Vini Rossi Favolosi:
3 of Our Favourite Italian Wine Producers
In vino veritas. If truth is to be found in wine, there may be no place in the world more pure than Italy. While much of the country produces splendid vintages, few regions can match the pedigree of Piemonte and Tuscany. Below, we round up just a few of the world class winemakers that make these regions as perfect for sipping as they are for spinning.
When Giovanni Gaja founded his winery in Piemonte in 1859, he couldn’t have known how important his wine – to say nothing of his name – would become to the wine world.
Much of the credit belongs to his great-grandson, Angelo Gaja, who planted Cabernet Sauvignon in Barbaresco in 1978. The region was previously known for its native Nebbiolo grape, but Gaja became convinced that the only way to elevate Italy’s status as an elite wine-making region was to produce a wine widely accepted as one of the world’s best.
The gamble paid off, and in producing exceptionally drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon (and later Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc), Gaja was able to turn the world’s attention to Piemonte’s native grape, Nebbiolo.
Today, Gaja’s flagship wine, its Barbaresco DOCG, is a 100% Nebbiolo wine considered one of the world’s finest. (Wine Spectator declared Gaja’s1985 Barbarescos “the finest wines ever made in Italy.”)
Now in his 70s, Angelo Gaja has largely handed the reigns to his daughter Gaja, who welcomes us into the family’s storied cellar.
Experience Piemonte With B&R
Scheduled Group Biking Trip
As the home of Barolo, Barbaresco and Slow Food, Piemonte tastes as good as it looks. On Piemonte Biking, we’ll hunt for truffles and get a firsthand pasta-making demo from an expert chef. Delizioso.DETAILED ITINERARY
Another prime example of a legacy wine producer, Michele Chiarlo‘s family has been growing wine for seven generations. Since 1956 Michele has been plying his family’s trade, producing his first Barolo in 1958. Nearly six decades later, Chiarlo’s earned a reputation as one of Italy’s finest producers by maintaining an exceptional commitment to quality. Armed with a degree from the Enology Institute of Alba (also, perhaps not coincidentally, the alma mater of Angelo Gaja), Chiarlo’s trademark style entails “the moderate and very careful use of wood so that only the varietal and terroir characteristics” are evident in the wine.
While Chiarlo’s vineyards include 110 hectares in Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi, it’s the latter Gavi vineyard of Fornace di Tassarolo in the Rovereto that Wine.com describes as “perhaps the crown jewel” among his holdings. It’s from here that Chiarlo produces his “brilliant and intense” Gavi, which along with his exceptional Barbera’ and Barolos, has helped define his reputation.
Moving from Piemonte into Tuscany, Tignanello stands a member of the famous Antinori family. While both Gaja and Chiarlo can claim a legacy of winemaking, Antinori’s roots run perhaps deeper than anyones: the company can trace its history all the way back to 1385. (And here we were thinking “Since 1966” had some cultural caché.)
Today Antinori’s offerings are both prolific and esteemed, but perhaps none more so than Tignanello. A landmark of sorts, Tignanenllo was the first wine to blend Tuscany’s native Sangiovese grapes with non-traditional varieties like Cabernet. Also one of the first Chianti reds to forgo the use of white grapes, it’s aged in barriques for 12 months before aging for another year in the bottle. The resulting blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes prompted Wine Spectator to call its 2011 vintage “a powerful red, with plum, blackberry and black cherry flavors that border on jammy, all kept in check by juicy acidity and firm, dense tannins and leather and earth accents.”