Red Wine with Breakfast: Toasting Italy

  • Tuscany is known for Sangiovese, like the food-friendly wines of Chianti Classico. (Hayley Hamilton Cogill / Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Alto Adige vineyards in the foothills of the Dolomites are pictured. (Hayley Hamilton Cogill / Special to West Hawaii Today)

Italian wines are diverse, unique, and intriguing. Throughout the country, Italians cultivate little known and international varieties to pair with regional cuisines, each telling a distinct story of the land. These are wines you should be drinking now.

In the foothills of the Dolomites, in Northeast Italy, Alto Adige’s Pinot Grigio wines have an energy that is unlike any other. A fruit-forward palate is present, but high elevation vineyards with cold nights lock in the fruit’s acidity, ensuring freshness, making these wines hard not to adore. Peter Zemmer “Giatl” Pinot Grigio Riserva ($38), aged two years before release, is complex, with a creamy, slightly savory palate showcasing the quality of the fruit and the region.

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From fruit grown throughout the Dolomiti, Alois Lageder Terra Alpina Pinot Grigio ($16) delivers a spicy, earthy wine with ripe orchard fruit. Millions of years ago coral reefs flourished in what is now the Italian Alps. When the oceans became mountains, thousands of fossils were left behind. Within these former reefs, vineyards now thrive, producing mineral-intense wines like Riff Pinot Grigio ($10) layering golden peach and wet stone.

South of Alto Adige, the Veneto shines as one of Italy’s premier wine and food destinations. Local dishes, like potato gnocchi, ravioli, and Amarone infused risotto create a hearty regional cuisine. To pair, wines need tannin and acidity to cut through the richness of their traditional dishes. Thankfully, Veneto delivers with their Prosecco, Soave, and Valpolicella wines.

Veneto’s Amarone Della Valpolicella is an intensely concentrated, textured wine perfect for pairing with braised beef dishes. Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($67) reveals dried cherry, sagebrush, and truffle. Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella ($50) is inky, dense, and beautifully structured. With a fresh, youthful approach, Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi Valpolicella Ripasso ($20) layers cherry liqueur, baking spice, and balsamic.

The king and queen of Italian wine, produced from the Nebbiolo variety in the Northwest-Italian region of Piedmont, Barolo and Barbaresco deliver the power you expect from the nobility. Full-bodied Vietti Barolo Castiglione ($52) opens with a highly structured palate, melding tannin and acid, offering dried tobacco, rose, and plum.

Tuscany is known for Sangiovese, like the food-friendly wines of Chianti Classico including Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano ($30), Badia A Coltibuono ($20), and Checchi ($20), and show-stopping Brunello di Montalcino, like the offerings from Banfi ($70), Argriano ($65), and Casanova di Neri ($75). With a rural yet approachable feel, Casanova di Neri crafts IrRosso ($22) as an everyday-style table-wine from the same quality vineyards that produce their higher-end selections.

Along the Tuscan coast, salty breezes off the Tyrrhenian Sea influence Bolgheri and Maremma vineyards. From the Allegrini family, Poggio al Tesoro Solosole Vermentino ($20) leaps from the glass with exuberant vibrancy, layering white flowers, white peach, and briny crushed stone. From nearby Maremma, La Mora Vermentino ($19) highlights tropical fruit with a bitter, salty finish.

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Sun-drenched Sicilian hillsides reveal fruit-forward red selections, like Regaleali Nero d’Avola ($15). Soft, aromatic, and balanced, the wine with raspberry, white pepper, and sweet herbs. Slightly more austere, Regaleali “Guarnaccio” Perricone ($20) brings Sicily’s history to the forefront, as the indigenous variety is often used primarily for blending. However, with Regaleali Perricone, the Tasca family aims to showcase the high acid, high tannin variety, revealing black pepper, cherry, and savory botanicals.

Hayley Hamilton Cogill is a sommelier, wine writer, and educator. Together with her husband Gary Cogill, an Emmy award-winning film critic, they host “Cogill Wine And Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on reVolverPodcasts.com while living on Hawaii Island in Waimea while both writing for West Hawaii Today.

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