Italy Part II: Central Italy


  1. The Grapes and Grape Families of Central Italy
  2. Tuscany
  3. Umbria
  4. Emilia-Romagna
  5. The Marche
  6. Lazio
  7. Bibliography

Central Italy comprises the heart of the Italian Peninsula, both geographically and historically. Lazio, which houses the capital at Rome, roughly corresponds to the ancient Roman city, while Tuscany equates generally to the older Etruria. Millennia later, Tuscany grew to become a major economic power in Italy, first as the Republics of Florence and Siena and later as the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Before the Risorgimento, much of the rest of centraI Italy was made up of the Papal States, under direct rule of the pope and the Vatican. This guide will consider five regions as central Italy: Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, the Marche, and Lazio. 

Central Italy begins south of the Po River basin, and, like much of the country, is defined by the Apennine Mountains at its center. Its climate is varied by not only latitude but, importantly, elevation, with many of the top wines coming from higher sites. With Tuscany, central Italy serves as a powerful driver of the Italian wine industry, home to many of the countrys largest and oldest winemaking families, such as the Antinoris and the Frescobaldis. The initial sparks of Italys 20th-century winemaking revolution were lit here, with the first bottling of Sassicaia in 1968 and the Super Tuscans that followed. 

Today, central Italy is no less dynamic. Italys most planted grape variety, Sangiovese, achieves its finest expressions in Chianti Classico and Montalcino. Nearby, in Umbria, Sagrantino has been reimagined for the production of dry red wines. Further north, Emilia-Romagna cultivates the best-known appellations worldwide for sparkling red wine with its various Lambruscos. White wine, too, finds prominence in central Italy, notably in the bottlings of Orvieto, the Malvasia blends of Lazio, and the Verdicchio wines of the Marche. In addition, winegrowers throughout central Italy continue

  • Hello Jonathan - The Chianti Classico Riserva level requires at least two years of total aging with at least three months in bottle, but does not include any requirement for barrel aging. The production rules are here in the compendium:

  • Does Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva require oak?

  • Hey Michael! This is confirmed and the guide is updated. Thanks! 

  • A minor update to the language on Bolgheri DOC assemblage for white wines: It looks like the disciplinare was updated in 2021 to allow any amount of Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc, and/or Viognier, with up to 40% other authorized white grapes.

  • Hey William and Michael! This is an interesting one. As Michael mentions "The wine thus obtained will be subjected to sparkling by natural fermentation." All this stipulates is that the wine must not undergo forced carbonation. Therefore it is up to the producer to make their own decision in the cellar. Most likely, the extremely labor-intensive requirements of a normal year's harvest, appassimento, and making two separate wines before blending into sparkling production, leads modern producers of the DOCG towards Charmat/Autocalve.   Lastly, this is a region planted to less than 30ha which produces ~10,000 cases of wine a year, so the producers and examples of this wine are very limited. 

  • The two producers that I've been able to find information on both use Charmat, and it doesn't seem like there are many producers. Hopefully someone can explain the discrepancy. 

  • This is interesting because the part of the disciplinare on winemaking methods (article 5) refers to "spumantizzazione mediante fermentazione naturale" which means something like "sparkling by natural fermentation." The later section that specifically mentions the autoclave and the Charmat method (article 9) seems to be focused on the historic significance of the product and its link to the territory, and it's unclear to me whether these are requirements or simply background information about the history. Ian D'Agata's Native Wine Grapes of Italy describes Vernaccia di Serrapetrona as "made by second fermentation in the bottle" and VIA's Italian Wine Unplugged says it is "a bottle fermented sparkling wine." Will be curious to learn more if others can shed further light on this.

  • Every reference I can find shows that Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is produced via the charmat method, and as far as I can tell with google translate, the disciplinare also stipulates that the carbonation is achieved via a 3rd fermentation in autoclave. 

  • Hey Skyler -- There is some more info on this subject in Ian D'Agata's book Native Wine Grapes of Italy (p. 150) which may be useful:  "Vernaccia Nera is not the same as Grenache or Garnacha--though Vernaccia Nera is listed as a synonym of Garnacha by some experts, I couldn't find any ampelographic or genetic evidence to support this. Admittedly, it is easy to understand the association between garnacha and vernaccia since both descend from the same linguistic root, the Latin word vernaculum. However, it appears that many of the Vernaccia Nera vines dispersed in the countryside of central Italy are in fact different from one another. Though some of these grapevines may have been originally misidentified as Vernaccia Nera and really are Grenache, there do exist distinct Vernaccia Nera varieties; for example, Vernaccia Nera Grossa Cerretana is distinct from Vernaccia Nera, and neither is identical with Spain's Garnacha."

  • I’m sure this has come up before, but Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes does list Vernaccia Nera as a genetic match for Grenache Noir. Did this get disproven somewhere? Curious why this is referred to as “unfounded” in the text above…