There are over 300 Grape Varieties in Italy and so to help you navigate just a few of them and gain a little more understanding, read below to discover what they all have to offer!
The Signature Friulian white. Fleshy, with hints of peach, pear, and almonds, yet with a palate-cleansing zing of minerals and acid. Considered a distant relative of Sauvignon Blanc.
Friuli’s expression of Pinot Grigio are the best in Italy: fuller, rounder, nuttier and more expressive than the general run of bone-dry, insipid whites from the grape.
A semi-aromatic white thought by some to be related to the Greco or Grecanico of Southern Italy. As the principle grape in Soave, its personality is highly variable. It can be juicy and mouth-filling, with distinctive apple and pear scents, or watery and light, depending on how it is grown.
There are two types found in Italy; Trebbiano di Soave, used as a blending variety in Soave and Lugana whites (and thought to be related to the Verdicchio of the Marche), and the workhorse Trebbiano Toscano from Tuscany, known more for its productivity than any particular flavour or aroma.
The main grape variety used in the production of Prosecco. A late-ripening white that gives the sparkling wines of North-Eastern Veneto their characteristic peachy softness.
Considered native to the Valpolicella region, this dark-skinned, richly flavoured variety is the basis for Valpolicella and Amarone. Meaty, tannic and aromatic. Increasingly popular is the larger-berried Corvinone, which some producers say is a clone and others say is a distinct variety.
A native variety to Veneto used for colour and body in Valpolicella/Amarone blends.
A native variety to Veneto used for colour and body in Valpolicella/Amarone blends but is now becoming increasingly scarce.
Called Pinot Blanc in French, and of French origin, this grape is widely planted in Italy, though in the past it was confused with Chardonnay. An especially important variety in Alto Adigem Pinot Bianco is more floral, steely and mineral-driven than Pinot Grigio, which can be surprisingly fleshy and rich in its resiny, honeyed yellow fruits and aromas.
Sylvanes is a white grape variety grown across, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland. It is fairly unfashionable and not highly regarded by the mainstream. Therefore if someone is growing it and making wine you know that have invested a little passion into the wine. It shows characteristics of honey, white flowers, chamomile, almonds and spices melded together with a piercing acidity and mineral finish.
A cross of Riesling and Sylvaner, although it really doesn’t taste like Riesling, it is fairly widespread in northern Italy.Lime, pear, jasmine and minerals dominate the flavour profile of this variety.
When yields are controlled, Lagrein can produce some of the Alto Adige’s most striking reds. One theory is that it originated along the Lagarina River of Trentino, thus the name; now it thrives in the sandy, alluvial soils around Bolzano. Tannic and spicy, it can also be velvety, displaying hints of dark cherry.
The dominant variety in the Franciacorta zone, used in both Method Champenoise sparkling wine and still whites across Italy.
Records of this grape date back to the 1400’s in the Roero hills. It was traditionally used as a blending grape to soften red Nebbiolo wines, but recent years have seen a surge in plantings. It produces fine, floral, citrusy whites.
Juicer and rounders than Arneis, it is the base of Gavi DOCG wines. It is considered a native to the Monferrato hills in Piedmont.
Herbal, piercingly acidic variety grown in the northernly reaches of Piedmont near Valle d’Aosta, particularly the town of Caluso north of Turin. Erbaluce maskes crisp dry whites and sharp, fragrant sparkling wine, as well as passito sweet wines.
Piedmont’s most-planted red, considered a native of the Monferrato Hills. Durable and extremely productive, it grows just about anywhere which lends itself to a variety of styles and tastes. Its flavours range from, vanilla, raspberry, nutmeg and cherry to intense liquorice, spice, smoke and blackberries
The name means “little sweet one” in reference to its sweet taste when ripe. Deeply coloured but with soft tannins, the variety ripens early and produces soft, fruity, accessible reds with plush black fruit flavours. Increasingly, producers are creating denser wines from the variety by aging their wines in small oak barrels.
Purportedly named after La Nebbia (fog) that decends on the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco every fall, this is Italy’s answer to Pinot Noir. Considered native to Piedmont, records of its cultivation date back to the 1300’s. Late ripening and sensitive to adverse vintage conditions, it nevertheless produces Italy’s most uniquely perfumed and powerful red. Its skins are surprisingly thin for a grape known for its bitting tannins, making it susceptible to breakage, and typically the colour of Barolo leans more toward light ruby, even as a young wine.
Probably brought to Italy by the Spaniards by way of Sardinia. A durable coastal white with a cool, dewy, green melon flavour and a seaspary finish.
