A Guide to the Best Wines of Northern Italy

Italy is one of the most dynamic and important wine countries in the entire world, and the northern portion of the country is home to some of its most interesting regions.

From the serious dry red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont to the refined and high-quality sparkling wines of Franciacorta, there is enough variety in the wines of northern Italy to suit every palate.

The Top Wines of Northern Italy

piedmont

Piedmont

Piedmont is one of the most famous and important wine regions in the entire world and home to some of the most prominent and prestigious wine regions in all of Italy. The most important red wine grape in this region is Nebbiolo, with Muscat being the most prominent white wine grape.

The Nebbiolo grape is a fairly light-skinned red wine grape that produces mouth-watering wines that are generally light in color, low in tannin, and high in acidity. When aged, wines made using the Nebbiolo grape fade in color and develop a brick red hue with hints of orange.

Barolo and Barbaresco are two of the most prestigious sub-regions in all of Italy, and both are located in the Piedmont region. Both are home to a number of reputable and recognizable top-tier wine producers that make some of the most highly regarded wines in the world.

Barolo

barolo

The typical Barolo style of Nebbiolo is a bit more tannic and aggressive when compared with Barbaresco. There is also an aging requirement of three years in Barolo, while a minimum of only two years of aging is mandated in Barbaresco.

Wines from Barolo are the strongest and most aggressive representation of the Nebbiolo grape that is found anywhere in the world due to the combination of aggressive tannins and high alcohol content. Barolo wines often contain 15 percent alcohol per volume or even higher.

Bartolo Mascarello Barolo DOCG is a refined and highly renowned bottle of wine from the Barolo region that is one of the first bottles sommeliers reach for when suggesting Barolo to a table. The 2017 vintage received an impressive 97-point score from Wine Enthusiast magazine.

More affordable vintages sell for around $200 per bottle at auction, though prices can reach double that figure at fine dining establishments. Vintages that are more highly sought after can vary greatly in price as collectors are increasingly willing to pay astronomical amounts.

Falletto di Bruno Giacosa ‘Falletto Riserva – Falletto Vigna Le Rocche’ Barolo DOCG is consistently ranked in the top five of “Best Wines of Barolo” lists, and with good reason. This high-quality producer uses traditional techniques to make fantastic red wine.

The wine grapes used in this unforgettable bottle of wine are grown in some of the most prestigious and coveted plots of land in all of Italy, and the producer used old grape vines to produce some of the highest quality Nebbiolo grapes in the entire world.

Barbaresco

barbaresco

The wines produced in Barbaresco are considered to be more delicate and approachable when compared to the aggressive Nebbiolo wines of Barolo. These wines are easier to drink for less experienced palates, as the tannins are softer with a light body and incredible balance.

While the wines of Barbaresco are considered to be of very high quality, some wine enthusiasts view the wines of Barolo to be more “serious” and age-worthy. The prices in the Barbaresco are slightly more reasonable compared to Barolo, making these great first bottles from Piedmont.

Gaja Barbaresco DOCG is an extremely recognizable bottle of wine from the Barbaresco region of Piedmont that has become nearly synonymous with the region. This label is widely distributed, and is a huge seller on the international wine market.

This top-shelf bottle of wine has been featured on the Wine Spectator “Top 100 List” for multiple decades, putting it among elite company in the world of high-quality wine production. There is a good reason that this particular label has risen to the top of Italy’s competitive wine business.

Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili Riserva is another extremely famous bottle of wine from the Barbaresco region that has made its way overseas and is a top seller all over the world. This refined wine is full of finesse and is a staple on wine lists all over Europe.

Veneto

veneto

The Veneto region is a major producer of sparkling wine, and the Glera grape is the most important varietal in the region. While Prosecco is the most important wine produced here, Veneto is also home to the big and bold Amarone style of red wine.

Prosecco is one of the most popular sparkling wines in the entire world today. This simple and easy-to-drink sparkler is crisp and generally affordable, making it a staple at parties and restaurants all over the world.

While the Glera grape is not a household name by any means, it is one of the most consumed wine grapes in the entire world. Many wine enthusiasts only know these bright and crisp sparkling wines as “Prossecco” and have no idea that the primary grape is called Glera.

