When it comes to a traditional Italian dinner, the meal isn’t complete without a glass of wine with dinner. Italian wine has a very high importance not only in Italian cuisine, but in their culture as well. Wine is certainly the most popular drink in Italy and it is not uncommon to take a glass of wine for an aperitivo, at lunch and at dinner. In addition, Italy is one of the countries with the richest winemaking traditions. The diversity of landscapes and grape varieties is out of this world, and as a result, Italy produces the most extensive range of wine styles in Europe. So we can consider Italian wine as one of the benchmark wines in the world. Here we tell you everything you need to know about Italian wine.
History of Wine in Italy
Italy has a climate suitable for viticulture and wine history dates back to more than 4,000 years. In fact, when the Greeks first stepped foot in Southern Italy, wine had already become a part of the Italian ‘everyday’ lifestyle. So much so, that the country was called ‘Oenotria’ (it’s translation meaning ‘the land of wine’).
The Etruscans who had settled in central Italy in the area we now know as Tuscany and Western Umbria in the 7th Century BCE had a massive influence on ancient Italian culture. They further developed the rudimentary processes that were introduced by the Greeks, experimenting at every stage of the wine production. Then having absorbed the Etruscan civilization the Romans further refined wine production in Italy and vastly improved wine-making technology and the processes it involved.
Wine became increasingly popular across the Roman Empire and as the empire increased in size the demand for wine increased also. Vineyards were soon being cultivated up and down the Italian peninsula. For centuries, generation after generation have perfected the art of wine making. From which grape is most suitable to use to how long it should age to, even, what it should age in, Italy has birthed exceptional wines. Currently, Italy is the world’s second-largest producer of wine after France.
Italian Wine Classification
Italian wine is so important to both the people and the Italian government that it soon became the country with the largest number of classifications (Vino da Tavola, Vini IGP, Vini DOC and Vini DOCG). In addition, these classifications are determined by the area where the grapes are grown, the types of grapes used and the amount of the time wine is aged. Here’s a quick rundown of what each classification means.
Vino da Tavola (VdT)
Basic and inexpensive table wine. Label includes no indication of geographical origin of the grape varieties used or the vintage. (The label only reports the colour of the wine.)
Vini IGP (Wines with Protected Geographical Indication also traditionally implemented in Italy as IGT – Typical Geographical Indication)
Wines from specific region within Italy and following a series of specific and precise regulations on authorized varieties, viticultural and vinification practices, organoleptic and chemico-physical characteristics, labeling instructions, etc. Currently (2016) there exist 118 IGPs/IGTs.
Vini DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin)
Quality wines from specific regions that are made preserving local traditions.
Vini DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin)
Italy’s top wine from a specific region and is guaranteed to be a high quality. Make sure you look for the label on the bottle neck.
Italian Wine Regions
The best wine regions in Italy are divided into 20 areas that cover the breadth and width of the entire Mediterranean peninsula Italy . The most significant, when both quality and quantity are taken into consideration, are Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto. In addition, each region has its flagship wine styles. Some are famous because they are produced in large volumes and can be found all over the world, others because of their consistently high quality.
Tuscany is one of the most famous wine regions anywhere in Europe. It is best known for its generic Chianti, of course, but among devoted wine aficionados its Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – as well as Chianti Classico – are more highly regarded. Similarly, Piedmont is a top wine region in Italy. When wine geeks think of Piedmont, they immediately think of Barolo and Barbaresco, which are famous for their Nebbiolo-based wines. In addition, Veneto is prevalent for being the largest wine producing region in Italy. Veneto’s vast output of Prosecco, Soave and varietal Pinot Grigio does little to boost its reputation as a fine wine region, and yet it produces one of the world’s richest, finest wines: Amarone della Valpolicella.
In addition, Italian wine provides a great richness in terms of the quantity and diversity of grape varieties cultivated, in terms of the countless areas where wine is produced, as well as the production methods carried out by the thousands of wineries in the country. Italy’s top three grapes in terms of production levels by region, are: Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Montepulciano.
A purple colored grape, Sangiovese grape produces intense sour cherry flavors with subtle earthy aromas. Although not as aromatic as other red wine grapes, it is a key grape in the Chianti wines. The sangiovese grape is able to adapt to and flourish in many varied environments. Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
The grapes belonging to this variety are white with a high amount of juice, although without a lot of sumptuousness. The Trebbiano family account for around a third of all white wine in Italy. The white wine produced with trebbiano is not commonly found, although it can be fresh and fruity and is usually dry, neutral and acid. In addition, their high degree of acidity normally makes them grapes used for cognac production. In Italy you can visit trebbiano vineyards in Tuscany, where Villa Dievole is located, as well as in Piedmont and Veneto.
Montepulciano is a red grape variety indigenous to Italy. Native to central Italy, Montepulciano red grape produce deep red wines with soft flavors and gentle tannins. In addition, Montepulciano grows throughout Italy, with concentrations along the Adriatic coast in the Abruzzo and Marche regions in central Italy, and in Puglia and Molise in southern Italy. The grape plays a role in many flavorful yet easy-drinking wines that pair well with food, especially pizza.
Popular Italian Wines
Today, Italian wines are more varied and more popular than ever. These are some of the best Italian wines that you should try – be it to pair with your classic Italian food or as a long term investment. These three Italian wines encapsulate what Italian wine is all about.
Chianti wine is a red blend from Chianti, a small region in Tuscani, Italy. The wine is typically acidic and very dry, with notes of tart cherries and violets. There will be a little coarseness and tartness on the palate, but these aren’t flaws, they are classic characteristics of Sangiovese. In addition, They are food-friendly wines that can pair easily with a multitude of meals.
Dolcetto is a red wine grape from Piedmont. Although its name translates to a “sweet Little one”, most Dolcettos are dry. Dolcetto wine is rich, round, soft and fruity. Moreover it nearly always has a deep ruby and purple color and intriguing aromatics of blackberry, plum and spice. On the palate, Dolcetto has distinctive flavors of licorice, blackberry and almond.This young, drinkable Italian wine pairs well with hearty Italian food such as pasta and pizza.
If you’re looking for a fizzy and slightly sweet red, then Lambrusco is the Italian wine for you. South of the Veneto and north of Tuscany is Emilia-Romagna, home of the Lambrusco wine. Lambrusco grapes produce this sparkling, red wine, often in a bright purple-red hue. In the 1980s, Lambrusco wine became quite popular, and the wine is now produced in bulk. The wine is usually a light rose hue, with a delicate floral profile. However, Lambrusco wine has strong aromas of cherries, watermelons, violets, orange blossoms and mandarin oranges. Moreover these red wines are delicious on a hot summer day.
Join us for the best Italian dishes and wine at Villa Allen! We offer the best wines for you to perfectly pair with our mouthwatering classic Italian dishes.
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