Feature Story: Magnifico!

With millennia of winemaking history, Italy is a legend on the world wine scene. These 10 beloved producers deftly demonstrate the country’s prowess across regions and varietals.
(4 min. read)

It was once thought that winemaking began in Italy about 3,000 years ago; that is, until traces of wine were identified in terracotta amphorae discovered in a Sicilian cave in 2012. These amphorae provided evidence that Italian viticulture is actually more than 6,000 years old. Over the centuries, many Italian producers have become household names beloved for singular expressions of distinct regional styles. We’ve highlighted 10 such producers here and invite you to unearth your own treasures among their wines.

San Felice: Tuscany

San Felice’s Vigorello was one of the original Supertuscan wines, first made in 1968. 

In the 1980s, while many Tuscan producers were shifting to a focus on international varieties, San Felice began work in their experimental vineyard: the awesomely named Vitiarium. They studied over 270 varieties, identifying and preserving many indigenous grapes that would otherwise have been lost. Winemaker Leonardo Bellacini has guided operations at San Felice since 1989 and his expertise and experience were front and centre in 2017, which was a challenging, drought-affected season that required great skill and attention in the vineyard.


Italo Zingarelli, the late film producer, founded Rocca delle Macìe in 1973. 

Since then, the winery has risen to become one of the most recognized in Chianti. Vintages customers are very familiar with their offerings, including the Riserva Chianti (111641) from our Essentials Collection and the Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico (930966), which was included in our September 5 Summer Smart Buys feature. The iconic Fizzano vineyard was purchased by Rocca delle Macìe in 1984. The site is composed of sandy, pebbly soil and is particularly adept at encouraging Sangiovese to express a profound aromatic character.


Cesari has been crafting fine wines in Veneto since 1936. 

In the early 1960s, Franco Cesari, the son of founder Gerardo Cesari, began acquiring prime sites throughout the region, expanding the family’s holdings and obtaining four cru-quality vineyards: Bosan, Il Bosco, Jèma and Cento Filari. The Corvina featured here comes from Jèma and was one of the first single-varietal Corvina wines ever made. The late-ripening Corvina is typically used to add structure to the blend for Amarone, and this historic wine from Cesari was instrumental in establishing the grape’s repute as a stand-alone varietal.


Founded in 1978, Banfi encapsulates the emotional archetype of premium Italian wine. 

Banfi Castle is a distinctive – nay, dominating – feature of the Tuscan landscape, standing as a silent but unmistakable assertion of influence and authority; traits that are generously echoed in the world-famous wines that carry the Banfi name. The vines for the Poggio alle Mura were planted in 1992 on the slopes surrounding the castle following nearly a decade of research and experimentation to identify the best pairing of location and Sangiovese clones. The Poggio alle Mura is considered one of Brunello di Montalcino’s finest cru expressions.


Sardinia is a unique voice in Italian winemaking. 

The region has closer viticultural ties to France and Spain than it does to the Italian mainland, and this is reflected in the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cannonau (Grenache) and Carignan wines produced here. Carignano del Sulcis wines, such as the Terre Rare Riserva 2015, must contain a minimum of 85% Carignan. Sella & Mosca was founded in 1890 and has risen to become one of Italy’s foremost premium-wine producers. Their portfolio also features a range of indigenous and ancient grapes, many of which are grown nowhere else.


Founded in 1994, Farnese is a large-scale producer with operations in five southern Italian regions as well as in Tuscany.

Despite its size, Farnese behaves like a boutique winery, and its focus on quality and indigenous grapes has been instrumental in redefining the Puglia region. Historically known for bulk wines, Puglia has taken a viticultural one-eighty over the last 25 years, spearheaded in no small part by the efforts of Farnese. Rigorous vineyard management combined with the adoption of modern technologies and practices have raised Puglia’s wines to the fore of Italian fine wine, and at a fraction of the price of those from other regions.


Founded in 1907, Bersano is best known for their Barolo and Barbaresco wines, which is no surprise, as these are Piedmont’s signature styles.

 But the aromatic, refreshing white wine known as Gavi, crafted exclusively from the Cortese grape, is world famous in its own right. Gavi has been a part of the Piedmont wine scene since the 17th century, and this floral, fruity wine, with its bracing acidity, is widely identified as the first Italian white to gain international recognition. Rooted in history, the Bersano winery includes a wine museum that celebrates hundreds of years of Piedmont winemaking.


Founded in 1877, Ruffino has had only three winemakers since 1919; consistency in action.

Ruffino has long played a role in shaping the wine landscape of Tuscany, and when Chianti was designated as a DOCG in 1984, the wine bearing the AAA 00000001 tag was from Ruffino. The Gran Selezione classification for Chianti Classico wines was introduced in February 2014, with 2010 being the first official vintage, though some wines dating as far back as 2007 can also qualify. Gran Selezione wines have a mandatory 30-month ageing period before release and must be made entirely from estate-grown fruit.


Distinguished by notes of almond, herbs and mineral, Verdicchio is one of Italy’s classic white wines. 

It’s the most famous wine produced in Marche, and many of the finest examples come from the Castelli di Jesi growing area. Marche’s fame dates to the time of the Roman Empire, but its reputation suffered due to an emphasis on bulk wine production. A renewed quality-driven focus, led by wineries such as Velenosi, has re-energized the region. Founded in 1984 by Angela Velenosi when she was only 20 years old, Velenosi is now the biggest family-owned operation in Marche.


Masi dates their viticultural heritage to 1772...

... and though they’re one of Veneto’s most historic wineries, they have always poured considerable energy into researching and developing new approaches and technologies. Their ability to marry innovation and tradition has made them one of the world’s most influential producers. Masters of the appassimento method, they’re pioneers in establishing cru sites for Amarone. The Campolongo di Torbe vineyard has been known for quality wines since the 12th century, and the intense, complex, elegant Amarones from this single vineyard are definitive benchmarks for the style.

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