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This year, stage 16 into Aprica that is the designated Giro wine stage, highlighting the somewhat obscure wines of the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG in northern Lombardy. The wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape and are made in a style similar to Amarone, as the grapes are naturally allowed to raisin before they are pressed into wine. Perhaps surprisingly the Giro does not pass through Tuscany this year, but there are several stages of this year’s beautiful grand tour of Italy that meander around and through some of the country’s other wonderful wine country.
There are 20 different Italian regions, and not coincidentally 20 different Italian wine growing regions. Wine is such a foundational part of Italian culture and daily life. While some are among the most well known in the world, namely Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto—the last one home to Prosecco—there are well made and authentic wines coming from every corner of the country. If you’ve ever had the occasion to order the house wine in a tiny Italian trattoria it was likely one of the greatest experiences of your life. Based on that 20-20 ratio I just cited we could really pick any stages, but here are three stages of this year’s race that wound through some lesser known, and world famous parts of Italian wine country.
Sicily: Stage 4
Both the start and finish of the first stage on Italian soil began and finished in some of Sicily’s important wine growing regions. The wines around the volcanic finish of Mount Etna are among some of the island’s most exciting wines in all of Italy. The fourth stage was explosive in terms of the long term designs of the GC contenders with Trek’s Juan Pedro Lopez moving into pink.
2019 Di Giovana HELIOS Grillo 830 Metri
A beautiful example of one of Sicily’s wine surprises, the incredible bright and complex white wines from the island. Grillo means grasshopper in English but there’s nothing to bug out about when it comes to the terrific examples being produced in the western part of Sicily near Marsala. This particular wine from Di Giovana is the winery’s flagship white wine, sourced from older vineyards with some of the region’s higher elevation. The wine is bright yet complex, with aromatics of white flower, lime and cut apricot. The palate evolves over time offering both bright fruit and savory complexity.
Abruzzo: Stage 9
The anticipated, or dreaded depending on who in the peloton you ask, climb up Blockhaus in Abruzzo was destined to be the first real GC test of the 2022 Giro d’Italia. The hard work by the Ineos support men was the story along the slopes up Blockhaus. In particular the yeomen’s work of the wizened Richie Porte set Carapaz up beautifully. The Aussie Jai Hindley though had something to say about that, holding off Bardet and Carapaz to take the stage wine, while Lopez was able to hang in there and keep himself in pink.
For two consecutive years Giro’s stage nine explored epic climbing in Abruzzo. This repetition should make everyone stand up and take notice of one of the most beautiful and underrated parts of Italy when you’re thinking of that Italian getaway you want to plan. Abruzzo is also home to one of Italy’s most underrated red wines, made from the Montepulciano grape. The wines tend to offer fantastic value and definitely hit all those rustic Italian countryside paired with cured meats.
2018 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Made from the Montepulciano grape, these wines are distinct from the Nobile di Montepulciano wines made in Tuscany, from Sangiovese. Masciarelli is the producer of Abruzzo that has done the most to raise the region’s profile. This Masciarelli everyday drinker shows what this region can do just in and around the $10 range. Aromas of black fruit, forest floor and a touch of smoke and a palate that balances richness with structure the way Italian wine always seems to do at any price point. Perfect barbecue wine for the coming Spring and Summer.
Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Stages 19 & 20
As the peloton’s climbers seek to do battle in the northern passes of the Dolomites they will climb among alpine countrysides of Italy’s great wine and culinary regions in the north. Tucked in above Trentino among the great heights of northeastern Italy lies Alto Adige. Where the region’s Germanic roots show up in some of the language, and the wines that are produced in Alto Adige. The gorgeous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia also contains some of the Giro’s epic mountain passes.
2019 Tiefenbrunner Turmhof Blauburgunder
Looking out from the Turmhof castle onto the vineyards of white grapes that the region i famous for you will still find a few red varietals. The Italian speakers would call this Pinot Nero but in the German it’s Blauburgunder or Spätburgunder. Like the other wines of Alto Adige, this bright red wine is perfect for food, bright, crisp and well balanced with mouth-watering acidity. The perfection of a delicate, elegant Pinot Noir.
Livio Felluga, was accredited with innovating and mastering modern winemaking in Italy. Back from WWII, he went to work among the hillsides of Friuli reviving the vineyards of Rosazzo, and establishing him as “the patriarch of the wines of Friuli. These wines are the stuff of legend, five generations in and producing some of the best white wines in all of the world.
2019 Livio Felluga Terre Alta
If there is one wine that makes a case for the greatness of Italian white wines and Fruili as one of the world’s most magnificent wine regions. A blend of Friulano, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco that offers up complex aromas of chalk and savory wild herbs, and a palate that seems to defy logic.
A perfect balance of ripe fruit, rich texture and ample acidity, this wine is a delight now and will cellar well for a decade.