THE typically balanced, elegant wines of Italy are famously food-friendly across the board, so you’re certain to find the perfect pairing for everything from pasta night to a seafood extravaganza to an antipasti picnic. Here are three the best Italian wines to seek out right now.
Best Overall: Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino Pertimali 2015
When it comes to history and tradition, no Italian wine region can hold a candle to Tuscany, where viticulture has been practiced since the 8th century BC. The bucolic rolling hills and dappled afternoon light that have made Tuscany the setting of many romantic films and famous works of art also form the spiritual home of Italy’s signature grape, sangiovese.
Although Chianti may be Tuscany’s most famous wine-producing region, Brunello di Montalcino is where sangiovese truly shines.
Here, it makes some of Italy’s most complex and long-lived wines, like this ethereal 2015 vintage from a revered third-generation winemaker. There is so much going on in this floral, savory, and herbaceous wine with notes of tart red berries, mushroom, black tea, and anise—and it’s only going to get better with time. Pair it with hearty fare like roasted rosemary lamb, wild boar ragù, or truffle risotto.
Best Red: Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2017
Along with sangiovese, nebbiolo is one of Italy’s noblest grapes. In Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco regions, it strikes a balance between power and elegance unlike almost anything else. Nobody does Barbaresco better than Produttori del Barbaresco, a co-operative estate widely regarded as the benchmark producer for the entire region.
The 2017 Barbaresco is the entry-level wine in the range, but the price-to-quality ratio it delivers makes it one of the best buys in all of Italy. It’s somehow rustic and pretty at the same time, with deep black fruit, floral accents, and savory herbal nuances. Alissa Fitzgerald, a former chef at Reynard in Brooklyn, NY, says, “If I see nebbiolo on a wine list, it’s always my pick. It can be quite tannic, but with vibrant acidity like a pinot noir.” She loves to pair it with hearty roasted vegetables, but it works with everything from pasta to meats and aged cheeses. Whatever you choose, top it with plenty of truffles, like they do in Piedmont!
Best White: Benanti Etna Bianco 2019
Etna bianco is sort of like the chablis of Italy, but with a personality all its own. From the volcanic soils of Sicily’s Mount Etna, this bottling from Benanti balances rich texture with vibrant, almost salty acidity, while crisp citrus and orchard fruit flavors combine with appealing savory character and flinty minerality. Made from 100% carricante—a grape you’re unlikely to find anywhere outside of Sicily—this wine shows the complexity and character you would normally find in a white Burgundy that costs several times the price.
It may share certain characteristics with white Burgundy, but its unique profile could only come from Etna’s sun-drenched, mineral-rich slopes. This a wine that really shines with fresh seafood—the Sicilians love how its refreshing salinity complements creamy sea urchin pasta!