Coffee, pasta, pizza, Prosecco and wine… the British seem to love all things Italian at the moment! So diverse and fascinating, Italian wine thoroughly deserves this current popularity.

As far as great reds go, Tuscany fields players such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - all made from Sangiovese – to add to its line-up of Supertuscans from French varieties. The star players in Piedmont are Barolo and Barbaresco made from Nebbiolo grapes then Primitivo, Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese all feature in the South. Exploring the whites, there is so much more to discover than budget Pinot Grigio! Gavi, Friuli and Soave should be remembered in the North, but the South is an equally good source of richer, silkier wines made from grapes such as Fiano and Greco. From the middle are the old favourites, but much-improved Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Orvieto, Frascati and Verdicchio.

Veneto & NE Italy

Most of Italy’s finest whites come from the North of the country, particularly the states of Veneto, Alto-Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia from where we have recently introduced the fragrant wines of Fernanda Cappello; hervines grow on the poor alluvial soils of Grave del Friuli against a spectacular backdrop of the Dolomites. They are better value than those of nearby Colli Orientali and Collio. The Soave and Lugana regions are situated near Verona, and just to the north of the city on Lake Garda, the Zeni family make super examples. Just by Venice is Luca Botter who makes the excellent value Amanti range for us.

In Verona, Bologna, Venice and Trieste there are plenty of people in need of red wine so vineyards abound, making some of the country’s most elegant reds. From next door Veneto you will find extremely drinkable reds: Valpolicella and Bardolino from the Zeni family who also have a charming wine museum above the shores of Lake Garda. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is a typical grape of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.

Piedmont & NW Italy

The great red wine-producing area of Piedmont (Piemonte) is based around Alba, the truffle capital of Italy and also the home of some of Italy’s best cooking, providing many an interesting wine and food match. Creamy pastas are often the order of the day here, cut through by the tannins and acidity of wines such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Barolo and Barbaresco. The Barolo region is extremely hilly, almost mountainous, and in the southern part near Monforte d’Alba is the Paolo Conterno estate. Run by energetic Giorgio Conterno, they cultivate just 7 ha of vines including in nearby Ginestra, one of the most famous ‘cru’ vineyards of Barolo. Over the hills to the north, Eugenio Bocchino makes a super range of wines at La Morra, some with dachshund-adorned labels! Manfredi is a larger producer at Dogliani in south-west Barolo. Moving to Barbaresco whose wines can be prettier and more immediate than Barolo, and none more so than those of Renato Fenocchio. Coming from 11 tiny, steep vineyards, they are very pure expressions of his vines. Cortese is the best white grape of Piedmont and reaches its zenith in Gavi di Gavi. We’ve tasted many but few come close to the greengage fruit of the small La Chiara estate.


Tuscany is principally known for its aristocratic red wines. They run from the humblest Chianti – brimming with bright cherry fruit – to the rich, dense wines of Brunello di Montalcino. At the heart of Tuscany is hilly Chianti Classico and at its centre is an area known as the Conca d’Oro, shell-shaped due to its spurs of land. Giampaolo Motta’s La Massa estate occupies one of these with densely planted Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet vines. Higher up in the forested hills above Gaiole-in-Chianti, Riecine makes very fine, svelte wines which have a great sense of place. Delicious Chianti from the Geografico co-operative and wines from Florentine dynasty, Marchesi Antinori, further make up our range from these parts.

Skipping south of Siena to Montalcino, you will find the brilliant wines of astrology expert Giugi Sesti and his daughter Elisa at picturesque Castello di Argiano which have a great following among our customers. At the northern end of the Montalcino plateau is Podere Santa Maria, belonging to Marino Colleoni who lets us have all he can from his tiny organic estate. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from about 20 miles east, and the Barbanera family are a good source of this and Chianti too under the Duca di Saragnano label. Towards the coast, in the downland Maremma region, Anna-Maria Cruciata makes lovely Morellino di Scansano at her Val di Toro estate.

Supertuscans: Big silky Supertuscans rely on varying proportions of Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – for their star appeal. Bolgheri is a newish DOC near the Tuscan coast and is famous for Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Ornellaia and Masseto but there are Supertuscans now from all over Tuscany which are labelled as IGT Toscana, usually because they don’t conform to the correct levels of Sangiovese.

