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A classical Italian vineyard scene, with vines growing together with olive trees.
Vineyards around the town of Barolo.

Italian wine is wine produced in Italy, a country which is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards in the 2nd century BC. Roman grape-growing and winemaking was prolific and well-organized, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling.[1]

Two thousand years later, Italy is one of the world's foremost producers, responsible for approximately one-fifth of world wine production in 2005.[2] In 2008, Italy bested France for the title of world's biggest producer for the first time in a decade, at nearly six billion liters.[3] Wine is extremely popular in Italy. Italians lead the world in wine consumption by volume, 59 liters per capita. (Compare this to the United States, at 7.7 liters per capita.)[4] Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country. More than 1 million vineyards are under cultivation.

Contents

History

Although wines had been elaborated from the wild Vitis vinifera grape for millennia, it wasn't until the Greek colonization that wine-making flourished. Viticulture was introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Mycenaean Greeks[5], and was well established when the extensive Greek colonization transpired around 800 BC.[6][7] It was during the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians (acknowledged masters of wine-making) in the second century BC that Italian wine production began to further flourish. Large-scale, slave-run plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to such an extent that, in AD92, 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 where trade was intense, according to Pliny, due to the inhabitants being besotted with Italian wine, drinking it unmixed and without restraint.[8] It was customary to mix wine with a good proportion of water which may otherwise have been unpalatable, making wine drinking a fundamental part of early Italian life.

As the laws on provincial viticulture were relaxed, vast vineyards began to flourish in the rest of Europe, especially Gaul (present day France) and Hispania. This coincided with the cultivation of new vines, like biturica (ancestor of the Cabernets). These vineyards became hugely successful, to the point that Italy ultimately became an import centre for provincial wines.[1]

Depending on the vintage, modern Italy is the world's largest or second largest wine producer. In 2005, production was about 20% of the global total, second only to France, which produced 26%. In the same year, Italy's share in dollar value of table wine imports into the U.S. was 32%, Australia's was 24%, and France's was 20%. Along with Australia, Italy's market share has rapidly increased in recent years.[9]

Italian appellation system

DOCG seal

Italy's classification system has four classes of wine, with two falling under the EU category Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) and two falling under the category of 'table wine'. The four classes are:

Table Wine:

  • Vino da Tavola (VDT) - Denotes simply that the wine is made in Italy. The label usually indicates a basic wine, made for local consumption.
  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appellation was created in 1992 for wines that were considered to be of higher quality than simple table wines, but which did not conform to the strict wine laws for their region. Before the IGT was created, "Super Tuscan" wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled Vino da Tavola.

QWPSR:

Both DOC and DOCG wines refer to zones which are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more specifically defined. The DOC system began in 1963, seeking to establish a method of both recognizing quality product and maintaining the international and national reputation of that product. The main difference between a DOC and a DOCG is that the latter must pass a blind taste test for quality in addition to conforming to the strict legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the area in question. After the sweeping wine laws of 1992, transparent rules were made regarding requirements for DOCG entry, imposing new limits regarding the production of grapes per hectare and minimum natural alcohol levels, among others.

The overall goal of the system is to encourage producers to focus on quality wine making. [10]

Presently, there are 120 IGT zones. In February 2006, there were 311 DOC plus 32 DOCG appellations, according to the PDF document V.Q.P.R.D. Vini (DOCG – DOC): Elenco e Riferimenti Normativi al 07.02.2006, published by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.

Geographical characteristics

Important wine-relevant geographic characteristics of Italy include:

  • The extensive latitudinal range of the country permits wine growing from the Alps in the north to almost-within-sight of Africa in the south;
  • The fact that Italy is a peninsula with a long shoreline, contributes moderating climate to coastal wine regions;
  • The extensive mountains and foothills provide many altitudes for grape growing and a variety of climate and soil conditions.

