Italy is one of the world's largest wine-producing country and one of the oldest, with regions that have produced wine as far back as the 10th Century B.C. The Italian wine culture is closely related to the Greeks, which brought their vines to the peninsula, and on the island of Sicily as well as Campania and Calabria. After that, the Phoenicians also have influenced the Romans, establishing bases in Sicily and the Mediterranean, and from the 6th century B.C. onwards, an active trade began with the Celts in Gaul from France, who imported considerable quantities of wine from Upper and Central Italy. So, the Italians have learned and brought winemaking to high art. Around the 1st century B.C the city of Pompeii was the wine trading centre and a very important supplier to Rome until its destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 B.C. In the 14th century and the beginning of the Renaissance, there was a great increase in wine production and consumption, and already in 1716 under Grand Duke Cosimo III (1642-1723) from the family of the Medici in Tuscany, the zone for Chianti was established as one of the first designation of origin in Europe. In the early 19th century, wines such as Barolo, Brunello and Chianti were created with French help, and a new beginning for the Italian wine was made.
Italian soil types and the climate are characterised by great diversity. The Alps are acting as a shield against cold north winds, as the Apennines create a 1,500-kilometre long weather divide from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south. Both seas The Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west have a decisive influence. The latitude is a key factor and the regions with the best temperatures between 12 and 16 °C, satisfactory snow and rainfall in winter and warm to hot summers with sunshine until late autumn are giving birth to the most distinguished wines in the country.
Italy grows about 1400 grapes varieties, mainly due to the varied topography and climate and every region, from Aosta Valley to the Sicilian islands, grows grapes and makes wine – each region has its own page – and Italian wine is famous all over the world. The most important red grape varieties are Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Montepulciano, Corvina, Aglianico, Primitivo, white grapes are Pinot Grigio, Garganega, Trebbiano, Vermentino, Glera, Fiano, Greco. Of course, the French grape varieties are also present with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Actually, some of the best and most expensive wines of Italy are made from international grapes in the small region on the Tyrrhenian Sea in Tuscany called Bolgheri.
Italy has 20 wine-growing regions, but the most significant and well-known are Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto. Each one of these regions has its flagship wines as in Tuscany there are several from Brunello di Montalcino to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. From Veneto, Prosecco and Pinot Grigio are the best sellers together wtih the highly regarded and powerful Amarone della Valpolicella. And Piedmont is the birthplace of the legendary Barolo and Barbaresco and the light and refreshing Moscato d'Asti. Not to be forgotten are the two islands Sicily and Sardinia, which are producing some very unique wines from indigenous grape varieties.
Italian wines are classified according to the Italian wine classification initially developed in 1963 that divided the wines in Table wine, DOC and DOCG; in 1992 the IGT category was added, we will post on our blog more details about the Italian Wine Classification, however, this is an out of date classification that nowadays, do not reflect the quality of Italian wine, as it was originally intended.
In 2009 the European Union published a directive, aimed at harmonising the wine classification within the different European countries, dividing the wines into Vini (Wines), Vini Varietali (Varietal Wines), Vini IGP (Wines with Protected Geographical Indication, IGT - Typical Geographical Indication) Vini DOP (Wines with Protected Designation of Origin and includes DOC, Controlled Designation of Origin, and DOCG, Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). However, Italian wines still use the old Italian system.
Blessed with so many grape varieties and abundance of Italian wine, it is better to reserve a special place in your cellar to Italian wines, because Italy continues to amaze. The new wave of winemakers in Italy brings its own level of excitement to the market. They are experimenting with non-traditional varietals, blends, and the latest technical innovations, to stretch our understanding of Italian wine.