We'll begin in the northwest with Piedmont and Veneto, and then wind our way down the boot, ending up on the island of Sicily.
Piedmont Wine Region
Tucked into the mountainous northwest corner of Italy, Piedmont borders Switzerland and France and sits snuggly between the Alps and Apennines. In fact, the Italian word piemonte means "foot of the mountain." As a wine producing region, Piedmont reaches rarely rivaled heights with Barolo and Barbaresco, two world-class wines made from Nebbiolo grapes. Barolos are rich, rose-scented wines, robust and tannic, capable of (and often requiring) long aging. Unfortunately they are often prohibitively expensive. Barbaresco, made to be drunk earlier than Barolos, can be the more affordable choice. Other important red grapes of Piedmont are Barbera and Dolcetto, represented in the sub-appellations Asti and Alba. Barbera is very versatile with food, particularly grilled meats and tomato-based sauces. Dolcetto is a round fruity wine best drunk young. The sweet sparkling white wine Asti is made here from Muscat grapes, as is the dry white Gavi, made from Cortese grapes.
Favorite Red Wines of Piedmont: Barolo and Barbaresco (made from Nebbiolo grapes); Gattinara; Barbera and Dolcetto.
Favorite White Wines of Piedmont: Moscato, Gavi
Regional foods of Piedmont
Piedmont's forested foothills provide mushrooms and fragrant white truffles that add depth to risottos and pastas. Rich foods in general are wise and wonderful matches for Piedmont's robust reds. Game and other meats pair particularly well with earthy, full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco. Try Barbera with warm red sauces and roasted poultry.
Regional Italian Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Piedmont:
Veneto Wine Region
Viewed on a map, the Veneto region looks something like a honking cartoon donkey. It borders the Adriatic Sea in Northeast Italy and runs from just west of Friuli to Verona, encompassing along the way two other famous V-named Italian cities, Vicenza and Venice. Three of the more recognizable appellations in Veneto are Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino. Soave is the most popular of Italy's white wines. Known for its easy, approachable style, Soave is made from native Garganega and Trebbiano grapes. Veneto is also the home of Prosecco, the white grape that makes relatively inexpensive but tasty sparkling wine. Amidst all of this white wine, Valpolicella and Bardolino duly represent Veneto's red wine faction, making fruity, early drinking red wines from blends of Vorvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. These same grapes are semi-dried to produce opulent Amarone della Valpolicella, a rich and wonderful wine capable of long cellaring. Veneto is also gaining a reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Favorite Red Wines of Veneto: Valpolicella, Bardolino, Amarone della Valpolicella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Favorite White Wines of Veneto: Soave, Prosecco
Regional foods of Veneto
Seafood from the Adriatic and from the many rivers that run though Veneto is the perfect companion for the region’s light and refreshing Soave white wines. Local favorite foods include Carpaccio (named after a Venetian painter), sopressata salami and Asiago cheese. Rice is particularly important to the Venetians.
Regional Italian Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Veneto:
Trentino Alto-Adige Wine Region
Situated just below Austria and directly above Veneto in Northeastern Italy, Trentino Alto-Adige is beautiful, rugged alpine terrain, where vines are typically grown on steep terraces. The region combines two unique provinces. Alto-Adige (also known as South Tyrol, or Sudtirol to the area's considerable German-speaking population) is cool-climate country that produces crisp Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay plus aromatic whites like Veltliner and Gewürztraminer (Traminer is a local village). To the south, Trentino has a more typically Italian character, though French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are favored here. Trentino produces more Chardonnay than any region in Italy. It is also a stronghold for sparkling wines that follow the Champagne method of production.
Favorite Wines of Trentino Alto-Adige: Pinot Bianco, Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
Regional Foods of Trentino Alto-Adige
As you might expect from an area that combines Italian with Germanic cultures, Trentino Alto-Adige has developed a unique regional cuisine. Here you will find unmistakably German-influenced dishes (wursts, sauerbraten, cabbage and dumplings) alongside familiar northern Italian favorites like polenta (often baked with sausage), gnocchi and pastas.
Regional Italian Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Trentino Alto-Adige:
Other Italian Wine Regions
Read more about Italian wine regions.