100 Red Wine Icons: Italy

Tuscany is one of Italy’s key regions for iconic reds.

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Tuscany is one of Italy’s key regions for iconic reds.

Tuscany is one of Italy’s key regions for iconic reds.

© Shutterstock

Despite its ancient history of viticulture, Italy’s reputation as a fine wine nation was not formed until the 1970s and 1980s. Today, we cannot even imagine a fine wine list without Italian icons, without the likes of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and co.


Giacomo Conterno, Barolo

Monfortino is cult. Made by Roberto Conterno, the grapes are from the monopole site of La Francia in Serralunga. It stands out, even in poor years, 2014 is a prime example. Recommended recent vintages: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2004, 2002, 2001


Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo 

Granbussia is made only in the best years as a prime selection of the parcels Colonello, Cicala and Romirasco, all of them in the large Bussia vineyard. Recommended recent vintages: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000, 1999

Rocche di Castiglione

Vietti, Barolo 

Rocche di Castiglione is a steeply sloping, southeast-facing site, its sandstone brings forth scented, intense wines characterised by elegance and silky tannin – and the Viettis are masters of the genre. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2007


Luciano Sandrone, Barolo 

First bottled commercially in 1985, Aleste is made by Luciano Sandrone in the top site Cannubi. It was called Cannubi Boschis until 2013 when it got its current name. It is always chiseled and polished. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Ceretta Vigna Bricco

Elio Altare, Barolo 

Elio Altare is seen as the great innovator of Barolo. He started vinifying Barolo is small barrels. The Ceretta vineyard in Serralunga brings forth profound and long-lived wines with real precision. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008


Roberto Voerzio, Barolo 

Tiny yields and high density planting are the secrets behind Sarmassa’s success. This wine is always dense and wonderfully textured. Recommended recent vintages: 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004

Vigna Rionda

Massolino, Barolo 

Wines from Vigna Rionda are seen as the epitome for the profound and long-lived Barolos of Serralunga. It is cult. The taut, dense wines have notes of truffle, leather and liquorice. Recommended recent vintages: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007


Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo 

Mascarello who died in 2005 always held that the best wines are blends of several sites. The wine is thus made from Cannubi, Rue and San Lorenzo in Barolo and Rocche dell’Annunziata in La Morra. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008


Mascarello Giuseppe e Figlio, Barolo 

Tradition is written large here: the wines ferment for several weeks in stainless steel and then mature in large barrels. They are always beguilingly raspberry-scented and sport super-fine tannins. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 1999

Sorì San Lorenzo

Gaja, Barbaresco 

First made a single-vineyard wine in 1967, one of the first in the region, San Lorenzo always shows the greatest polish and finesse. Angelo Gaja is one of Italy’s and the world’s leading winemakers Recommended recent vintages: all of them


Tenuta San Guido, Tuscany 

Created in the 1940s by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the wine’s first official vintage was 1968. Today its finessed fruit is world famous. Recommended recent vintages: 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009


Marchesi Antinori, Tuscany 

It was in 1978 that Piero Antinori and his legendary winemaker Giacomo Tachis decided to bottle the Cabernet Sauvignon of that year separately. Today it is the varietal counterpart to Tignanello. Recommended recent vintages: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2010, 2004, 1997


Tua Rita, Tuscany 

Rita Tua and her husband Vigilio Bisti bought a small Tuscan country estate in 1984. They planted Cabernet and Merlot and brought their first wines to market in the 1990s - with great success. Recommended recent vintages: 2019, 2018, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2001

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Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Tuscany 

Lodovico Antinori, Piero Antinori’s younger brother, founded Ornellaia in 1981 by planting not just Cabernet as in the neighbouring Tenuta San Guido, but Merlot – an innovation at the time. Recommended recent vintages: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008


Masseto, Tuscany 

When Lodovico Antinori had his Ornellaia vineyards planted in the 1980s, one site was distinctly different: Masseto, rich in blue loam. It was planted entirely to Merlot and first released in 1987. In 2018 Masseto was separated from the Ornellaia stable and got its own winery. Recommended recent vintages: 2018, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2010, 2007, 2006, 2005


Fontodi, Tuscany 

First made in 1981, Flaccianello was one of the first wines made from pure Sangiovese in the Chianti Classico appellation. The grapes grow in Panzano’s famous Conca d’Oro, some of the best land in the entire region. Wines mature in both barriques and amphorae. Recommended recent vintages: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006

Cerretalto Brunello

Casanova di Neri, Tuscany 

Casanova di Neri counts among the outstanding estates of Montalcino. Apart from Etichetta Bianca, and Tenuta Nuoava, Cerretalto occupies a special position, grown on a single site, it shows depth, compact fruit and mineral verve. Recommended recent vintages: 2015, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004

Brunello di Montalcino

Biondi Santi, Tuscany 

Biondi Santi is the name that put Montalcino on the map with distinct clonal selections made as early as the 1880s. In the best years, a Brunello Riserva is made. The wines age effortlessly. Recommended recent vintages: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2006, 2001, 1997, 1995, 1985


Fattoria Le Pupille, Maremma 

Situated in southern Tuscany, near Grosseto and close to the sea, Saffredi has made its name with Morellino. Saffredi, however, first made in 1987, is based on Cabernet Sauvignon. Recommended recent vintages: 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008, 2007


La Macchiole, Bolgheri 

Eugenio Compoli and Cinzia Merli made their first Messorio in 1994 after planting a vineyard in Bolgheri. The pure Merlot shows compact fruit. Recommended recent vintages: 2018, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005

100 Red Wine Icons was written by Peter Moser, with contributions from Dr. Ulrich Sautter, Othmar Kiem, Dominik Vombach, Benjamin Herzog and Anne Krebiehl MW.