Are you a fan of organic wine? Before you screw your face up, let’s be clear – we’re talking about top quality wine (no ‘mousey’ notes here) made without using a whole heap of extra chemicals in the vineyards and during the winemaking process. The idea is it’s better for the environment, and it’s better for you!
We’re big fans of organic Italian wine, so we’ve put together this ultimate list of our favorite organic wine in Italy that we tried in 2023. Pour yourself a glass and let’s dive in!
What is Italian organic wine?
Organic wine in Italy is known as ‘vini biologici‘ and is governed pretty strictly by the EU. You can spot an organic wine here by it’s green label on the back that looks like a leaf. The main rules for organic wines are that the grapes mustn’t be treated with any chemicals in the vineyard besides sulfur and copper. However, it’s still possible to use many chemicals and additives during the winemaking process albeit in lower quantities than conventional wine.
Many are interested in the amount of sulfites in wine (remember you can never have a wine without sulfur dioxide because it’s a natural byproduct during the winemaking process). In organic Italian wine, there are lower limits, however, you’ll find many organic wineries in Italy use even less than the ‘allowed’ limits by the EU:
– for red dry organic wines: maximum 100 mg/l
– for white dry organic wines: maximum 150 mg/l
The phrase ‘Italian natural wine’ on the other hand is a funny one because there’s nothing inherently ‘natural’ about wine as it’s a man-made product. The idea however is that nothing has been added or subtracted in the vineyard and none or very little sulfites are added (just to stabilise the wine during bottling).
What is the difference between organic vs biodynamic wine?
We find the ‘biodynamic’ concept of winemaking very interesting and in fact Andrea’s nonna was certainly a biodynamic gardener who firmly followed the cycles of the moon when it came to planting her veggies. So bear with us, because this might be a little woo woo for some of you. Italian biodynamic wine are wines made following Steiner’s philosophy that basically aims to promote healthy soil and a healthy farm that is in balance with the entire planet.
Biodynamic farming doesn’t allow you to use industrial nitrogen fertilizers, chemical herbicides and insecticides with the view that instead the farmer will focus on making plants healthy so that fertilizers and insecticides aren’t needed to begin with. This means the fruits that are produced are of the highest quality.
Activities happen based on a lunar calendar and biodynamic farming goes beyond just caring for the land but also is a holistic concept that aims to support the people who work in the vineyard and even the end consumer.
We love drinking biodynamic wines because they’re really ‘alive’ in the bottle. They have a lot of personality and often really reflect the ‘terroir’ from where they’re made. Given the lack of chemicals, not every bottle is the same and the wine can taste different depending on when you drink it too.
So the main difference between organic vs biodynamic wine is that biodynamic is a holistic concept and has a much more stringent set of requirements to follow than organic wine.
Who are the main Italian organic wine producers?
Here’s a list of some of our favorite organic Italian wine brands to keep handy in case you’re at a restaurant/wine shop and want to try some Italian natural wine producers!
- Piedmont: Chiara Boschis, Principiano Ferdinando, Cascina Iuli
- Lombardy: Cascina Maddalena
- Trentino Alto Adige: Foradori
- Friuli Venezia Giulia: Le Due Terre, I Clivi
- Liguria: Il Torchio
- Veneto: Vignale di Cecilia, Le Vigne di San Pietro
- Tuscany: Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra, Castello dei Rampolla, Querciabella
- Emilia Romagna: Cantina della Volta, Orsi
- Umbria: Paolo Bea, Raina, Agri Segretum
- Marche: Aurora, Costa Digiano, La Staffa, La Distesa
- Abruzzo: Emidio Pepe, Passione Natura
- Lazio: Occhipinti and La Preara
- Puglia: Vinicola palamà, Agricola Cannito, Agricola Felline, Morella
- Sardinia: Cantina Li Seddi,
- Sicily: Benanti, Barone di Villagrande, Vino di Anna, SRC
- Campania: Tenuta San Francesco
Our favorite organic Italian red wine
This is my no means an exhaustive list, however, it is a round-up of some of our favorite Italian organic red wine that we tried in 2023. We’ve tried to include some that are available easily to buy in the US, UK and Australia but some smaller producers were just too good not to include. Bookmark this article to refer to on your next trip to Italy in case you can’t find these wines at home!
Paolo Bea is a pioneer of organic and biodynamic wine production in Umbria and his Pipparello is delicious. A classic Umbrian Montefalco Rosso Riserva it’s made with a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino grapes. We loved the deep red forest fruits and spicy notes with a touch of vanilla and leather thanks to being aged in wood. There’s a really long finish and fine tannins. Seriously one to try!
- Color: deep ruby red
- Style: intense
- Flavor: red berries, spice and vanilla
We are forever fans of Giulia Negri’s work up in La Morra and love her elegant Barolo wines. The estate is located on the highest altitude of Barolo and has a really cool climate which helps to create the elegant wines she makes. La Tartufaia is made from 100% nebbiolo and is aged in Slavonian barrels for 2 years. Think notes of dried rose petals, red berries, and forest floor.
