Today I’m zero-ing in on the northwest portion of Italy, specifically the key regions for the key red wine grapes grown—Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Pop Quiz:Can you describe each of these grape varieties’ key characteristics? How would describe the market positioning for each?
If you’ve been touring Central Italy with me, then you know we’ve stopped on the West Side and East Side—but what about poor Umbria stuck smack dab in the middle? It is technically on the West Side, as it is on the west side of the Apennine mountain range, but in my mind I keep it separate.
When I think of Umbria I think of white wines made from Grecchetto, and this may be because that was the focus in Level 3. And while there’s not loads of details on this central wine region in our Diploma text, it does go into a bit more detail. So below I’ve compiled a list of key points as well as a little tasting.
Before moving forward, test yourself. How would you describe the climate and terroir of Umbria? What are the key characteristics of the Grecchetto grape and what wine styles are produced from it? What is the key red wine grape? Describe its characteristics and the wine styles produced.
On our last exciting episode of Central Italy Diploma Theory and Tasting, we walked along the west coast. (See DipWSET Theory and Tasting—Central Italy (Part 1)) Today, we take a look at the east coast. A fun little factoid I recently realized: If you take a look at the map of Central Italy, you see the Apennine mountains run down the center of the country “like a spine,” some say. Well, if it was a spine, it would have scoliosis—the mountain range curves, bulbs out on the east side, which means there’s less distance between mountain foothills and coastal ranges. So, unlike the expansive wine regions of the west coast, where vineyards planted inland have more continental climates and receive cooling influences from altitude, on the east side, we have a warm Mediterranean climate cooled by the Adriatic air that can reach some of those inland locations. Just thought I’d point that out because I thought it was cool.
Today we’re going to do a little review of Marche and Abruzzo and listen to Metalica. For a more general overview of Central Italy, based on WSET Level 3, please see Wine Region Overview: Central Italy.
When I was studying for my WSET Level 3 exam, I put together a great general guide to Central Italy. I still find it very useful in that it helps me compartmentalize where the most important regions are on the Italian map and where the most prominent DOCs are within those regions. And that’s great. But as those of you studying for your Diploma-level exam know, that information just scratches the surface of what’s expected of us now.
Italy’s big. It can be intimidating if we look at it like one big chunk. For me, it’s Central Italy that really causes the most confusion. So I want to take some time to look at Central Italy in little pieces and call out a few specifics included in our Diploma level studies that weren’t mentioned in Level 3 that, to my eyes, seem like good nuggets of information to keep in the front of the brain come exam time.