In Vino Veritas: Our guide to the North of Italy

Taking the lead as the world’s most prolific wine producer, Italy was named “the land of wine” by the Greeks, and with twenty designated wine regions, it’s not hard to see why. The country has thousands of years of viticulture heritage, with 702,000 hectares of vineyards planted across the state, and a perfect climate for growing grapes. Up in the north, sprinkled amongst the picture-perfect lakes and snow-capped mountains, vineyards flourish in the cooler climate. This neck of the woods is much more than just the production powerhouse of Piedmont; read on to discover Northern Italy through a wine glass. 

The North-West of Italy is presided over by the Piedmont region, close to Italy’s French and Swiss borders. The king of Barolo and Barbaresco, Piedmont is sandwiched between the chilly Alps and the balmy Mediterranean coast, creating a hilly landscape with a continental, maritime influence. The region’s hills are sprinkled with medieval castles and picturesque villages, while its vineyards grow a wide range of varieties, from Nebbiolo and Barbera to Dolcetto and Moscato. Barolo, Piedmont’s flagship variety, is traditionally aged for over ten years, in order to release spicy, fruity aromas of dark berries and to broaden the tannin structure. More recently, winemakers have shifted to producing a more modern form of the variety, ageing in oak barrels so the wine can be enjoyed sooner. Barbaresco is a warmer, less dense version of Barolo, characterized by a fine structure and rich, spicy aromatics. While red wines rule in Piedmont, there’s plenty for the white wine lover too - Cortese di Gavi is an acidic, delicate and floral variety, perfect for enjoying on a warm summer’s day.  

Also tucked up at the northern Italian border are the lesser-known regions of Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige. Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest wine region, where French and Italian grape varieties grow side-by-side; Pinot noir, Gamay and Picotendro flourish here. The thin, rocky soils of the region create a difficult growing environment for the vines, meaning the grapes that survive produce high-quality, well-concentrated wines. Further east, the Lombardy region is best known for its sparkling wines, notably Franciacorta. With a history of wine production that stretches back to the 5th century, the region is usually considered ‘cool-climate’, producing wines that are lighter-bodied and lower-alcohol, yet still mouthwateringly acidic. Another Nebbiolo producer, the Lombardy versions tend to be more approachable, lighter-bodied and a little less tannic. Last but not least, the Trentino-Alto Adige region is small but mighty; counting 6 DOCs, it is also home to many foreign varieties, like Chardonnay and Riesling. The hillside vineyards of the region create an aromatic, acidic style, while those growing in the valley tend to be medium-bodied, with ripe and juicy fruit flavors. Well-known for the acidic, full-bodied Teroldego, Trentino is also renowned for its Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. 

Moving further west, the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions surround the floating city of Venice. Although not as large as Italy’s other main wine zones, Veneto produces more bottles each year than any of them! Its climate lends itself to the production of fresh, easy-drinking wines, which are universally adored by oenophiles. The region’s most famous red, Valpolicella, is produced from the local, indigenous Corvina grape variety, which creates a delicious, rich fruitiness in the glass. In terms of white wines, Soave reigns supreme in Veneto - a very dry yet fresh and fruity wine, it is made from the regional Garganega grape. 

Highly regarded for its rich, ripe Pinot Grigio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is home to over thirty varieties, both local and international. The geographical diversity of the region produces an equally diverse output of wines; up in the north, the more moderate, continental climate produces crisp, floral wines. Those produced along the coast, in the Isonzo and Carso regions, are praised for their salinity and acidity, which pairs perfectly with seafood, amongst other Slavic dishes. Above all, these regions are known for being the birthplace of Prosecco, the much-loved sparkling white wine. Easy-drinking, refreshing and frothy, Prosecco is a delightful, reasonably-priced alternative to champagne - try it out for your next apéritif! 

Take the Italians’ advice;

il vino fa buon sangue, or a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away! There’s sure to be a bottle that pleases you amongst our selection of Italian wines, so get browsing here.