Italian wine making enjoys tradition rich in both modern and rustic methods, although much of the country’s wineries now employ scientific and technological tools to create quality wines. The country’s wines are made primarily from two types of grapes, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. The Nebbiolo grapes are used in the northwester part of the country, creating the red wines Barolo and Barbaresco. The Sangiovese grapes create one of the better-known Italian wines, Chianti, and are native to the central Tuscany and Umbria regions.
Italy’s wines are divided into four categories based on origin, quality, and purity. When shopping for a fine Italian wine, look for those with the designation of “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita D.O.C.G.,” which is awarded to wines with a solid reputation. This designation considers region, production yields, and a DOC of at least five years. DOC indicates the origins of a wine, the type of grapes used in making the wine, and the methods of production. DOCG is a designation following stricter guidelines than the DOC, which includes a guarantee of origin.
The five regions of the Northwest produce over a quarter of the country’s DOC wines, but only about twenty percent of the country’s total wine production. This, then, is a good place to begin when shopping for Italian wine, as many wine sellers group Italian wine by the region, whether in general terms, such as Northwest, or by specific region, such as Piedmont. The Piedmont region creates a number of DOC and DOCG wines.
The Northeast region is home to two of Italy’s wine schools, and generates about a third of the country’s DOC wines. The three regions create about a fifth of Italy’s total wine production. Veneto, one of the regions, now produces the most wine of any region in the country.
Central Italy, comprised of six regions, accounts for about twenty percent of both wine production and DOC wines. The tradition of wine making in this region has often been traditional, the region is moving toward more contemporary wine making methods, and the overall quality has improved. Some wine experts believe that this region will continue to make great strides in wine making, so for those who love red wine, this is an area worth watching. Tuscany creates the well-known Chianti wine, as well as a variety of other
The Southern region, which includes the islands, is comprised of six regions. These regions produce about forty percent of the total production, but only about fourteen percent of DOC and DOCG wines. The region is focusing on overall quality, and this, too, is a region worth watching. For those interested in consistent quality wines, many of the region’s production offer just that.
For those new to Italian wine or wanting additional information, there is an abundance of sources. An importer specializing in Italian wine is one of the best sources for information on fine Italian wines, and can provide suggestions based on your individual preferences. You can also do your own research and wine tasting based on your style and preference. As with many things Italian, the wines are among the finer indulgences.