Italian Wine: What You Need to Know
Italy is one of the most important wine growing regions in the world, in addition to being one of the oldest. Due to this, Italian wine growers are faced with strict regulations which dictate vineyard quality, yields per acre and aging practices. Despite the regulations, Italy has over 50,000 wineries. There are approximately 350 different grape varieties grown throughout the country and over 1.5 acres of grapes planted.
There are many wine regions throughout Italy, all of which are going to produce and offer a unique characteristic to their wines (similar to different AVA’s in America). To simplify, you can divide the wine regions into North, Center, and South & Islands.
In Northern Italy, the Alps create interesting microclimates where distinctvarietals can be found. Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular grapes grown in this region, along with some of Italy’s most popular sparkling wines being made in Trentino and the Franciacorta area of Lombardy.
Central Italy is home to Tuscany, one of the most well known wine growing regions in the country. Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, San Gimignano whites, Bo
lgheri and Maremma reds, plus many more, are all made here.
Southern Italy, combined with the Islands, have a bit more lenient regulations than the rest of the country. Here you can find enologists who are willing and excited to some experimenting. Aglianico del Vulture and Fiano are grown here, as well as the notorious Sicilian dessert wines.
If the foreign names are too much to keep track of, the best thing someone can do is learn how to understand an Italian wine list, and to be honest these will be laid out in the same manner as any American wine.. First, the producer will be listed. This can be a single producer, a larger wine brand, or a cooperative (larger member groups). The type of wine, region and vintage will always be listed as well.
As mentioned, with over 350 grapes varietals grown, the best advice one can get is to dive in and start trying the different types of wine such an amazing country has to offer. You’re sure to find one, if not many, that you love!