Prosecco is produced using the “Tank Method,” where a large quantity of still wine is carbonated at once in a large container. This process is far more economical and less labor intensive when compared with the “Traditional Method” used in the famous Champagne region.

The bubbles produced using the tank method are considerably larger compared to the smaller and more delicate bubbles from the traditional method. For this reason, many wine enthusiasts refer to Prossecco bubbles as “beer bubbles.”

La Marca Prosecco is an affordable and mass-produced sparkling wine that is widely distributed and easy to find at a variety of outlets. This is one of the most used bottles of Prossecco in the restaurant industry when it comes to brunch drinks such as mimosas.

Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG is the most famous and popular bottle of Amarone from the region of Veneto. This is a strong and aggressive red wine that is best served with dishes containing fatty meats or cheeses.

Lombardy

lombardy

While the Lombardy region is not typically thought of as one of Italy’s most important wine regions, it is responsible for a unique sparkling wine that is currently in the middle of a major resurgence in the international wine market.

Franciacorta is a small subregion of Lombardy that produces what many wine enthusiasts consider to be the highest quality sparkling wines in all of Italy. These high-quality sparkling white wines are made using the same techniques and wine grapes as Champagne, France.

The wines made in the Franciacorta region of Lombardy are produced using the traditional method, which results in sparkling wine with a refined texture and small delicate bubbles. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two primary grapes used to make Franciacorta.

Ca’ del Bosco Cuvee Annamaria Clementi is perhaps the most famous bottle of Franciacorta on the market today. It has received a number of prestigious awards and is one of the best bottles of sparkling wine being produced in Italy today.

Emilia-Romagna

emilia romagna

Emilia-Romagna is a small northern Italian wine region that is best known for the production of a unique sparkling red wine. Lambrusco was once commonplace on wine lists all over the world, though it is in the middle of a massive comeback in terms of popularity.

Lambrusco is light and easy-drinking red sparkling wine that carries fruit flavors and aromas that are not normally present in sparkling wine. While this style of wine fell out of the limelight for many years, there are many dedicated wine lovers who are helping its revival today.

Riunite Lambrusco is a simple and affordable representation of Lambrusco that is mass-produced, widely distributed, and available at a variety of wine shops and restaurants all over the world.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

friuli-venezia giulia

The Friuli region is located on the northern border of Italy and is very close to both Slovenia and Austria in terms of geography as well as culture. These wines are often produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker to allow the wines to express as much terroir as possible.

No one wine grape dominates the landscape in Friuli, and both white and red wine grapes are commonly produced here. Blends are a scarcity in this region, as the vast majority of Friuli wine on the market today, is single varietal bottles of high-quality wine.

Jermann ‘Where Dreams have no end’ Venezia Giulia IGT is one of the most popular bottles of wine from this high-quality wine region, and it is made using 100 percent Chardonnay grape.

It has received a 92-point score from Wine Enthusiast and represents an incredible value.

Trentino

trentino

Trentino is a mountainous region that borders the country of Germany, and the cultural influences from across the border are evident both in the local language and styles of wine. The area is best known for making clean and crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio.

Sparkling wines are sometimes produced in the Trentino region, though the area is best known for producing single varietal bottles of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. These wines are usually fairly affordable and represent high quality and skilled winemaking.

Ca’ Montini Terre di Valfredda Pinot Grigio Trentino is an affordable bottle of Pinot Grigio that showcases the best parts of this cold weather Italian wine region. It is both crisp and balanced, with an acidity that can only be produced in a cold weather region.

Wines of Northern Italy – Conclusion

Northern Italy is home to some of the most important and interesting wine regions in the entire world. There are a number of different styles of sparkling wines produced here, as well as high-quality dry red and white still wines.

While there are dozens of different subregions scattered across northern Italy, there are five that are considered by many to be the most important.

Feel free to leave a comment below, and let other wine enthusiasts know which bottles of wine from northern Italy are some of your favorites!

Also, check out our list of wine regions so you can help deepen your knowledge of wine!