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    Italian Wines

    Dec 07,2023 | Magnum Opus Wines

    When it comes to wine, Italy has nothing to envy to the rest of the world!

    HISTORY

    Wines have been cultivated from the wild Vitis vinifera grape for millennia in Italy. It was previously believed that viticulture had been introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Mycenaeans, as winemaking traditions are known to have already been established in Italy around 1000–800 BC. However, archeological discoveries on Monte Kronio in 2017 revealed that viticulture in Sicily flourished at least as far back as 4000 BC — some 3,000 years earlier than previously thought. Also on the peninsula, traces of Bronze Age and even Neolithic grapevine management and small-scale winemaking might suggest earlier origins than previously thought.

    Under Ancient Rome large-scale, slave-run plantations sprang up in many coastal areas of Italy and spread to such an extent that, in AD 92, emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a great number of vineyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.

    During this time, viticulture outside of Italy was prohibited under Roman law. Exports to the provinces were reciprocated in exchange for more slaves, especially from Gaul. It was customary, at the time, for people to drink wine mixed with a good proportion of water.

    As the laws on provincial viticulture were relaxed, vast vineyards began to flourish in the rest of Europe, especially Gaul (France) and Hispania (Spain). This coincided with the cultivation of new vines, such as biturica, an ancestor of the Cabernets.

    Depending on the vintage, modern Italy is the world's largest or second-largest wine producer. In 2023, production was about 4.4 billion litres, second only to France, which produced 4.6 billion litres. Spain is usually in third position, both in volume and value.

    Geography

    Italy's 20 wine regions correspond to the 20 administrative regions of the country. Understanding the differences between these regions is very helpful in understanding the different types of Italian wine.

    Northwest: The regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria and Aosta Valley have mostly intermediate to cool climates, meaning, the season is slightly shorter and thus, red wines tend to be more elegant, aromatic, and earthy in style. Whites sparkle with ample acidity.

    Northeast: The regions of Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia have cooler climates and the warmer areas are influenced by the Adriatic Sea. Reds offer more fruit (although still elegant) and the best white wines are found in the hills, such as the Soave grape, Garganega.

    Central: The Mediterranean climate in Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, and Abruzzo is why red varieties shine here, including Sangiovese and Montepulciano. 

    Southern and Islands: Italy’s warmest regions Molise, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Reds lean towards more ripe fruit flavors and white wines tend to have a fuller body.

    Wine Regions

    Italy's 20 wine regions from the largest to smallest are:

    1. Veneto, known for Prosecco (Glera), Soave and Gambellara (Garganega), Valpolicella Classico, Ripasso, Recioto and Amarone (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Croatina) and Bardolino.
    2. Puglia, known for Primitivo, Salice Salentino and Brindisi Rosso (Negroamaro), Castel del Monte (Bombino Nero), Ostuni white and rose (Ottavianello).
    3. Emilia-Romagna, known for Lambruscos and Modena.
    4. Sicilia, known for Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Nero d'Avola, Frappato), Etna Rosso (Nerello Mascalese) and Bianco (Carricante, Catarratto), Marsala (Grillo, Inzolia, Catarrato), Malvasia delle Lipari.
    5. Abruzzo, known for Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.
    6. Toscana, known for Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Sangiovese), Super Tuscans, Vin Santo (Trebbiano, Malvasia), Carmignano and Morellino di Scansano.
    7. Piemonte, known for Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera d'Alba, Moscato d'Asti.
    8. Friuli-Venezia-Giula, known for Ramandolo (Verduzzo) and Colli Orientali del Friuli (Picolit) dessert wines.
    9. Campania, known for Aglianico, Capri, Ischia, Irpinia, Falerno del Massico, Fiano and Lachryma Christi.
    10. Lazio, known for Trebbiano and Malvasia from Marino, Frascati and Grechetto from Orvieto.
    11. Marche, known for Lacrima di Morro d'Alba and Verdicchio.
    12. Trentino-Alto-Adige, known for Trento sparkling wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc), and Pinot Grigiot, Gewurztraminer, Muller Thurgau, Riesling, Sylvaner whites.
    13. Lombardia, known for Franciacorta (Chardonnay, Pinot bianco) and Oltrepò Pavese (Pinot nero) sparkling wines.
    14. Sardegna, known for Girò, Nasco and Nuragus di Cagliari, Vernaccia di Oristano white wine.
    15. Umbria, known for Montefalco red (Sangiovese, Sagrantino) and Orvieto (Grechetto, Trebbiano) white. 
    16. Molise, known for Tintilia red wine.
    17. Calabria, known for Cirò, a full bodied and tannic red wine made from Gaglioppo grape. 
    18. Basilicata, known for Aglianico del Vulture.
    19. Liguria, known for Cinque Terre white wine, Sangiovese and Vermentino from Colline de Levanto and Colli di Luni, as well as Rossese di Dolceacqua (Tibouren).
    20. Valle d’Aosta, known for Pinot Noir, Gamay and Petit Rouge.

