The north of Italy produces many of the country’s classic wine sites - Barolo, Barbaresco and Amarone Valpolicella to name a few. Yet across Piedmont, Lombardy, Alto Adige Südtirol, Friuli Venezia-Giulia and Veneto, there are dozens of exceptional appellations crafting wines in a range of styles, many of which are barely known outside their region.
From the delicate and aromatic wines of the Italian Alps to high-quality sparkling and ageworthy reds, Northern Italy is home to many wines that are well worth exploring.
While international grapes such as pinot grigio, pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay are not unknown, countless local varieties provide the strong Italian flavour, with many of the most exciting wines made from these grapes. From the exotic Friulano and subtle Trebbiano to powerful local superstars barbera and nebbiolo, there are few more diverse places for delicious, food-friendly wines.
2019 Cantine Prà Otto Soave Classico, Veneto, A$32
From one of the leading Soave producers sourced this classically styled wine that shows the best of the region. Light straw in colour, it shows bright and pure peach skin, nectarine and citrus aromas with a touch of baked almond thrown into this unoaked style. A little more exotic than usual in the mouth, it shows pretty layers of concentrated floral and apricot fruits on a slightly, creamy textured palate that is long and delicious.
2017 Michele Chiarlo Cipressi Nizza, Piedmont, A$35
The Nizza DOCG was only proclaimed in 2014 and is regarded as the finest area for Barbera in Asti. This example is deeply coloured and flavoured, and is quite a ripe expression with dark berry, dried herb and tarry aromatics. It is then dry and full-bodied with a freight train of fruit and acidity driving a long and strongly varietal finish with a lavender edge. Delicious now but also has the staying power to drink for well over a decade.
2017 Ronco dei Tassi Fosarin Bianco, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, A$57
From the heart of Collio comes this superb wine made with pinot bianco, friulano and malvasia. Pale golden in colour, it is immediately exotic and alluring with a powerful core of citrus, floral, pear and spicy aromas well matched by cinnamon-scented oak. The palate continues in the same vein with tangy acidity and a creamy texture combining beautifully to drive a long nutty and balanced finish. A great wine now and over the next eight years.
2016 Maretti Barolo, Piedmont, A$60
Bargain Barolo is hard to track down, making this a great find. It opens with aromas of a wet cellar – damp earth, old leather and potpourri under which sit sweet dark cherry fruits. It is then dry and full-bodied, with dense tannins and tangy acid underpinning freshly laid tar and cold tea flavours – and with some serious concentration. Balanced and surprisingly light on its feet suggesting good ageing potential.
2017 Paolo Scavino Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, A$52
This is a superb example of Langhe nebbiolo that would top many other Barolos. It is the typical fist of steel in a velvet glove, with a delicate colour and aromas of tea, potpourri, rose petals and raspberry. The palate is a different story – tight and firm with great power, fruit concentration and focus underpinned by chewy tannins. Delicious to enjoy now and over the medium term.
2018 Albino Rocca Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, A$36
From a maker of exceptional Barbaresco comes this delicious barbera with crystal clear varietal typicity and wonderful fruit purity from start to end. The first whiff is of focused sour cherry and dried herb aromas lifted by savoury, meaty undertones. In the mouth the fruit is vibrant on a savoury and juicy palate around a core of supple, balanced tannins that support a lingering finish. Hard to put down.
2018 J Hofstätter Meczan Pinot Nero, Alto Adige Südtirol, A$55
This is a delicate, pretty and perfumed style of pinot noir with a light colour; it offers a wide array of aromas, from raspberry and rose petals through to dried herbs and aged meat with a distinctive savoury edge. The palate is dry, crisp and lightweight but it carries good concentration, and the soft tannins provide a lingering and seductive finish. Delicious and thought-provoking.
2019 Monterustico Dogliani Dolcetto, Piedmont, A$43
‘Dolcetto’ literally translates to ‘little sweet one’, which is a fair description of the dolcettos designed for everyday drinking – but not this wine. Deeply coloured, it is bursting with jubey, fleshy red and black fruit aromas lifted by earthy and green herb complexity. That generosity continues on the palate with rich ripe fruit matched by mouthcoating tannins leading to a long and muscular finish suggesting good drinking over the medium term.
2017 Pieropan Ruberpan Valpolicella Superiore, Veneto, A$58
An ageworthy and unique style of Valpolicella made with corvina, rondinella and corvinone plus 5% of the traditional grape – all of which have created a brooding and full-bodied wine. Deeply coloured, it shows beetroot, dark cherry and dried herb scents plus savoury earthy tones from extended time in oak. The palate is tangy with fleshy dark berry fruits and a meaty edge underpinned by significant but silky tannins for a long finish.
2015 Proprieta Sperino Uvaggio Coste della Sesia, Piedmont, A$58
In Lessona in the north of the Langhe, nebbiolo takes another turn and is often blended with other indigenous grapes varieties – vespolina and croatina in this example. It makes for a highly complex and engaging wine with aromatic red cherry, tobacco and dried herb flavours now lifted by earthy aged complexity. It is then crisp but with a fleshy mid-palate that leads to a long and elegant finish punctuated by supple tannins. Moreish and delicious.