- Color: Garnet red
- Style: Elegant and juicy
- Flavor: rose petals, red berries and earthy
We love supporting women winemakers in Italy and especially Barolo as it’s definitely not the norm and still very much a male dominated profession. Chiara Boschis is considered one of the pioneers in the Barolo girls movement and her wines make it all too easy to fall in love with Barolo. The classic nebbiolo flavors of violet and liquorice, forest floor and deep red berries shine here. The 2018 bottle is great to open now but we’re putting ours away to keep aging for years to come.
- Color: Ruby red
- Style: Full bodied, aromatic and silky
- Flavor: Red fruits, rose, orange and licorice
We first tried this delicious bottle of organic Chianti wine in the gorgeous town of Volpaia itself after being invited to the town’s restaurant by a friend we met on Instagram of all places. It was love at first sight – this 100% sangiovese wine is fresh, full bodied and elegant. It’s a great food wine with a really long finish and sure to be a crowd pleaser at any dinner party.
- Color: Ruby red
- Style: Full bodied and juicy
- Flavor: Jam, rose, cherries, liquorice and black pepper
Back in our beloved Piedmont region, one of our favorite discoveries this year was Pelaverga from Verduno. Made from a pale grey colored grape called Pelaverga piccolo that is indigenous to the region and has been cultivated there since the 17th century. Perhaps the most striking thing about this wine is its wonderful aromatic scent of strawberries and cherries. In the mouth it’s refreshing and silky and so easy to drink.
- Color: bright ruby red
- Style: medium bodied and juicy
- Flavor: strawberry, cherry, black pepper and nutmeg
We’d be remiss not to include a wine from our current home region Lazio (where Rome is!) This is one of our favorite red wines to drink in the summer months in Rome as it’s almost lightly sparkling. Occhipinti uses indigenous aleatico grapes that are grown on the shores of Lake Bolsena. We adore volcanic wines and this is a great example of one!
- Color: Ruby red almost garnet
- Style: Light – medium bodied
- Flavor: Rose, violet, berries and plums
Our favorite organic Italian white wine
There’s just something mesmerising about volcanic wines, especially the ones grown on the slopes of Sicily’s Mt Etna volcano! Made from an organic blend of Carricante, Catarratto and Minnell grapes, this organic Sicilian wine is really clean yet expressive of its terroir. Think notes of white peach, citrus, aromatic herbs and a hint of smokiness.
- Color: Golden yellow
- Style: Fresh and mineral
- Flavors: White fruit, citrus and mineral
Back to our beloved Piedmont, as if they didn’t make the best red wines, somehow they also produce this exquisite white wine from native Timorasso grapes. Our favorite interpretation of Timorasso is from the Queen of Timorasso herself – La Colombera. It’s fresh, well balanced and savory and extremely more-ish.
- Color: straw yellow
- Style: medium bodied and drinkable
- Flavor: floral, mineral and fruity
This is one of our favorite white wines we’ve ever drank! So refreshing, so mineral, it’s such a delicious organic white wine. Produced in the sun kissed seaside region of Liguria in the north of Italy, it’s made using vermentino grapes. It undergoes a very short maceration (left on the skins) but coming from someone who doesn’t love macerated wines (Andrea) it’s a winner. It tastes like drinking a sunny summer’s day which we’re all about.
- Color: straw yellow
- Style: fruity
- Flavor: yellow fruits, mineral, wild flowers
Let’s take a dive south back into Sicily’s Mt Etna wines. Tornatore is our other favorite producer on the slopes of the volcano and this wine is a hit among everyone we’ve had try it. Made from indigenous carricante grapes, it’s fresh and fruity and perfect paired with food. It’s a very elegant white wine with bold character.
- Color: straw yellow
- Style: savoury and aromatic
- Flavor: green apple, pear, lemon, nougat and grapefruit
5. Arma Dei from Podere Cipolla
Hailing from Emilia Romagna, this is actually a sparkling white wine and one of our absolute favorites. It’s made in the metodo classico way – aka the same way as champagne – and is perfect for a celebration or as an aperitivo wine. Made using Spergola grapes, native to the region since the 15th century, the juice stays on the lees for 30 months which gives it a great intensity of flavor that smells like you just walked into a bakery!
- Color: Straw yellow
- Style: sparkling, not filtered
- Flavor: exotic fruits, sourdough bread
6. La Peschiera di Pacino white from Raina
Last but not least, Raina was a wonderful discovery in the world of biodynamic Umbrian wines this year. Made using 100% trebbiano toscano grapes, it’s fermented for 3 days on the skins which gives this wine a real robust flavor and aroma profile.
- Color: straw yellow
- Style: fresh and easy to drink
- Flavor: floral, fruity and mineral
Discovered something new in our guide to best organic Italian wine? Are you a fan of biodynamic italian wine? Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite!
We’ll continue to keep this updated as we drink more delicious Italy organic wine in 2024 and beyond.