Based in Italy's northern Alto Adige region, this estate has passed through four generations since it was established by Josef Hofstätter in 1907. Today it is run by a team of local people, and they've mastered grape varieties you might associate with other world wine regions, even if they are native to this area: fine gewürztraminer (which originated in Tramin, the village where Hofstätter is based), delicate and fresh pinot bianco and arguably Italy's finest, most fragrant and seductive pinot noir.
2. Alpha Zeta
If you're looking for textbook examples of round, fruity pinot grigio and cherry-scented corvina from hillside vineyards around Verona, you'll find it in Alpha Zeta, however the man bringing the Veneto region's wines to life is in fact New Zealander Matt Thomson. He works with a select handful of growers to find the best grapes for his wines, and the results are so impressive we chose him to produce our Society's Pinot Grigio.
3. Agricole Vallone
Run by the Vallone sisters, this large, multi-tasking agricultural enterprise, which farms 170 hectares of vines amongst other crops like artichokes and olive trees, is based in the idyllic Salento peninsula in Puglia on Italy's heel. The estate has made a name for itself thanks to its flagship wine, Graticcaia, an exquisite fine red wine made from negroamaro grapes dried on mats (graticci) in the autumn sunshine, producing a powerful, concentrated wine with excellent ageing potential. Vallone is also responsible for two Italian member favourites, Brindisi Rosso and its pink sister wine Brindisi Rosato.
4. GD Vajra
This family-run estate in Barolo, north-west Italy, was founded by Guiseppe Domenico Vajra in 1972 and is now run by his son Aldo alongside his wife Milena and three children. All five are deeply passionate about winemaking, as proven by the animated, enlightening conversations we have with them every time we visit, so it's no wonder their wines have such wonderful bouquet, precision and balance, with a Burgundian intensity that makes them stand out from the rest of the region.
Oronzo Alò is a hugely talented winemaker and his estate is the place to find some of the best examples of the red aglianico grape, which thrives best in southern Italy, particularly in the mountainous vineyards of Campania and Alovini's home, Basilicata, a region often described as the 'arch in Italy's heel'. As well as aglianico, which was one of our Wine Champions in 2017, he produces delicious, fresh whites using local grapes like greco, malvasia and fiano.
6. Principe Pallavicini
This famous estate was founded by the Pallavicinis, one of Italy's oldest noble families, whose winemaking history dates back almost 500 years. Based at Frascati in the Lazio region just south of Rome, the volcanic soils are ideal for growing white grapes, imparting high acidity and mineral character. Until fairly recently, Frascati wines weren't really known for much other than bland wines for tourists to sip in restaurants but Pallavicini has proved this region is capable of much, much more. Winemakers Carlo Ferrini and Carlo Roveda really know what they're doing, bringing the best out of Italian white grapes like greco, trebbiano and the local malvasia di Lazio.
The Nicosia family has been in the wine trade for over 100 years and their fantastic estate in Sicily is now run by fourth generation Carmelo and his sons Francesco and Graziano. They champion Sicilian grape varieties and the island's winemaking traditions, expertly creating wines that showcase Sicily's true potential. On the volcanic, mineral soils of Mount Etna they grow nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio for red and catarratto and carricante for white, producing rich, elegant wines, as well as planting frappato and nero d'Avola in the Vittoria region, where these grapes thrive. Their Fondo Filara range is a perfect place to start if you want a taste of Sicily.