A light fragrant white, it is more or less limited to the area around San Gimignano in Tuscany
Italy’s most noble and most diffuse red grape, the base of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (where it is called Prugnolo), Brunello di Montalcino (where it is called Brunello) it is also planted throughout Italy in many different styles. It is naturally high in acid and is defined by its dry dusty tannins and tart raspberry and cherry flavours enhanced by subtle spice.
It is difficult to pin point when it arrived in Tuscany, but this “French” grape has been in Italy since the early nineteenth century, if not before. While tough to ripen farther north, it matures beautifully in Tuscany, producing wines with a luscious combination of sweet cassis fruit and firm tannins. It also forms the basis for many “Super Tuscans”
Found only in Umbria, its’ origins are unclear, and only about 250 acres of vineyards are planted with the variety. A deep dark, tannic grapes whose wines have an exotic spiciness.
Thought to be part of the vast Greco-Trebbiano family, it has been genetically linked to subvarieties such as the trebbiano’s of Lugana and Soave. The grape has a distinctive aroma of green fruits and a trademark almondy finish with a very high natural acidity.
The name means “tears” in reference to the grapes tendency to rupture easily and spill “tears of juice on the bunch. It is grown in a small area west of Ancona and makes distinctively fruity, Beaujolais-like reds.
Not to be confused with the Tuscan town of the same name, this deeply colourful, sweetly tannic variety was thought in the past to be a distant relative of Sangiovese. Not anymore. But while it is unique to Abruzzo and a few of the regions neighbours, no one knows for sure where it originated. No matter. It is showing increasing class in deeply colourful and richly flavoured Abruzzo wines.
Thought to have been brought by the acient Greeks, it may have gotten it name from the Latin word ‘Phalanga’, meaning stake or pole, in reference to the early Greek method of training vines to poles. It shows characters of white stone fruits, white flowers and soft citrus fruits to balance it out.
Campania vies with Basilicata for ownership rights to this variety. Most experts believe it was brought by the Greeks, its name a mutation of the Italian work for Greek, ‘Ellenico’. Found primarily in the hills of Irpinia (Taurasi DOC) and Benevento (Taburno DOC), but it is also on the rise on the North Coast. It shows flavours of dark cherry, tar, leather, spice and bold tannin. In some cases it can also by stylistically similar to some Barolo.
Genetically linked to American Zinfandel, an early-ripening, softly structured red used in varietal wines and blends. Primitivos tend to be juicy, well structured, heavy in colour and concentration and high in alcohol. It also shows aromas of Blackberries, violets and pepper.
Mostly planted in Puglia, and the sixth most planted red in Italy. Dark, thick-skinned and tannic, it shows blackcurrant, clove, cinnamon and leather.
One of Italy’s most heavily planted varieties, and yet it is found only in Sicily. Used in dry white varietals and blends from Alcamo and as a key blending ingredient in Marsala.
Sicilian white grape variety once used as the base for the best Marsala. Grown on bush vines, it produced potent, full-bodied base wines that were supplemented by a proportion of the more aromatic Inzolia. Grillo's decline has mirrored that of Marsala, and it has been replaced in many vineyards by the more vigorous Catarratto. At its best, it gives full-bodied wines of real interest, although they lack the aromatic intensity that has made Inzolia's transformation from fortified to dry white wine variety so much easier. S
Like Malvasia, Moscato Bianco is ancient, versatile, and enjoys a geographical distribution that covers virtually the entire peninsula. Wines called Moscato are produced all over the country and are usually made from Moscato Bianco grapes. In the south and, especially, the islands, they are typically golden and sweet.
Few of Italy's regions do not have their own Moscato-based wines, and Luigi Veronelli's Reportorio dei vini italiani, published in 1990, listed over 50 different types of Moscato. The majority of these are low in alcohol and at least lightly sweet, ideal accompaniments to fruit and fruit-based desserts. The best known and most widely popular of these wines — almost the national prototype for Moscato — is the Moscato planted in the Asti region in its two different forms: the sparkling Asti version and the more lightly fizzy and less alcoholic Moscato d'Asti.
Sicily’s most prominent native variety. The wines are deep and rich in black-fruit flavours, with a hint of exotic spice. Many wine-makers compare its character to that of Syrah, with which it is often combined in blends.
A spicy, deep-coloured black grape used as the base of Etna Rosso DOC and others rewds of Eastern Sicily. Form an aromatic point of view, Nerello Mascalese offers a complex variety of scents; from red fruit notes to subtle spice and tobacco tones.
A local blending variety, it is much fleshier and immediately charming than Nerello Mascalese. However, it produces wines of splendid colour but is not suitable to extreme ageing. Whereas the opposite happens for wines produced from Nerello Mascalese. Nerello Cappuccio shows more terrior characteristics than that of Nerello mascalese.