Over 300 grape varieties are used to actively produce wines in Italy, with another 300 or 400 grown throughout the country making small production, regional wines for towns and villages, enjoyed by locals and visitors. Thankfully, many of these beauties are imported into the US, giving us the opportunity to get a taste of Italy easily.
When we think Italian sparkling, fruity, frothy Prosecco comes to mind. Prosecco DOC sparklers, like La Marca and Zardetto, are made to be enjoyed in its youth, the wines are approachable, affordable and fun, perfect for sipping on their own or mixed with fruit juice or spirits to create flirty cocktails. Prosecco Superiore DOCG defines more of a sense of place, telling the stories of the history and terroir. The 15 communes that make up the Prosecco Superiore DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene, the most premium part of the region, just achieved UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site.
Ten years in the making, the declaration came thanks to the unique characteristics of the area’s rolling hillsides, creating wines with character, like Ruggeri Cartizze and Extra Dry, Perlage Brut, Adami Col Credas Rive di Farra di Soligo, and Villa Sandi Cartizze.
The Prosecco region is not the only area making tasty Italian sparklers. In the Lombardi region, north of Milan, Franciacorta has its eyes set on rivaling the finest Champagnes in the world. Warmer than the beloved French region, classic Champagne varieties in Italy ripen more evenly and with higher sugar levels, giving winemakers the ability to produce zero dosage wines in the traditional method of Champagne, with the second fermentation happening in the bottle to create the bubbles.
The wines are different than Champagne, and they should be as the stunningly gorgeous region shines with Italian personality. Leading examples include Bellavista, Majolini, Berlucchi, and Antica Fratta.
For all of the fabulous regions of Italy for food, Emilia-Romagna may be the most popular. The home of Bologna, Parma, and Modena, the region is known for its egg and filled pasta made like tortellini, lasagne, and tagliatelle, the celebrated balsamic vinegar of Modena, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) and Grana Padano, and pork-based prosciutto, pancetta, coppa, salami, and mortadella.
To pair, stunning Lambrusco. The red grape, which 30 years ago mainly produced sweet fizzy wines, today delivers aromatic, fruity, herbaceous, deeply colored sparklers with lip-smacking character. Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro is the premium sparkler of the winery, made in a Brut (dry) style showcasing a vibrant fruit profile with delicate style ideal to pair with cured meat and hard cheese.
Piemonte is known for their incredible Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera wines, but that’s not all. Piemonte is the home of the first Italian classic method sparkling wine. In the early-1800’s the counts of Sambuy, began cultivating classic Champagne varieties, primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, in Piedmont. By the early 1900s Piemontese producers launched full production of traditional “Champanoise” method Spumante (sparkling wine) in the region. Fast forward to 1990 and “Spumante Metodo Classico in Piemonte Project” was officialized, becoming “Tradizione Spumante” in covering 21 distinct estates and around 60 acres of vineyards in 1993.
In 1996 the name, Alta Langa, was chosen for the region. In 2011 the region became received DOCG recognition. One of the original seven producers in the late 1800’s was Enrico Serafino. Enrico Serafino Alta Langa Brut has been produced since 1878, melding predominantly Pinot Noir with 20% Chardonnay, the apple, toasted brioche, cream, and spice filled sparkler is elegant, elevated, and delicious.