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Everything You Need To Know About Italian Wine

by Straits Wine Company 31 May 2023

From the rolling hills of Piedmont to the sun-drenched vineyards of Sicily, Italy is a treasure trove for wine enthusiasts worldwide. Italian wine boasts a history that spans over thousands of years, deeply intertwined with the country’s culture and traditions. Renowned for its unparalleled craftsmanship, Italy offers a remarkable range of grape varietals, each contributing distinct characteristics to the wines they produce. 

Every sip of Italian wine is a sensory journey, and this month we’re putting some of our most well-loved labels in the spotlight so you can sample them for yourself––think names like Braida, Speri, Mandrarossa, and more. Check out our Ciao Italia! promotion here and join us as we dive into everything you need to know about Italian wine, and take our word for it when we tell you which bottles pair well with familiar dishes.

For more information on promos and other exciting happenings – from wine tastings and masterclasses to chef collaborations – follow us on @straitswinecompany on Instagram and Facebook


An Introduction to Italian Wine

Italy is home to over 350 officially recognized grape varieties, with countless more regional and local varieties. Some of the most famous Italian grapes include Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Montepulciano, and Primitivo for red wines, while Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Verdicchio, and Moscato are popular white grape varieties. These grapes thrive in different regions throughout the country, resulting in a diverse range of flavours and styles. 

Photo credit: Johny Goerend on Unsplash


Fun fact: Italian wine is deeply intertwined with its regions, which are often referred to as wine “appellations” or “DOCs” (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). Each region has its own unique set of winemaking regulations, ensuring the authenticity and quality of the wines produced. 

Some of the most renowned wine regions in Italy include Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto, Lombardy, Sicily, and Puglia, among others. Tuscany, with its rolling hills and iconic cities like Florence and Siena, is famous for producing world-class wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Piedmont, nestled in the northwest, is known for its prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines, both crafted from the noble Nebbiolo grape. Veneto, in the northeastern part of the country, is the birthplace of Prosecco and Amarone wines, while Sicily showcases its diverse terroir through wines like Nero d’Avola and Marsala. 

Italian winemakers take great pride in their craft, often relying on traditional winemaking techniques passed down through generations. While modern technology has its place in Italian winemaking, many producers still embrace old-world practices, resulting in wines that carry a sense of history and tradition.


Italian Wines We Love  

There are endless labels to choose from, but here at Straits Wine, we pick the best of the best. We present our top five picks when it comes to Italian wine, and what each bottle is best paired with so you’ll have a culinary experience that’s out of this world! 


  1. Braida 

Braida is a prominent winery located in Piedmont, Italy, known for its exceptional wines and its instrumental role in revolutionising winemaking in the region. Established in 1961 by Giacomo Bologna, Braida has become synonymous with quality, innovation, and a deep respect for traditional winemaking techniques.

Try it: Braida Bricco Della Bigotta Barbera d’Asti 2017

Braida Bricco Della Bigotta Barbera d’Asti 2017 is a flagship wine, showcasing Braida’s impressive expertise with the Barbera grape. This particular vintage, the 2017, represents the characteristics of the Barbera d’Asti appellation. It is crafted from grapes grown in the Bricco della Bigotta vineyard, known for its favourable terroir. The wine exhibits a deep ruby colour with a complex bouquet of ripe dark fruits, spices, and floral notes. On the palate, it is rich and full-bodied, with well-integrated tannins and a vibrant acidity that balances the fruit flavours.

Pair it with: Grilled or roasted meats, such as lamb or beef; aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino; or traditional Italian options like pasta with rich tomato-based sauces, such as Bolognese or amatriciana.


  1. Speri

Speri is a renowned winery located in the Valpolicella region of Italy, specifically in the heart of the Classico zone. With a history dating back to the late 1800s, Speri is recognized as one of the region’s historic and traditional winemaking families.

Try it: Speri Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2018

Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018 is crafted using the traditional appassimento method, which means the grapes are carefully harvested by hand and then dried for several months to concentrate their flavours and sugars. 

