The Essentials: Italian Wines
While France may be the world’s oldest wine producing country, Italy takes the #1 spot for the volume of wine production, followed by France and Spain. Every year, the country produces about 40-50 million hectolitres, which accounts for about one-third of global production.
Not only do the Italians produce wine at an extremely high rate, they also rank fifth in the world for consumption at 42 liters per capita. It was the Romans who first initiated some of the large-scale production methods we know today like barrel-making and bottling, and technology has grown and improved them.
Let’s take a look at the main characteristics of Italian wine:
- They tend to be very high in acidity, simply because heavier foods pair well with acidic wines, and what are the Italians known best for? Their carbs.
- Most tend to have a more subdued, earthy aroma rather than something floral or fruity, due to the fragrant nature of the soils and land of Italy.
- The majority of Italian wines are medium in body, although there are some that are heavier, in order to allow their food to be the star of a meal, and the wine just the compliment.
There are over 350 unique grapes indigenous to Italy, with much more subtypes and varieties. With over 20 wine-growing regions in Italy, the types and styles of wine are seemingly endless. However, Italy, like every other major wine-producing country of the world, does have regions that have become famous for their own styles and varieties of wine.
We could sit here forever and describe every region of Italy but that could take a while so we’ll cover the main three.
- Piedmont: While it’s not the largest by measurement, this region grows many different kinds of grapes, including the very popular sparkling Moscato d’Asti and red Nebbiolo, plus many others. The region itself sits in the Northwest corner of the country and has such a variety of climates due to the coast on one side and landlocked border on the other, that it provides a loving home to many kinds of grapes.
- Tuscany: Not just a vacation destination, Tuscany, or Toscano, is home to the widely popular Sangiovese grape, which is Italy’s star red wine. Chianti is one of the most heavily consumed wines outside of Italy, and it’s made primarily from the Sangiovese.
- Veneto: This region isn’t that big but it’s the home to Prosecco, the most commonly consumed sparkling wine after Champagne. Veneto also produces other reds and whites but none are as famous as Prosecco. It’s located directly east of Piedmont and has a similar climate which makes it a great home to many kinds of grapes.
While these three are the biggest regions of Italy, it’s hard to overlook the many other types of grapes grown in the Mediterranean country. Italy’s wine has been carefully crafted and procured to go with their gorgeous food. It is the culinary life of Italians that has shaped the nature of wine and how it’s consumed. Reds are perfect for tomato-based foods, like marinara and bolognese, while the white wines go perfectly with the fragrant fish or a Parmesan cream sauce.
Italy has a lot to teach us about the sport of drinking wine, but also about creating it.