would include the greatest number of wines, since there are quite a few benchmarks of different types for those two grapes and then you have French grapes in Tuscany and several other grapes in Piedmont that you should experience (of course Dolcetto and different styles of Barbera, plus I think it's worth tasting at least a couple of the less famous grapes as long as it doesn't make you exclude important categories elsewhere).

For Campania, make sure you get the 3 major white grapes (Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Fiano) as well as a Taurasi and a less expensive Aglianico (and hopefully a Taurasi Riserva if the budget allows).

I haven't laid this out systematically, so I might be overcommitting with the number of wines.
Doug---really appreciate the info here. I'm really looking forward to trying the different whites from Italy...I've always heard great things, but haven't really focused on trying/learning about them. I'm getting the sense from a majority of the responses here, if I'm going to stick with my initial thoughts of using a year to start, to focus on the four main regions then venture out occasionally from there. I like your idea of starting in Piedmont and Tuscany, as I'm most familiar with those areas, though still very limited.
Cheers,
Brett

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