This interview was originally published in Italy: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, & How to Fit In.
Heading to Italy and interested in wine? You’re in luck. Today, I’m republishing an interview with Cindy-Marie Harvey – a wine expert. She’s here to tell you what wines to try, where to visit in Italy if wine is your thing, and more.
As they say in Italy, cin cin! (Cheers.)
If someone is visiting Italy for the first time, what are the top 10 wines you recommend they try and why?
Sparkling wine from Franciacorta: to showcase how world-class Italian sparkling wines can be.
Greco di Tufo from Campania: to demonstrate native white variety from the south.
Frappato from Sicily: to show that the region can do elegant reds, as well as blockbusters.
Chianti Classico: the perfect introduction to Sangiovese.
Salice Salentino: a big, gutsy red from Puglia.
Lambrusco Cru de Sorbara: to discover what this much maligned wine tastes like when properly made (paired with local salami!).
Barolo: king of all red wines in Italy. Need I say more?
Aglianico: to prove the power and complexity of reds from the south, especially Basilicata.
Passito de Pantelleria: sheer nectar in a glass from the volcanic island close to the African coast.
Moscato D’Asti: at 5.5% ABV, it’s the perfect end to a meal or even as a mid-morning welcome drink.
For more experienced wine lovers, what are some of the hidden gems you’d recommend?
Barbaresco: ethereal, complex, elegant…this has a small production zone and some outstanding wines.
Alto Adige: quality levels across the board in this region are stunning. Try their Pinot Biancos and Sauvignon Blancs as well as Pinot Noir.
Pecorino: no, not the cheese, but a variety of re-emerging wines in Le Marche.
Nerello Mascalese from Etna: proving what an exciting sub-region of Sicily this famous volcano is at the moment.
If someone is planning a wine tour around Italy, what regions and towns do you recommend they visit?
I recommend either Piemonte during white truffle season, with its beautiful colors in the vineyards and gorgeous market towns such as Alba, or Sicily, with its wide range of wine styles and lots of historical places to visit, such as temples in Agrigento and Siracusa.
Can you tell us a little about the regional differences in Italian wines? Why should someone choose one region over another?
Regionality is the key in Italy (thankfully they still keep to it!). When choosing a region, ask yourself if you like white, red, a mixture of both, or (indeed!) sparkling. That is a good starting point, as some regions concentrate on one style of wine, while others make across the board.
How can a traveler fit in/experience Italy’s wine like a local?
Travel on a good tour (like ours) and you’ll get to speak to the people who make the wine—the owners of the estate—so you get to know the real, current story rather than just reading what’s in wine books.
What’s your best piece of advice for travelers who want to have an amazing Italian wine experience?
Be open-minded. Try grape varieties that you have never heard of (there are hundreds in Italy) and experiment!
Anything else we should know about drinking wine in Italy?
Good wine should be enjoyed with good food. One cannot exist without the other. Italian wines are designed to balance out the flavors and components of the local food—not to be entered into wine competitions to impress judges. So try them with the local food (try anything that is recommended by the Slow Food Association, as it will be typical of the region)!