Monday, March 7, 2016

Italian Wines to Try: Guest Post by Valter from Tourist by Chance

Many of you probably know Italian wine because of Chianti or Montepulciano, or even grape varieties like the Sangiovese. Holding the Italian flag high in recent years seems to be Prosecco. However, as I always tell travelers coming to Italy, there is more to this country than Rome, Florence, and Venice, and the same can be said about Italian wines.

I am neither a sommelier nor a wine connoisseur. I am a wine drinker and wine “enjoyer” (yes, I created a new word to explain my level of wine knowledge). This means I have a passion for wine, I know my tastes, I have a short list of favorites and I had put all together in a 10-week wine tasting course. Hence, I know pompous words used by the industry. Wine tasting has often been seen as a hobby for snobs and I can assure you it is not entirely the case, even though you can come across some “funny” people.

In essence, wine tasting heightens your senses, smells, and tastes you never thought you could experience from a grape! It is incredible that you can smell the aroma of peach in a white wine or vanilla in a red one. These aromas are there, and you do not need to be a snob to describe what it is you are tasting or smelling.

So throw away that “Wine for dummies” e-book, and sit down with a bottle of local wine, preferably on a rooftop garden overlooking the gulf of Naples, a B&B in Orvieto at sunset overlooking the green Umbrian countryside, or simply in your lounge room with friends. Do not let the world around you distract your wine tasting experience, be bold and risk a little more.

What is that your palate says to you? How do the aromas smell to you? Not what other people say, but what do YOU feel, taste, and smell? Wine taste is subjective, in my humble opinion, and a pleasure we all should enjoy.

Excuse the ramble on wine but it is a subject I have grown fond of. When Justyna and I decided to collaborate, I wanted to share with you MY favorite wines. I am not going to list the aromas or rules for drinking or what you should expect. This is a list of wines I am suggesting you try, see what you think of them yourself and get back to me! I would love to hear your feedback.

  • San Magno from Corte dei Papi (Cesanese Grape)
  • Ziggurat from Carapace - Tenuta Castelbuono (Sagrantino Grape)
  • Barolo from Pelassa (Nebbiolo Grape)

Cesanese del Piglio

A must-try when you are in Lazio is the Cesanese del Piglio. It’s a locally grown grape variety from the town of Anagni as well as four other surrounding towns in the comune of Frosinone.

My favorite producer in the area is Corte dei Papi. It’s a family owned winery that offers a great selection. Their San Magno is amazing with the local food of the Ciociaria and also the food of Lazio, or you can pair it with various types of cheeses. Their good all around wine is Colle Ticchio and can be enjoyed in winter and summer months.


Another red that I have thoroughly enjoyed is the Sagrantino, found in the Montefalco area of Umbria (one of my favorite regions in Italy). This grape variety has been getting some recognition lately, but the Umbrianites (Umbrians? ...not important) have been enjoying this grape since the 1600s—now that is important!

I went to the awesome Carapace winery of the Lunelli family and enjoyed their amazing collection of reds. This is one of the largest producers of wine in Italy, so it is fairly different than a small family winery like Corte de Papi. Not only is their wine delicious but their winery is incredible, too!


This may be one of the only wine varieties I came across purely by chance. I had been told of the amazing Barolo’s of this world and while I was doing some online wine shopping I came across Pelassa. Reading a bit of their history, I found a family owned winery with a pretty great website—I thought I would check this bottle of wine out.

I lucked out simply by taking a chance and not reading other people’s reviews. The meal I tried it with was a simple yet delicious plate of pappardelle with homemade bolognese sauce. Just perfect.


  • Ribolla Gialla by Forchir 
  • Ribolla Gialla by Attems

You might think, “Wow, creative this Valter, with his two wines of the same grape variety.” I particularly enjoy this white and could not choose between the two wineries.

I cannot take the credit for discovering Ribolla Gialla. This was all my ex-girlfriend who, while out to dinner one night, asked me a simple question, “Have you ever tried Ribolla Gialla before?” I said, “No, I cannot say I have” and ordered the bottle on the menu. I do not double guess such “signs,” especially when it comes to wines.

Since then, I have ventured to other whites, however, this grape variety remains my favorite. Let’s see if 2016 can change my mind on this one!

Both wineries are found in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Both also produce great wines to accompany to seafood pasta dishes through and, yes, I am going to write it, sushi! This is a recommended grape variety for lovers of white wine and seafood.

Psst, Over Here! I must be honest with you, my favorite white is a Sauvignon Blanc from Giesen Wine Estate in New Zealand but shhhhhh… don’t tell my friends.

Prosecco / Spumante (just don’t call it Champagne!):

  • Spumante by Corte dei Papi (Champenoise method) 
  • Carpene Malvolti Prosecco (Charmat method) 

So, I will start by saying that I love to eat with sparkling wine. I definitely do not see it only as an aperitif or just mixed to make your Aperol Spritz! Again, in my very humble opinion, the right spumante and prosecco must be followed by Brut/Extra Brut/Brut Nature: the drier the better.

Serve these wines with a cheese platter, a seafood dinner, a roast dinner, or dessert! In my opinion, there are no boundaries for when and where to use a Spumante or a Prosecco—as long as it is dry.

Key information on sparkling whites:

Spumante - is a simple term to for “sparkling white.”

Prosecco - producers must use 100% Glera grapes to call it Prosecco.

Champenoise method - highest quality production and most manual processes, with the secondary fermentation inside the bottle and —voilà—you get fine, elegant bubbles.

Charmat method - less expensive mass-production method where the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle. More important, the wine has coarser bubbles. However, it can still taste great when it’s from a right producer.

In short, these are just my personal suggestions of Italian wines to try. Many can be also found overseas, so you can check them out before coming to Italy.

Discover Italy as a local. You will find a whole new world. Experience the real tastes of “Il Bel Paese.” I am always happy to help with any suggestions. Plenty of information can be found at Also, follow me on Vivino, my trusty wine app!

If you try any of my favorite wine picks, or you tried some Italian wines that you really enjoyed, comment below. If you liked this post, make sure to share it - Justyna and I will thank you for it!

PS: Wines can be delivered “corked,” so if you are not sure, ask your waiter or sommelier to taste it for you. Do not let one bad bottle ruin a wine for you. Also, remember that a certain winmight not be what you like. Be kind in your reviews, especially for family run wineries (they work really hard and with a lot of passion). Do not let your bad experience put other people off. Also, do not always go by what “the best in the biz” suggest. Like I said above,  tastes are subjective and what I like might be very different to what you like, so keep an open mind!

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