On the nose, it reveals an enticing bouquet of dried fruits, such as raisins and prunes, complemented by notes of cherries, dark chocolate, spices, and a touch of tobacco. On the palate, this wine showcases a remarkable balance between its concentrated fruit flavours, well-integrated tannins, and vibrant acidity. The dried fruit characteristics persist, accompanied by additional layers of complexity and depth. Elements of blackberries, figs, baking spices, and hints of leather intertwine, creating a harmonious and luxurious tasting experience.


Pair it with: Aside from meats, especially gamier ones like lamb, and intense aged cheeses like Gorgonzola, this bottle is also a wonderful companion to dark chocolate desserts.


  1. Mandrarossa 

Mandrarossa is a well-known and respected winery located in Sicily, Italy. It is part of the Cantine Settesoli cooperative, which is one of the largest wine producers in Sicily. The winemaking team at Mandrarossa employs modern techniques combined with a respect for tradition to craft their wines. The focus is on producing high-quality wines that represent the true essence of Sicilian terroir while capturing the natural flavours and aromas of the grapes.

Try it: Mandrarossa Nero d’Avola Costadune 2020 

The Mandrarossa Nero d’Avola Costadune 2020 is a red wine crafted from the Nero d’Avola grape variety. This wine offers a vibrant and fruit-forward profile with flavours of ripe dark berries, cherries, and a touch of spice. Its medium-bodied nature and approachable tannins make it a versatile wine for various food pairings.

Pair it with: Pizza, whether it’s a meat-heavy one or a plain classic Margherita, it’ll work. You can also pair it with grilled meats like lamb, beef, or pork, as well as pasta dishes like a good Bolognese. 


  1. Scarbolo

Scarbolo is a prominent family-managed winery located in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy. Founded in 1960 by Valentino Scarbolo, the winery primarily focuses on indigenous grape varieties, such as Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are well-suited to the region’s terroir.

Try it: Scarbolo Refosco 2015

Scarbolo Refosco 2015 is made from the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso grape variety, which is indigenous to the Friuli region. In the glass, Scarbolo Refosco 2015 displays a deep ruby-red colour, indicating its richness and intensity. On the nose, it reveals an inviting bouquet of dark berries, such as blackberries and black cherries, accompanied by notes of spices, herbs, and a subtle earthiness. On the palate, this wine showcases a well-structured and full-bodied character, with flavours of black plums, blueberries, black pepper, and hints of chocolate intertwining, creating a rich and textured palate. 

Scarbolo Refosco 2015 is a wine that can be enjoyed now or aged further to allow its flavours to evolve and mature. With its solid structure and concentration, it has excellent ageing potential.


Pair it with: This wine pairs well with meats and cheeses of any kind, but it also goes particularly well with Asian creations like spicy Sichuan dishes, or braised pork belly and even a simple yet comforting beef stir-fry. 


  1. La Valentina 

La Valentina is a respected winery located in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Founded in 1990, the winery is situated in the hills of Spoltore, near Pescara, offering a range of wines, from crisp whites to elegant reds. La Valentina’s vineyards are meticulously managed, ensuring low yields and optimal grape quality. Sustainable farming practices and a hands-on approach in the vineyards contribute to the overall quality and expression of their wines.

Try it: La Valentina Montepulciano D’abruzzo DOC Riserva Spelt 2018

The La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva Spelt 2018 is a flagship wine, representing the pinnacle of the winery’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo offerings. It is a red wine crafted from 100% Montepulciano grapes, sourced from carefully selected vineyards in the Abruzzo region of Italy. 

The term “Riserva” indicates that this wine has undergone a longer ageing process compared to regular Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines, allowing for further development of its flavours and aromas. In the glass, the La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Spelt 2018 displays a deep ruby colour, hinting at its intensity. On the palate, this wine showcases a harmonious balance between its fruit flavours, vibrant acidity, and well-integrated tannins. The rich fruitiness persists, with additional layers of complexity emerging as the wine opens up, revealing nuances of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and hints of earthiness.

Pair it with: This wine shines alongside hearty and flavorful dishes. It pairs exceptionally well with grilled or roasted meats, such as lamb chops or aged beef steaks. Its robust character also complements dishes like braised short ribs, wild game, and stews. Hard cheeses, such as Pecorino or aged Parmesan, can be a delightful accompaniment as well.

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