Italy Wines

Italy Wines

Italy has a million grape growers, hundreds of grape varieties, and an amazing number of wine regions and styles. Arguably, the country provides greater diversity than any other wine-producing nation. Native grape varieties are still Italy's strength, but some notable success has also been achieved with international grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay.


Italian wines tend to be best appreciated with food. This is a nation where regional food and wines are enjoyed together, a natural evolution that has developed over centuries. Cultivation of the vine was introduced by both the Greeks and the Etruscans. The Greeks named Italy 'Oenotria', land of the vine.

Although Italy's wine laws have come in for some criticism, they broadly follow the French model, with DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Garantita) being reserved for a few 'top' wines, which are subject to strict rules of control. DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), introduced in 1963, guarantees that the wine has been produced in the named vineyard area (e.g. Valpolicella DOC).

Methods of production are also specified. The newest category is IGT (Indicazione Geographica Tipica), which mirrors the French Vin de Pays. The removal of restrictions has led to winemakers making the most of blending opportunities and at best, making truly exciting and innovative wines. Vino da Tavola (table wine) represents not only the simplest wines, but also super-premium and expensive wines made from non-indigenous grape varieties, such as Sassicaia, a pioneering Cabernet produced in Tuscany, which was promoted to a special sub-zone status in the Bolgheri (DOC) in 1994.

Italy's climate tends to be more consistent than northern France's but there is quite a variation from north to south. The best grape varieties, in terms of the quality of the wines produced, are Nebbiolo (northwest Italy, Piedmont), which reaches its greatest heights in Barolo and Barberesco, both of which are DOCGs. In central Italy, the principal grape in Chianti DOCG is Sangiovese, which in its various clones also appears in Brunello di Montalcino (DOCG) and VIno Nobile di Montepulciano (DOCG). This trio make up some of Tuscany's most impressive wines.

Best Wines

Veneto, home to Valpolicella and Soave, is found in the north. Some of Italy's best white wines are produced in Trentino and Friuli, in what is often referred to as the varietal northeast. The south has made great strides in improving its wines, and evidence of success can be seen in wines such as Salice Salentino (DOC) from Apulia.

Understanding the Label - Italy Wines

- Amarone - dry Passito wine from Valpolicella

- Classico - Wine made from dried or semi-dried grapes.

- Recioto - sweet passito wine

- Riserva - should be the best wines, from the better vintages, which are held back or aged for longer than normal.

- Superiore - wine with higher alcohol than usual.

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