The Italian wine that every wine lover should know about

Oenotria, meaning “Land of wine” is the name the ancient Greeks gave to Italy. It is clear that they were onto something. With around 700,000 hectares of vineyards, it ranks second in the world by production, with only China ahead, with 8.6 million tonnes of grapes harvested in 2018.

The Italian landscape is covered with vineyards, from the tip of the boot to the Alps, across to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Italy is home to around 380 native varieties that are used to make a thousand different kinds of wines in 20 different regions across more than 300 different geographical locations.

vino italiano

So, you can already imagine how complicated and fascinating it must be getting to know all the characteristics, denominations and styles of Italian wine, which is classified into four main categories depending on quality.

The four main denominations of Italian wine:

-Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) This category includes wines from the highest quality denominations that are approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, which is about 20.

-Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) A category of wines made with limited yields using specific varieties and made in a certain area.

-Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). This is the generic classification of wines from a certain area. It is equivalent to the Vin de Pays in France.

-Vino da Tavola These are table wines that specify nothing other than the country they were made in. These are the most basic wines.

The variety of wines made in the different parts of Italy is so wide that it is still difficult to define their legal classification. Many excellent quality wines cannot be classified as such because they do not meet the production specifications set out for each of the official categories.

But, leaving legalities behind, how about we take a tour of the best known winemaking regions in Italy?

The 5 main Italian winemaking regions:

1: Piamonte
The name means “at the foot of the mountains” and this is one of the main Italian winemaking regions. It is known for the extraordinary DOCG Barolo and DOCG Barbaresco wines, which are perhaps the most sought-after and expensive Italian wines in the world. They are made with the Nebbiolo variety.

Barolo wines are more concentrated and complex than Barbaresque wines, which tend to be less intense.

Piedmont is also known for its sparkling and semi-sparkling wines made with the Moscato variety within the DOCG Moscato d’Asti. DOCG Asti is also the home of Italian vermouth!

2: Veneto
This is the region where Prosecco, the most famous sparkling wine in Italy, was born, but it is also the birthplace of great Italian wines like the DOC Soave white wines and the extraordinary DOC Valpolicella red wines, which are made in different styles using the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara varieties.

3: Tuscany
A romantic and legendary Italian region where Tuscany wine was born, the most classic wine in the country. The one with the famous rounded and straw-covered bottle: the Chianti.

Fortunately, not all Chiantis are bottled in the same way anymore because apparently this imagine, instead of giving the look of a quality wine, had the opposite effect. Chianti is made with the Sangiovese variety, “the blood of Jupiter”.

This grape is also used to make the DOCG Brunello di Montalcino wines, which have an excellent reputation around the world.

Tuscany’s climate allows typically Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to grow easily and to an excellent quality, which has given rise to a category of wines known as Super Tuscans, which are made in small, high quality productions using these traditionally French varieties. The famous and highly sought after Sassiscaia wine is one of them.

4: Emilia-Romagna
This is the birthplace of the world-famous Lambrusco, a sparkling wine that we always imagine enjoying with a pizza and that, unfortunately, is not usually well thought of.

In fact, Lambrusco is the grape variety that is usually used to make these light body sparkling wines with pleasant notes of strawberries, blackberries and hibiscus. We are most familiar with Lambrusco rosé, but there are also white and red ones that range from dry to sweet and that can be very good quality. A nice surprise!

5: Lombardy
and Lambrusco may be the best-known sparkling wines in Italy but the Lombardy region produces excellent sparkling wines within the DOC Franciacorta using the Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties that can easily compete with a good champagne.

Italy is, without a doubt, a country full of surprises with its history, culture, gastronomy and, in this case, its winemaking. Getting to know all its wine types, regions and styles is a long, complicated and perhaps even impossible process.

With this brief tour, we hope we have given you a taste of what we could call “the Italian wines that every wine lover should know about”, and encouraged you to carry on with this fascinating wine adventure because there are still so many interesting regions and Italian wines to discover.

About Decántalo

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