2019 Santa Margherita Versato Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige Südtirol, A$27
From the well-known Santa Margherita comes this premium pinot grigio with fruit sourced from the cooler Alto Adige Südtirol, providing complex and lifted aromatics. It is a fruity and floral style with quite powerful peach skin, citrus and acacia aromas. The palate is more gris than grigio, with a creamy texture plus praline complexity and fine acidity that provide a touch of elegance and impressive drinkability.
2019 Cà Maiol Lugana, Lombardy, A$20
The wines of Lugana are grown at the picturesque Lake Garda located on the border of Lombardy and Veneto. Made from the local trebbiano, the best examples such as this make for a superb aperitif with lovely delicacy of flavour. Pale in colour, this wine shows pretty, slightly lifted, citrus, lemongrass and almond husk-scented fruits. Dry, crisp and lightweight, it’s elegant on the palate and even a little salty, with a lingering fine finish.
2019 GD Vajra Luigi Baudana Dragon Langhe Bianco, Piedmont, A$43
A very modern white from the Langhe made from chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc with the local native nascetta. It is complex and gives a distinct nod towards chardonnay with its generous aromas of acacia, pineapple and citrus combined with some nutty lees characters. The palate is savoury with a rounded texture and floral tones that are given impact thanks to a crunchy acid bite.
2019 Renato Ratti Colombe Langhe Dolcetto, Piedmont, A$49
A traditionally styled dolcetto that is expressive and carries plenty of concentration and flavour. Bright mid-cherry colour, it shows generous crunchy red cherry and floral flavours, with a twist of dried and fresh herbs. The palate is then elegant and juicy with a nice mix of fleshy fruit and sinewy tannins that add a distinctly savoury edge to the finish. Great food wine.
2018 Rivetto Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, A$43
An understated and elegant version of Langhe nebbiolo that delivers both complex varietal character and good drinkability. It is comparatively light in colour but no problem there as it also displays typical red cherry, earth and cold tea aromas. The palate is full and dry, with good concentration and balance of red fleshy and savoury fruit plus quite marked tannins to draw out an impressive finish. Good for early- to mid-term drinking.
2018 Tenuta Scerscé Nettare Rosso di Valtellina, Lombardy, A$35
A very different expression of nebbiolo, coming from the Italian Alps in Lombardy, compared with wines from the lower valleys in Piedmont. It is gently aromatic and subtle – almost pinot noir-like, with its lightweight, crisp acidity and silky tannins plus baked earth and tobacco aromatics sitting over a bed of red fruits. Fruit is complex and supple, which with the tangy acidity, provides good energy and brightness for an early drinking style.
2018 Gaudio Casalese Grignolino del Monferrato, Piedmont, A$38
Light cherry red in colour (it could pass for a rosé), this is a playful yet complex wine with detailed raspberry and wild strawberry fruits plus a light dusting of ground spices and roasted meat. Lightweight, it’s acid driven and juicy on a palate showing various earthy tones – all topped with a twist of supple tannins to finish. It is so very easy to drink and would also suit a light chill.
2018 Girlan 448 Bianco Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Alto Adige Südtirol, A$32
This thoroughly modern white blend designed for early drinking is made from pinot bianco blended with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. It is bright, fresh and gently aromatic with complex exotic guava, floral and citrus fruits with a faint earthy minerality. Pinot bianco comes to the fore on the palate, with chalky acidity plus citrus and green apple fruits on a lingering and pretty finish.
2019 GD Vajra Clare J.C. Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, A$49
This is a fascinating take on nebbiolo and a throwback to a historic style when this variety was known for fresh, early drinking wines bottled soon after ferment rather than the current trend for oak influenced and ageworthy styles. It’s bursting with raspberry, cranberry and rose petal fruit aromas with touches of spice followed by a spritzy, off-dry palate well balanced by crisp acidity. It’s delicious and would suit drinking with a light chill.
2019 Voerzio Martini Rochettevino Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, A$25
The Voerzio name is famous in Piedmont with this wine made by Gianni Voerzio, his brother Roberto known for some of Barolo’s finest which are modern in style. This wine is more a traditional take on dolcetto and bistro red with attractive, user-friendly cherry pip, dried herb and earthy fruit aromas with old oak in the background. The palate is fleshy and supple with moderate acidity and soft tannins delivering fantastic drinkability.
2019 Girlan 448 Rosso Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Alto Adige Südtirol, A$32
For those not familiar with the indigenous grapes from the Alto Aidge, this is an attractive introduction with the rusticity of lagrein and schiava toned down by modern winemaking and the addition of pinot noir. The wine shows ripe and savoury fruit – just ripe dark cherry, plus tar, liquorice and spice leading to a firm palate with razor like acidity and chewy tannins. It is good for the style and will be a great match with hearty meat dishes.
2016 Rizieri Nebbiolo d’Alba, Piedmont, A$40
If you want to see a modern take on nebbiolo then look no further than this wine with its significant French oak and sweet ripe fruits providing a user-friendly, although not particularly varietal nebbiolo. Good depth of colour on display and layers of ripe fruit aromas including dark cherry and blackberry are well supported by vanillin oak. It is then fleshy and ripe with luscious fruit and oak in unison plus just a touch of savoury earth to finish.