    The 4 regions of Veneto, Apulia, Emilia-Romagna, and Sicily together make up more than half of the production. 

    Appellations

    • Vini IGT (Typical Geographical Indication): wines produced in a specific territory within Italy and following a series of specific and precise regulations on authorized varieties, viticultural and vinification practices, organoleptic characteristics, labeling instructions... Currently (2016) there exist 118 IGPs/IGTs.
    • Vini DOP (wines with Protected Designation of Origin): this category includes 2 sub-categories: Vini DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and Vini DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). DOC wines must have been IGT wines for at least 5 years. They generally come from smaller regions within a certain IGT territory that are particularly vocated for their climatic and geological characteristics, quality, and originality of local winemaking traditions. They also must follow stricter production regulations than IGP wines. A DOC wine can be promoted to DOCG if it has been a DOC for at least 10 years. In addition to fulfilling the requisites for DOC wines, DOCG wines must pass stricter analyses prior to commercialization, including a tasting by a specifically appointed committee. DOCG wines must also demonstrate superior commercial success. Currently (2016) there exist 332 DOCs and 73 DOCGs for a total of 405 DOPs.

    A number of sub-categories exist pertaining to the regulation of sparkling wine production (e.g. Vino Spumante, Vino Spumante di Qualità, Vino Spumante di Qualità di Tipo Aromatico, Vino Frizzante).

    Within the DOP category, 'Classico' is a wine produced in the original historic centre of the protected territory. 'Superiore' is a wine with at least 0.5 more alcohol % per volume than its corresponding regular DOP wine and produced using a smaller allowed quantity of grapes per hectare, generally yielding a higher quality. 'Riserva' is a wine that has been aged for a minimum period of time. The length of time varies with (red, white, Traditional-method sparkling, Charmat-method sparkling). Sometimes, 'Classico' or 'Superiore' are themselves part of the name of the DOP (e.g. Chianti Classico DOCG or Soave Superiore DOCG).

    The DOCG wines are located in 15 different regions but most of them are concentrated in Piedmont, Lombardia, Veneto and Tuscany. Among these are appellations appreciated and sought after by wine lovers around the world: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino (colloquially known as the "Killer Bs").

    Other notable wines that have gained attention in recent years in the international markets and among specialists are: Amarone della Valpolicella, Prosecco di Conegliano- Valdobbiadene, Taurasi from Campania, Franciacorta sparkling wines from Lombardy; evergreen wines are Chianti and Soave, while new wines from the Centre and South of Italy are quickly gaining recognition: Verdicchio, Sagrantino, Primitivo, Nero d'Avola among others.

    The Friuli-Venezia Giulia is world-famous for the quality of her white wines, like Pinot Grigio. Special sweet wines like Passitos and Moscatos, made in different regions, are also famous since old time.

    Key Figures

    • Depending on the vintage, Italy is the world's largest producer of wine in volume, 19% of global production, ahead of France (17%) and Spain (15%).
    • Italy is the world’s second largest wine producer in value (EUR 12 Billion) behind France (EUR 14 Billion), ahead of Spain (EUR 8 Billion).
    • 700,000 hectares are under vineyard cultivation.
    • Over 350 grapes varieties. 
    • Top 5 Red : Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Merlot, Barbera, Nero d’Avola…
    • Top 5 White: Catarratto Bianco, Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Glera, Pinot Grigio…
    • 4.8 billion litres of wine produced annually.
    • 58% white and sparkling; 42% red and roses.
    • 118 IGTs, 332 DOCs, 73 DOCGs.
    • 3 major regions produce most DOC/DOCG wines: Veneto (18%), Tuscany (17%), and Piedmont (11%).

    We sincerely hope that you found this wine blog interesting, and if you are looking for good Italian wines, please head over here: https://www.magnumopuswines.com/collections/italy

    Cin Cin!

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