Italian wine regions

Italy's 20 wine regions correspond to the 20 political regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region; their cuisines reflect their indigenous wines, and vice-versa. The 36 DOCG wines are located in 13 different regions but most of them are concentrated in Piedmont 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 B's").


The regions are, roughly from Northwest to Southeast:

Italian administrative regions

Key Italian wine varietals

Italy's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIRAF), has documented over 350 grapes and granted them "authorized" status. There are more than 500 other documented varietals in circulation as well. The following is a list of the most common and important of Italy's varietals.

Rosso (Red)

  • Sangiovese - Italy's claim to fame, the pride of Tuscany. Traditionally made, the wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. It produces Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. Sangiovese is also the backbone in many of the acclaimed, modern-styled "Super-Tuscans", where it is blended with Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) and typically aged in French oak barrels, resulting a wine primed for the international market in the style of a typical California cabernet: oaky, high-alcohol, and a ripe, jammy, fruit-forward profile. [11]
  • Nebbiolo - The most noble of Italy's varietals. The name (meaning "little fog") refers to the autumn fog that blankets most of Piedmont where it is grown, a condition the grape seems to enjoy. It is a somewhat difficult varietal to master, but produces the most renowned Barolo and Barbaresco, made in province of Cuneo, along with the lesser-known Sforzato, Inferno and Sassella made in Valtellina, Ghemme and Gattinara, made in Vercelli's province. The wines are known for their elegance and power with a bouquet of wild mushroom, truffle, roses, and tar. Traditionally produced Barolo can age for fifty years-plus, and is regarded by many wine enthusiasts as the greatest wine of Italy. [12]
  • Montepulciano - The grape of this name is not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano; it is most widely planted on the opposite coast in Abruzzo. Its wines develop silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin. More recently, producers have been creating a rich, inky, extracted version of this wine, a sharp contrast to the many inferior bottles produced in the past. [13]
  • Barbera - The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy, most famously around the towns of Asti and Alba, and Pavia. The wines of Barbera were once simply "what you drank while waiting for the Barolo to be ready." With a new generation of wine makers, this is no longer the case. The wines are now meticulously vinified, aged Barbera gets the name "Barbera Superiore" (Superior Barbera), sometimes aged in French barrique becoming "Barbera Barricato", and intended for the international market. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity.
  • Corvina - Along with the varietals rondinella and molinara, this is the principal grape which makes the famous wines of the Veneto: Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella wine has dark cherry fruit and spice. After the grapes undergo passito (a drying process), the wine is now called Amarone, and is extremely high in alcohol (16% and up) and full of raisin, prune, and syrupy fruits. Some Amarones can age for 40+ years and command spectacular prices. In December 2009, there was celebration when the acclaimed Amarone di Valpolicella was finally awarded its long-sought DOCG status.[14]
  • Nero d'Avola - Nearly unheard of in the international market until recent years, this native varietal of Sicily is gaining attention for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins. The quality of nero d'avola has surged in recent years. [15]
  • Dolcetto - A grape that grows alongside Barbera and Nebbiolo in Piedmont, its name means "little sweet one"", referring not to the taste of the wine, but the ease in which it grows and makes great wines, suitable for everyday drinking. Flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs permeate the wine.
  • Negroamaro - The name literally means "black and bitter". A widely planted grape with its concentration in the region of Puglia, it is the backbone of the Salice Salentino: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.
  • Aglianico - Considered the "noble varietal of the south," it is primarily grown in Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so it is considered a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.
  • Sagrantino - A native to Umbria, it is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it (either blended with Sangiovese as Rosso di Montefalco or as a pure Sagrantino) are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.
  • Malvasia Nera - Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia.

"International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.

Bianco (White)

  • Trebbiano - Behind cataratto (which is made for industrial jug wine), this is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.
  • Moscato - Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d'Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino Alto-Adige.
  • Nuragus - An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.
  • Pinot Grigio - A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers' hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.
  • Tocai Friulano - A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.
  • Ribolla Gialla - A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.
  • Arneis - A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.
  • Malvasia Bianca - Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.
  • Pigato - A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.
  • Fiano - Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
  • Garganega - The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It's a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.
  • Vermentino - This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.
  • Verdicchio - This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.

Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falaghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia.

As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Riesling, Petite Arvine, and many others.

Super Tuscans

The term "Super Tuscan" describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.

In 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first ever "Super Tuscan" called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, also decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) Cabernet Sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was one of the first Super Tuscans, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.

Because these wines did not conform to strict DOC(G) classifications, they were initially labeled as vino da tavola, meaning "table wine," a term ordinarily reserved for lower quality wines. The creation of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica category (technically indicating a level of quality between vino da tavola and DOCG) helped bring Super Tuscans "back into the fold" from a regulatory standpoint. Since the pioneering work of the super-Tuscans there has been a rapid expansion in production of high-quality wines throughout Italy that do not qualify for DOC or DOCG classification, as a result of the efforts of a new generation of Italian wine producers and, in some cases, flying winemakers.

Wine guides

Many international wine guides and wine publications rate the more well-known Italian wines. Among the Italian publications, Gambero Rosso is the most influential. In particular, the wines that annually are rated with the highest rating of "three glasses" (Tre Bicchieri) attract much attention.

Vino cotto

Vino cotto (literally cooked wine) is a form of wine from Le Marche and Abruzzo in central Italy. It is typically made by individuals for their own use, rather than commercially. The must, from any of several local varieties, is heated in a copper vessel where it is reduced in volume by up to a half. After fermentation, it is aged in cask for a few years, a little new wine being added each year to make up losses due to evaporation. It is a ruby-coloured wine, somewhat similar to Madeira, being slightly sweet with an alcohol content of about 14%.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Wine
  2. ^ Mulligan, Mary Ewing and McCarthy, Ed. Italy: A pasion for wine. , 2006, 62(7), 21-27
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Brian Murray Fagan, 1996 Oxford Univ Pr, p.757
  6. ^ Wine: A Scientific Exploration, Merton Sandler, Roger Pinder, CRC Press, p.66
  7. ^ Introduction to Wine Laboratory Practices and Procedures, Jean L. Jacobson, Springer, p.84
  8. ^ http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/wine.html roman
  9. ^ Mulligan, Mary Ewing and McCarthy, Ed. Italy: A pasion for wine. Indiana Beverage Journal, 2006.
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ [5]
  13. ^ [6]
  14. ^ [7]
  15. ^ [8]

External links


Simple English

Italian wines are those produced in Italy, the oldest wine producing region, and are considered to be among the best wines in the world. Wine is a popular beverage in Italy. Many Italians drink it with every meal and in-between, and offer it to guests as soon as they arrive.

Contents

History

Depending on the vintage, Italy is the world's largest or second largest producer of wine, along with France (each country is generally the source of around 1/5 of the world's overall production).

Statistics

In 2005, Italy was second globally, producing about 20% of the global production of wine compared to France, which produced 22%.

In 2005, Italy's share in dollar value of table wine imports into the U.S. was 32%, Australia's was 24%, and France's was 20%. Italian and Australian share has rapidly increased in recent years.

Source

Grapes are grown in almost every part of Italy, with more than 1 million vineyards under cultivation. Each region is proud of its carefully tended, neatly pruned vines.

Italian wines tend to be acidic, dry, light-to-medium bodied, with lots of flavour and smell. Because of these characteristics, Italian wines are, in general, better drunk with food than they are beverages to be enjoyed on their own.

Vineyards

In some places the vines are trained along low supports. In others they climb as slender saplings. The people of each region are also proud of the wine they make from their own grapes.

Winemaking

Most winemaking in Italy is done in modern wineries. But villagers, making wine for their own use, sometimes tread the grapes with their bare feet until the juice is squeezed out. They believe this ancient method still makes the best wine.








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