Cappella Sant’Andrea, named after San Gimignano’s St. Andrea’s Chapel, is a delightful estate making Tuscany’s best known white, Vernaccia, within sight of the famous medieval towers of San Gimignano. As far as late-harvest and muffia nobile (botrytis) wines goes, Italy has some rare gems as well as wines from grapes dried on mats and ‘cooked’ in barrels in lofts such as Tuscan Vino Santo!

Umbria & Mid Italy

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is the classic fish wine of the Marche on the Adriatic coast whereas Orvieto is a more nutty white from Umbria where Marchesi Antinori own the Castello della Sala estate; Santa Cristina is a sub-brand. Frascati has long been the spritzy, gluggable white of Rome’s trattorias.

Abruzzo and Umbria are important states for red wine production. In one of the most beautiful parts of Umbria near Montefalco, Roberta Vitale’s Rocca di Fabbri estate is centred around a fourteenth century fortress or ‘Rocca’; Sagrantino is an intriguing, renowned local grape. Over an earthquake prone part of the Apennines, Abruzzo is home to the Montepulciano grape. The 700 grower-strong Roxan co-operative stands guard over the Pescara river valley. Tenuta del Priore is situated in the hills inland from Pescara and is now run by Fabrizio Mazzocchetti, son of one of the founders. His emphasis is on indigenous grapes grown at higher altitudes with the Campotino label used for earlier drinking, fruit-driven wines and Col di Mondo label employed for his more concentrated, structured wines.

South of Italy

Gloriously generous reds are the hallmarks of the warm South or ‘Mezzogiorno’ with its winemaking history going back to the time of the Ancient Greeks. The vineyard area of Puglia, the heel of Italy, is large, making it a significant producer on a world scale of both international varieties and, more interestingly, Negroamaro and Primitivo (Zinfandel). Four Cantele family cousins now run the eponymous winery which traces its roots back to 1907. In Basilicata, the seven-peaked, extinct volcano of Monte Vulture is the focal point for the Aglianico grape from which frenetic winemaker, Oronzo Alò of Alovini, coaxes brilliantly silky wines. Taurasi is the most famous red of Campania.

Some of Italy’s fullest and most interesting whites come from the steep, volcanic slopes of the Apennines: Fiano at Avellino and Greco at Tufo in Campania. The Mastroberardino family’s Terredora vineyards excel at these, along with fine Lacryma Christi from Mt. Vesuvius. La Guardiense, one of the biggest co-operatives in Italy was founded in 1960 by 33 farmers and today has around a thousand growers tending some 1,500 ha of vineyards. The winery is at Santa Lucia in Campania, north-east of Naples, and the vineyards are in the surrounding Beneventano province. They specialise in Falanghina, a variety indigenous to Campania.


The massive island of Sicily was the breadbasket of the ancient world and has plenty of space for wines. Stefano Girelli has useful contacts here for the production of the good value Preciso wines from the Vittoria area of southern Sicily. Bruno Fina’s house and winery are spectacularly situated above Marsala with views over Mozia and Egadi islands. Having worked on viticultural research for many years, he knows the right spots for international grapes as well as the indigenous Grillo.

The slopes of volcanically active Mount Etna lend themselves to the fashionable reds made at Romeo del Castello from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes grown in between the lava flows, the last of which engulfed half of Chiara Vigo’s estate when she was a child! Nero d’Avola is the most famous red grape of the island, in the right hands producing generous, fruity reds.

On the western tip of Sicily, the town of Marsala sits on a stunning coastline with thousands of acres of vines behind it. Its wines shouldn’t be used just for cooking! The Lombardo family make a fabulous range of Marsalas in a winery set back from the sea by a short avenue of palms.


The Mediterranean’s second largest island is a significant producer of wine. Many of these are made from local clones of western Mediterranean grape varieties also found in Tuscany, Spain, South of France and Corsica. Flavio Melis and French winemaker, Lucien Andrei, work principally with these regional varieties which have interesting synonyms such as Bovale Sardo (the books say is Graciano, they say is Mourvèdre), Bovale Grande (Carignan) and Cannonau (Grenache). Vermentino is the grape of the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea including Sardinia, and Melis make a great example.