The Ancient Greek name for most of Italy was „Oenotria“ or “land of trained vines”, which acknowledges the importance of wine to the peninsula in ancient times and this heritage is still evident to this day. Wine is an integral part of Italian life and culture and has been for thousands of years. And this wine culture was exported, through the Roman Empire to Western and Middle-Europe.
Italy is well known for its diversity of grape types (approx. 350 approved and approx. 2000 in total). Nebbiolo and Sangiovese ( “blood of Jove”) are the grapes responsible for the world-renowned great red wines from Tuscany and Piedmont. Other main varieties are Catarratto (white from Sicily), Trebbiano (white), Barbera (red from Piedmont), Negroamaro (red from Puglia), Montepulciano (red) and Primitivo (red from the south). International varieties include Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet.
The geography and climate of the Italian peninsula is difficult to summarise covering as it does 1200 kms and nearly 10 degrees of latitude. The main geographic features are the Apennines which run from near the French border to Calabria in the south and the northern border is dominated by the Alps. Cultivation of good quality vines here is predominately a hillside phenomenon. Altitude, proximity to the sea, soil composition, winds and exposure are the other significant factors.
Trentino: Vineyard in autumn
Friuli: Golden vineyard.
Trentino: Vineyard in autumn.
Alto Adige: Schiava in autumn robes.
Tuscany: Vineyard near Vinci.
Tuscany: Golden autumn.
Bardolino, Veneto: Grapes and sky
Tuscany: View of San Gimignano.
Valle d`Aosta oder Vallée d`Aoste in the extreme northwest is the smallest of the Italian wine regions and is where Italy meets France and Switzerland. There is a great diversity of grape types, such as Torrette, Blancs de Morgex, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Gris. The wine is mostly sold privately in the region, either to tourists or the high number of transit motorists.
(“at the foot of the mountain”), in the north west, whose main city is Turin, is an outstanding and very distinctive wine region. This is the home of the world-renowned Barolo and Barbaresco with the main grapes being Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto.
(capital Milan) stretches from Ticino in Southern Switzerland to the river Po and is divided into three main areas, Oltrepò Pavese, Valtellina and Franciacorta each with its own style. The grape varieties are similar to those from Piedmont with Nebbiolo being the most popular.
with Genua as the main city, stretches from the French border to the edge of Tuscany along the Mediterranean coast and where the Apennines virtually fall into the sea, and it has some of the steepest slopes with some areas only accessable by boat. The main grapes are Vermentino and Trebbiano.
the Southern half of the Italian central Alpine region based around the city of Trento, has as its main white wine grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Blanc with Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir as the primary reds.
is the mainly German-speaking northern half of the central Alpine region, where the wine is predominately produced by co-operatives, some of which are very well-run and produce exceedingly good wines. The main grapes are Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau for the whites and Schiava, Pinot Nero and Lagrein are main red varieties.
in the north eastern corner bordering Austria and Slovenia, is the home of sometimes very good, fresh, clean fruity white wines and also, due to its history, a large quantity of different grape varieties from various sources. These include Tocai, Malvasia, Verduzzo, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Cabernet and Merlot to name just a few.
in the north east, is the largest wine-producing region in Italy, which it has achieved through, among other things its concentration on the marketing of Pinot Gris and the introduction of co-operatives. The main wines are Bardolino Valpolicella (main grapes for both – Corvina Veronese and Rondinella), and Soave (Garganega).
runs westward from the Adriatic coast almost to the Mediterranean. The wines from the inland region Emilia are distinctly different to those from Romagna. Sangiovese di Romagna and Colli Piacentini ( grape varieties – Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc) are the main quality wines of the region. Generally speaking, the red wines (main grape is Barbera) are also undergoing rapid improvements.
is the region on the Adriatic coast with Ancona to the north and Ascoli Piceno in the South, whose main wine is the Verdicchio – a white with character and personality. The Montepulciano is the flagship red in this fast improving region.
with its undulating and in history soaked landscapes, its cities Florence, Pisa, Sienna and its main grape Sangiovese produces great wines with iconic names, such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile Montepulciano.
is Italy`s fourth smallest region, trapped between Tuscany and Latium but it has recently made great efforts to emerge from its overpowering Tuscan neighbour. The main red grape is the Sangiovese and over 80% of Umbrian production is from the DOC Orvieto.
is the region with Italy`s capital Rome and produces, almost exclusively (over 85%), white wines, the best known of which is probably the Frascati, based around the town of the same name. The main grapes are Malvasia and Trebbiano.
on the Adriatic coast south of Marches is probably best known for its Montepulciano d`Abruzzo and Montepulciano d`Abruzzo Colline Teramane that are required to have at least 85% the variety Montepulciano. This region is making great progress due to a new generation of young winemakers.
is on the Adriatic coast south of Abruzzo with a distinct Mediterranean climate. The best wines come from the Salento region where the Negroamaro and Primtivo are the main grape varieties.
is the region based around Naples, Capri and the Amalfi coastline has great natural conditions for great wine production, through more than enough sunshine, great volcanic soils and hillside sites paired with interesting local grape varieties (e.g. Aglianco – red and Greco – white).
is the most southerly of the three large islands (Corsica and Sardinia are the other two) to the west of Italy and currently undergoing immense changes in the improvement of the viniculture with the dramatic quality improvement in white wine (main grape types being Catarrato, Inzolia, Grillo and Chardonnay) being the most marked.
with its beautiful landscapes and “wine routes” has a very great vincultural potential with strong reds (main grape - Carignano), whites ( main variety – Vermentino) with character and fascinating dessert wines (e.g. Mavasia di Bosa).
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Aosta Valley: Gamay Vines on steep hillside.
Alto Adige: Ruländer vines on steep hillside.
Trentino: Pinot Nero grapes ready for the harvest.
Trentino: Pinot Nero
Tuscany: Hilly and cloudy landscape.
Tuscany: Vineyard and lonely tree.