If one wanted to capture the world of wine on canvas, Italy would be a promising place to start: with 20 regions of production and more than 500 native grape varieties* to work with, the winegrower’s palette overflows with options.
There are white wines pale as water; others (thanks to extended skin contact) glow golden, amber, or orange. Mother Nature puzzles us with paradoxes when it comes to the reds: faded garnet color belies tannic giants (Nebbiolo, for instance) while the deep purple robe of Lambrusco Grasparossa cloaks a fruity, cherry-scented delight.
Italy’s rosato wines offer an entire spectrum of their own, from delicate ballet-slipper pink to deep coral red. They come in every style and intensity – sweet, sparkling, bone-dry; sometimes heady and exotic.
On Saturday, August 1st the Italian Food Wine & Travel group will take the plunge into the cool depths of Italian rosato. We will discuss the wines, where and how they’re made, and a few perfect food pairings. If you’re hungry for travel as we shelter at home, this is the place to let your wanderlust run free. Our chats always include tales of vineyard visits past, with photos to inspire dreams of future trips.
* Ian D’Agata: Native Wine Grapes of Italy
Sound like fun? Scroll to the bottom of this post for details on how to participate.
Looking for a Place to Dive In?
Most regions of Italy make an array of wines, including rosato, from the indigenous grapes that have adapted to their unique terroir. Quite a few international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot get into the mix, too.
I’ve no doubt rosato is made in all 20 regions of Italy. There are just too many grapes and enterprising winegrowers for it to be otherwise! But here is a short list of places that make significant quantities of the pink stuff, with the primary grape varieties likely to be featured. I hope you’ll use this as a springboard to explore smaller producers in lesser-known regions, too.
Lagrein, a deeply pigmented grape grown in both regions, gives rise to brightly colored rosato wine which may be labeled in Italian or German (this part of Italy used to belong to Austria and the wine culture pays homage to both countries.) Either Lagrein Kretzer or Lagrein Dunkel might appear on the label but the wine inside will taste the same: berry flavors with a touch of tannin and a hint of bitter almond on the finish.
The Veneto is home to Verona, where light, refreshing rosato wines are based on Valpolicella blends. These blends comprise up to 80% Corvina, a grape that contributes aromas of violet and red cherry, and soft tannins.
Nebbiolo is king in this neighborhood, and some really tasty rosato is made here, often blended with Vespolina. These wines are full of cherry flavors with some floral notes, and just a suggestion of the powerful tannins of Barolo.
If you’re a fan of Pinot Noir-based rosé, you’ll be glad to know that the Langhe region offers a few for you to try. I really loved this one from Massimo Rivetti, made from organic grapes. Cool climate tart red fruit and totally refreshing.
Sangiovese takes pride of place here, starring in the wines of Chianti DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, among others. It also shows up on occasion in light-bodied rosato, with the dusty red fruit and herbal notes common to the variety. In coastal regions like Bolgheri and Maremma, Sangiovese might well be blended with international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah.
Across the boot from Toscana lies Abruzzo, which looks out at the Adriatic Sea. Montepulciano and Sangiovese work well together in the red blends of the region, but Montepulciano is the headliner (at least 85%) in the rosato wines known as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo.
The predominant black grape variety in this region is Aglianico, sometimes called the Nebbiolo of the south because of its strong tannins and ability to age well. It’s also quite compelling (if a bit more tame) as a rosato. Tons of cherry fruit, herbs, minerals, and just enough tannin to remind you of where it comes from. As a lover of tannic wines, I can’t get enough of the rosato wines made from Aglianico.
Sandwiched into a triangle that abuts Campania, Calabria, and Puglia (and serving as the arch in the foot of Italy’s boot) lies Basilicata, home to Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano that dominates the landscape. Aglianico is at home here and, just as in Campania, makes highly structured red wines capable of aging for decades. There’s also a little rosato to be had, although I’ve encountered just one example in my wine explorations. It sure didn’t disappoint, so if you come across a bottle don’t hesitate to give it a try.
Puglia is the boot’s heel, jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. Historically this region has been the center of high-volume wine making and, thanks to fertile soils and lots of sunlight, a host of other agricultural products too. The reputation of the region is changing, though, with many growers focusing on high-quality wines.
In fact, Puglia has become quite famous for its delicious rosato wines based primarily on the Negroamaro grape. The variety’s propensity to retain acid during a hot and dry growing season results in ripe, fruity wines with a freshness that makes them perfect summer sippers.
So many grapes are grown on this island: indigenous varieties like Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, and Nero d’Avola mingle with international travelers like Merlot and Cabernet. Accordingly, there are many versions of rosato available. But I can’t help loving the native grapes – especially those grown on the slopes of Mt. Etna – and how they express themselves. One taste can transport you to the cultural crossroads of the Mediterranean. Don’t we all need that right now?
DON’T FORGET THE BUBBLES!
Sparkling wines are produced all over Italy, with some spectacular traditional method examples coming from Trento DOC in the northeast, and Franciacorta and Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardia. Lambrusco di Sorbara from Emilia-Romagna adds fizzy fun to any summer gathering, and it’s affordable, too. And, thanks to new rules for the DOC, you’ll soon be able to sip on a Prosecco Rosé. All are fair game for this month’s event!
I know I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post, naming just a few of the pink wines you might encounter. There are always treasures to unearth when it comes to Italian wines and I look forward to learning about a few of them on August 1st.
So, Have I Piqued Your Interest?
Or at least made you kind of thirsty?
Please join us and share your favorite version of Italian rosato. Here’s how to participate:
- Contact me with: your blog’s url, Twitter handle, and any other social media details. If you know your blog post title, include it, or send it closer to the event. We’d just like to get a sense of who’s participating and give some shout-outs and links as we go. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can put your info in the comments section of this post.
- Send your post title to me by end of day Tuesday, July 28th to be included in the preview post, which will link to your blog. Your title should include the group’s hashtag #ItalianFWT.
- Publish your post between Friday, July 31st and the morning of Saturday, August 1st.
- Your post should include links to the other participants’ blogs and a description of what the event is about. I’ll provide the HTML code that you can paste into your post which will link to people’s blog homepages. The updated code for the permanent links to everyone’s posts will be available no later than Sunday August 2nd.
- Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers’ posts to comment and share. We have a Facebook group for participating bloggers to connect and share, too. If you need an invitation please let me know.
- Note: sponsored posts are OK if clearly disclosed.
Please reach out with any questions you might have. I’m looking forward to this virtual visit to Italy and learning about the special wines you’ve discovered.