Information on Italian wines including the history of winemaking in Italy, the different regions in which wines are produced, rules and regulations of making wine and some links to a selection of wine tours offered throughout Italy.
Italy is made up of twenty separate regions, or states. The country can be further divided into four sections, one for each method of winemaking, and where we organize several wine tours throughout Italy; northeast Italy, north-central and northwest regions, central regions, and finally the southern regions and the islands.
The northeast regions lead Italy in the technology of winemaking, where the methods are more sophisticated and better organized than in the other parts of Italy. This is strictly related to the continual demand of consumers from the nearby countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. You can experience the great passion for winemaking in the northeast of Italy with our wine tours of the Friuli Venezia Giulia wine region.
The regions of Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige are the three principal areas of production. The whole area produces more than a third of the all country's DOC wines. This production, in many cases is of a high quality, made by “boutique style” wineries, where quality outweighs quantity in the minds of winemakers. So, this is why the region produces less than a sixth of the total production of wine in Italy.
The region boasts two of the most important Italian wine schools: San Michele all'Adige, in Trentino-Alto Adige and Conegliano, in Veneto. Friuli Venezia Giulia, Rauscedo has the largest wine nursery in the world.
With all its national-level most important wine fairs, including VINITALY held in Verona every Spring, the northeast of Italy plays a leading role in the direction of the Italian wine industry. The determining factor that has enabled this area to produce such a variety of wines is the climate: all the three regions are influenced by the Alps, and throughout their several DOC wine regions there are multiple microclimates.
Of all the wines produced in the northeast of Italy, Verona's Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino are the best known among all DOC wines. They derive almost entirely from native varieties. But, in the central and eastern regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, the imported varieties – such as Merlot, Cabernet, Pinots, Chardonnay and Sauvignon – are gaining success for vineyard space against the local Tocai, Prosecco, Verduzzo, Refosco and Raboso. In Trentino-Alto Adige red wines prevail, dominated by the ubiquitous Shiava or Vernatsch (from German), though the more distinguished Teroldego, Lagrein and Marzemino hold their own against Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Nero. Take our Valpolicella Wine Tours to appreciate the famous Amarone and other wines produced in the Valpolicella wine region, near the city of Verona.
The five regions of north central and northwest of Italy cover much of the great arc of the Alps and Apennines that walls in the Po as it flows East through its broad valley to the Adriatic. The types of wine – like the topography, soil and climate – vary extremely in these regions, and they are grouped rather loosely as neighbours but, in true Italian style, they maintain their own proud identities. These five regions produce about 20% of Italian total wine and contribute to 30% of the total DOC wine.
Despite the proximity of France, whose vines have been warmly welcomed elsewhere in Italy, growers in Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta and Liguria prefer their own vines and tend to make wine in their own style. The Piedmont's host of worthy natives includes Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Freisa, Cortese, Arneis, Brachetto, the Canelli clone of Moscato (for Asti Spumante) and the noblest of them all, Nebbiolo (source of Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara).
The vines of Valle d'Aosta often have French names – Petit Rouge, Gros Vien, Blanc de Valdigne, for instance – due to the Savoy's history of the region. Liguria favours the local Rossese and Vermentino, while working with its own version of Dolcetto, known as Ormeasco.
But lately, growers have been concentrating on distinctive wines from the hills. The best known are two: Alban and Sangiovese di Romagna. But some others are gaining ground: Barbera, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon from the Apennine's foothills of Emilia Romagna.
Going back in time in the history of winemaking in Italy, in the past the central regions of Italy produced poor wine and its producers paid little attention to new developments in this industry. Today, the central regions also produce fine wines, led by Tuscany with Chianti and other noble reds, and are rapidly moving to the forefront of Italian enology.
All the six regions produce less than a quarter of the national quantity of wine, and they contribute to a third of the total DOLC or DOCG wine. The realm of Sangiovese is the Florence 's region of Tuscany , where it prevails over Chianti – the national archetypical wine – as well as over Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and most of the noteworthy classified and unclassified red wines. White Malvasia reigns in the region of Latium.
The Adriatic regions have a rather neat and straightforward structure of vines and wines. Vineyards are almost all planted on hills running in a tortuous strip between the sea and the mountains, where the climate is tempered by cool currents. Two native varieties stand out along the Adriatic coast, the white wine named Verdicchio in the Marche and the red one named Montepulciano, which originated in the Abruzzi and is now widely planted in all the three regions.
When the Greeks first settled in Italy, in the south, they christened Italy the land of vines. They immediately realized the potential of these lands to produce fine wines. Unfortunately, in the past Italians were slow to realize the potential of these southern regions.
As a matter of fact, for many years the winemakers in the southern parts of Italy concentrated on the quantity rather than on the quality of their wines. But, in recent times with the influence of winemakers from the North, buying land and cultivating vines, the wine industry in the southern regions of Italy has gone through a little revolution. Sicily, in particular, is producing fine red wines for long ageing, and the primitive wines of Campania and Puglia are gaining in popularity year after year.