January 17th , 2010 → 4:10 pm @ admin

Red wine glass in rural kitchenWhen it comes to wine, Italy is a country truly blessed: It benefits from an enviable array of vineyard sites ideally suited to growing the staggering number of indigenous grape varieties. However, Italy is also a country where heritage, pride and tradition are never far away. The result? A slow embrace of modern technology that has enhanced both vineyard winery. Technology and tradition are now hand-in-hand and Italy is credited with producing wines that are unmatched in richness and style.

Italy is the spiritual home for grape varieties such as Arneis, Barbera, Lagrein, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Sagrantino, and Veranaccia, and a diverse array of wine styles such as Frizzante, Dolce, Abocatto, and Amarone.

Italian Wine Terms

Abbocato: Slightly sweet

Classico: Best wines produced from classified zone

Dolce: Sweet

Frizzantino: Slightly sparkling

Recioto: Strong, sweet wines made from passito grapes

Ripasso: Wines fermented on the lees of recioto wine

Secco: Dry

Spumante: Full sparkling

Classification – Italian Style

In theory, the DOC(G) system represents the highest quality classification for Italian wines. However, in practice, it does not guarantee quality nor authenticity.

DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)

Established 1980. 30+ sites. Reserved for the best wines with strict controls on permitted grape varieties, vine yields, vineyard practices, wine making methods, and ageing periods etc.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)

Established 1963. 310 + sites. Wines from a specified, defined and controlled locality conforming to similar rules as DOCG but less stringent on quality control and wine ageing requirements.

IGT (Indicazione Geographica Tipica)

Established 1992. 210 + sites. Italy’s attempt to make up for the mess the DOC system is in! IGT means wines are broadly typical of that particular area. Wines from this newer classification often show more innovation than DOC/DOCG wines.

Table Wine (Vino da Tavola ‘VdT”)

No onerous restrictions on production (within reason). Despite lowly status, this category is fertile ground for innovation and experimentation. It now makes up some of Italy’s finest wines e.g. Super Tuscans like Sassicaia and Ornellia.

Wine Regions of Italy

Northwest Italy

Piedmont: Home of Italy’s most noble and aristocratic red wines; Barolo and Barbaresco.

Tuscan VineyardBarolo and Barbaresco are made from the thick-skinned Nebbiolo grape producing long-lived wines that are typically tannic in youth. These wines generally show a magnificent array of rich, concentrated, exotic flavors from plums, dark berries, liquorice, and spice, evolving to tar and rose petals when mature. Often defined by highly perfumed nose. Barbaresco is normally more refined and elegant than Barolo. Small amounts of each are produced – coupled with strong demand – resulting in high prices. The climate is one of cold winters and hot summers, with fog during spring and fall.

Central Italy

Tuscany and Umbria: Heartland of Italy’s wine business and forerunners of experimentation and innovation in winemaking.

Tuscany and Umbria are blessed with ideal growing conditions for vines: a long growing season, warm summers and cool winters, hilly terrain with ideal aspects and a complex soil – galestro – in the best Tuscan sites. Sangiovese (or one of its clones) is the dominant grape variety in traditional reds…..Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morrelino di Scansano, etc. Wines are usually very dry and medium to full-bodied with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, and earth.

The Sagrantino grape, popular in Umbria, can produces wines of immense power and complexity. Classic French grape varieties also show fantastic style in Tuscany; Syrah, Cabernet and Chardonnay are often blended with indigenous grapes. Quality white wine is made from the local Veranaccia grape.

Southern Italy

Italy’s oldest and most traditional wine producing region yields red wines with deep color and strong flavour.

Marsala cellar 1Typically hot and hilly, southern Italy has become one of the country’s most dynamic wine producing areas with investment, innovation and new technology breaking the tradition of poor techniques. The results are well-made wines with rich flavors, style, and character. Wines often made from the multitude of indigenous grape varieties e.g. Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola for reds, and Grecco and Falangahina for whites. Southern Italian wines increasingly offer excellent value and unique style to the consumer. Despite the heat, excellent whites can be found – grapes normally grown at higher altitudes than those for red wine.


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