Northern Italian Wines

Northern Italian Wines

Italy is the country of multiplicity and it’s hard to make generalizations, especially for what concerns wine and food products produced in its northern regions. From the borders by the Alps to the northern coastal areas, the terroir changes dramatically.  From the Ligurian to the Adriatic seas,  elevation, climate, and landscapes determine a wide variety of wine styles.

By and large, we can identify four iconic Northern Italian Wines. From west to east, with some interesting deviation, they are:

  • Full-bodied, long-living red wines
  • Charmat-Martinotti method sparkling wine
  • Mineral and elegant white wines


Piedmont red wines

Barolo is the name of a small hamlet by the small town of Alba in the (not so small, to the Italian parameters) province of Cune. To wine lovers, it is the symbol of great Italian red wines.

It pairs greatly with recipes of the same territory, and namely braised and roasted meat. In Piedmont, they raise Fassona, one of the most renowned Italian breeds for meat production. Other dishes include wild game and truffle-seasoned dishes.

There is another great red wine from Northern Italy, but it comes from the region of Veneto. It’s Amarone della Valpolicella, from a small region to the west of Verona, where the land is also hilly and the climate is not too dry. It also pairs very well with rich meat dishes, as well as the local specialty: risotto all’Amarone, a risotto prepared with the same Amarone wine, as its name says.



To almost everybody outside of Italy, Veneto is the region of Prosecco (and indeed it is). Although they also produce more complex, quality wine, the success of this easy-drinking Charmat-Martinotti method sparkling wine has overcome in popularity almost any other wine from Veneto.

Italians have it as an “aperitivo” (they use to linger on drinking wines or light cocktails before dinner), and indeed Prosecco is often a wine that doesn’t require meditation. Yet, in recent years it is produced with increasingly care. Some winemakers that do bottle great Proseccos, that can be enjoyed throughout the meal.
There isn’t an actual Italian pairing tradition for Prosecco, so let’s have it with sushi and sashimi: it seems they were waiting for one another.


Friulano and Friends

Once upon a time, it was called Tocai and nobody messed it up with Tokaj from Hungary. Now that European Union decreed it must be called in another way, and the name Friulano has been chosen (indeed, it comes from Friuli), it seems that the world has lost memory of it.

Yet, on the hills by the border to Slovenia they produce this elegant and aromatic white wine, whose scents resemble the ones of Sauvignon – and indeed this international variety is also successfully cultivated in the area, as well as some other white ones. Friulano matches perfectly with fish and seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

This article is an essay by a graduate of the  Wine & Spirit Education Trust program.

A Sommelier’s Trip Through Northern Italy

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