Today only, all of northern Italy (except for Piedmont) is on sale!
(Piedmont deserves a day all to itself, and that’s exactly what we’re giving it: check back on May 1 for our Piedmont sale.)
Scroll down for some of our top deals from today’s sale and a little 101 on northern Italian wine regions – or head straight to the sale now!
Rosso di Valtellina, Plozza – 2008
A dark Nebbiolo, typical of Valtellina but with enough tarry rose petals to make you dream of Piedmont. Precocious and complex, with lovely acidity, this has flavors of lightly ripened cherries and star anise to smooth the edges off the tannins. A versatile partner for an assortment of Italian dishes, this red goes especially well with aged Pecorino, baked pasta, and wild mushrooms, or roast chicken with herbed butter.
Ribolla Gialla, Dorigo – 2010
There is no better time to drink a wine that is dominated by notes of spring flowers than in spring. Made from Ribolla Gialla, a grape indigenous to Friuli, it is characterized by notes orange blossoms, bright lemons, and a light to medium body. Girolamo Dorigo, who has owned the marly soil vineyards since 1966, is committed to producing authentic aromatic and mineral driven Fruilian Ribolla Gialla alongside his other equally delicious wines. This is excellent pairing with a cheese plate of Taleggio and Brie or linguine with mushrooms, spinach and shaved parmesan.
Lagrein, Balter – 2009
Fourth-generation winemaker Nicola Balter’s “garden” (as he refers to his vineyard) is ideally located in Vallagarina, “the valley of the Lagrein”. This deliciously fleshy, unoaked red is a wine to drink young, when its bright acidity and dark berry goodness are at their best and truly show the flavors of the region.
Pinot Nero Riserva, St. Michael-Eppan – 2008
Yes, this bottle comes from Italy, but it’s important to remember that Alto Adige (or in German, Südtirol) was once a part of Austria. Cool, right? Exactly. With an average elevation of 5,000 feet, the region is cool indeed and a perfect place for Pinot Noir to thrive. This wine to me is velvet. On the nose it’s stunning and complex with sweet tobacco, dried flowers, pine needles, and a bit of smoke…it’s an olfactory parade in a glass! On the palate I get berries. Red currants, strawberries, and enough acidity to balance the wine well. Not to mention a tinge of wet earth that a regular drinker of Blauburgunder might expect. Drink with mashed potatoes, green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, you get where this is going…
Pinot Grigio, Borgo M – 2010
I’ve learned a lot since I started working here, but sometimes I still veer back toward my earlier drinking habits when it comes to everyday wines. Perfect example: Like many people, I tried a lot of Pinot Grigio when I started my wine education. After many, many tastings, I know what great Pinot Grigio tastes like, and now when I need a dry Italian white, I go for Borgo M Pinot Grigio. It’s easy-drinking, sure, but it’s also intensely floral, and it even has some of that minerality that wine folk love to talk about. The minerals add an extra layer to a wine that doesn’t always fall into the “complex” category. This is going to be my warm-weather quaffer for many months to come!
Northern Italy 101:
Famous for its fascinating and unusual white wines, this region is home to many avant-garde winemakers who have expanded their repertoire to include both modern styles – using stainless steel and oak barriques – and ultra-traditional wines with long maceration periods, fermented in clay amphorae. The grape that benefits most from such unusual and ancient techniques is the white Ribolla Gialla variety, which yields opulent and richly layered white wines when aged in amphorae. These wines can be almost savory (as opposed to fruity) and are superb matches for the seafood dishes common on the Adriatic Coast of Friuli.
In contrast to the whites, Friuli’s unique reds, made from indigenous varieties such as Refosco, Schioppettino, and Tazzelenghe, are bright, fresh, and full of berry aromas. These reds have profiles that are far more typical of northern Italian wines.
Comprised of two autonomous regions (Trentino and Alto Adige), this swath of land forms the historic boundary between Italy and Austria. This is Pinot Grigio country – but Pinot Grigio certainly isn’t the end of the story.
The northern half of the region, Alto Adige, takes great pride in its Germanic heritage, as its dual-language wine labels show. Alto Adige is most famous for its crisp and well-mineraled whites, such Pinot Bianco (a.k.a. Weissburgunder) and Sylvaner. The primary red grape of the region is the wonderful Lagrein, which typically exhibits notes of cocoa and graphite-tinged black spice layered over deep, plummy fruit. These wines are natural matches for the roasted pork dishes that are central to the local cuisine.
Moving south into Trentino, the red Teroldego grape takes center stage, yielding wines with rich fruit flavors of blackberries and mulberries. While white wines are less important in Trentino, the bitter-almond-scented Nosiola and the intensely fruited Müller-Thurgau offer great values in very clean styles.
The red Schiava grape is grown in both Trentino and Alto Adige. These wines are very light in body and color, and offer delicate notes of strawberries and herbs. These are some of the most food-friendly wines in northern Italy, pairing easily with anything from beef carpaccio to spaghetti carbonara. Pull up a chair at any restaurant in the region, and the chances are good you’ll find Schiava at the table.
The last stop on our all-too-brief northern Italian wine tour is the Veneto. Deserving of a novella-length email in its own right, this sub-region is famous for producing a cornucopia of red and white wines.
The true star of the Veneto, however, is the family of red wines based on a blend of the Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella grapes. Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Amarone (listed here from least to most robust) are three beloved versions of this blend. Amarone, made from grapes that benefit from months of air-drying, is massively rich and powerful, making it ideally suited for after-dinner cheese-nibbling.