Here are five distinctive Italian red wine varieties you should know...
There are hundreds of red grape varieites in Italy but we mostly know just a few. This article describes five varieties you can try once you feel that you are ready to move beyond Sangiovese.
The images in this article and some of the text is from a blog piece by Joe Roberts. You can read the full article here
Barbera has a lot going for it. It has a robust, dark color that is instantly appealing, but it’s soft on mouth-puckering tannins and very high in acidity, which makes it a great match for Italian food in general. It offers lots of bright red fruit flavors, and carries the chocolate and vanilla aromas of oak aging very well.
The most widely grown of our quintet but relatively unknown. Grows well in many environments outside its native Piedmont. See Vinodiversity's page on Barbera in Australia
Nebbiolo takes its name from the Latin term for fog, because the grape ripens into the late fall when its home turf of Piedmont tends to get blanketed in the stuff. Though not as well known as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo is the undisputed quality king of Italian red grapes, and is responsible for some of the country’s longest-lived and greatest wines.
In some ways this variety rivals France's Pinot Noir. Many, including me, think it is better. There are some great Australian examples which you can read about on Vinodiversity's Nebbiolo page.
If you want hair-on-your-chest, powerful, serious red wine, this is your grape. Sagrantino doesn’t lack for firm structure or alcohol content. Having said that, it’s not a total monster of a wine; while it can age for many years due to its high acidity and tannin content, its structure is powerful but soft around the edges...
This variety from Italy's 'Green Heart' is a personal favourite. There are only small acreages outside Italy but there a few winemakers in Australia using Sagrantino.
This grape makes muscular, complex wines (often confused for Nebbiolo), some able to happily live on for decades of cellaring. Generally, the fruit flavors will be dark and savory, the structure will be potent, and the aromas will evoke roses and minerals.
A robust variety that needs bottle ageing. There is a small but growing set of winemakers using Aglianico in Australia
Nero d’Avola is a bit of a vinous chameleon, able to conjure up easy-drinking, everyday wines with plummy red fruit flavors, or more complex wines (often aged in some oak) that bring darker berry flavors and aromas of chocolate.
This variety thrives in the warmer areas of Australia. See Vinodiversity's Nero d'Avola page to see who is making wine from it down under.