Andrew Corrigan MW looks at Italy’s Tuscany and Piedmont regions.

Italy is the largest wine producer by volume in the world and also the most diverse. Italy battles for its wines to be considered of super premium status alongside the best of France (despite the many images of cheap soft red Lambrusco and cheap red from Chianti in a glass flask wrapped in woven straw).

However there are wines to rival the top French Chateaux, as well as mid-priced excellent wines.

Tuscany

Tuscany in central Italy includes Chianti and is probably the best known region. Wines labelled Chianti range from inexpensive to costly. There are also expensive wines made without complying with the local regional laws. Such wines often include French grapes Cabernet and Merlot. They cannot carry the Chianti name but sell out and are known as “Super Tuscans”.

Piedmont

The region of Piedmont (also spelt Piemonte) is fascinating for a study of traditional laws and new winemaking techniques. It is in the north-west of Italy and is particularly mountainous.

Piedmont includes Asti – home of the wellknown light fruity sparkling wine (Spumante). Just east of Torino are the regions that are the wine power houses of Piedmont – Alba is most significant.

Alba contains the wine names Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto. They are reds that have traditionally been tannic and long living. Many producers maintain this style.

However there are new winemakers with a desire to produce softer, silkier-tasting reds. And there are producers in between. All are fascinating and all are readily available in Australia, but they are quite different to Australian wines – more savoury and tannic.

To be continued: next time – winemaking for the “new” and “old” Piedmont….