ITALY WINE REGIONS
Italy ranks fifth in the world in terms of wine consumption and has a rich and diverse wine heritage dating back more than two thousand years. Famous for its bewildering diversity of both grape varieties and wine styles and for the sheer volume of wine it produces.
The Italian system of wine classification and labelling uses a four-tier quality hierarchy made up of more than 500 DOCG, DOC and IGT titles.
Italy is divided into 20 administrative regions, with each region having its flagship wine styles. Some are famous because they are produced in large volumes and can be found all over the world, others because of their consistently high quality.
Italy's vineyards are home to more than 2000 grape varieties, the best-known Italian grapes are Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano and Pinot Grigio.
Tuscany, the most famous of all Italian wine regions, is home to Italy’s most scenic vineyards, verdant rolling hills and likely the country’s best known wine, Chianti. It is Italy’s most ancient wine-producing region, dating back to the 8th century BC and its wines are often blends that incorporate its native Sangiovese grapes. Sangiovese produces tannic, acidic wines that span a range of flavours depending on the local environment, from earthy to fruity. Chianti is made with at least 80% Sangiovese and the Chianti region itself spans a large area of Tuscany, comprising multiple towns and villages that produce the wine. Brunello di Montalcino, which is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, is esteemed even more highly, and together with Barolo and Barbaresco makes up the “Three Big B’s” of Italian wine.
Tuscany's vineyards produce an array of internationally recognised wines in various styles. These go far beyond the well-known reds, and include dry whites such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano and sweet wines both white, Vin Santo, an ambrosial sweet wine made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes and red, Elba Aleatico Passito. The region's top wines are officially recognised and protected by a raft of DOC and DOCG titles.
Warm, temperate coastal areas are contrasted by inland areas (particularly those in the rolling hills for which the region is so famous), where increased diurnal temperature variation helps to maintain the grapes' balance of sugars, acidity and aromatics. One variety that particularly thrives on these hillside vineyards is Tuscany’s signature red grape, Sangiovese. Arguably, the most important of all Italian wine grapes, Sangiovese, is the mainstay variety in almost all of Tuscany's top reds.
Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy's most famous and prestigious wines. All Brunello di Montalcino wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes around Montalcino. The first recordings of red wines from Montalcino date back to the early 14th century. Traditional Brunello di Montalcino winemaking methods involve aging the wine for a long time in large oak vats, which results in particularly complex wines. The climate in Montalcino is one of the warmest and driest in Tuscany, so achieving ripeness is rarely a problem for Brunello's vignerons. In good years the Sangiovese Grosso grapes ripen up to a week earlier than those in nearby Chianti and Montepulciano.
Brunello di Montalcino, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese and aged for at least four years (five for riserva wines). Two of these years must be spent in oak, and the wine must be bottled at least four months prior to commercial release.
Piedmont, Italy‘s northern region, produces some of the country’s most renowned red wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. It is the home of more DOCG wines than any other Italian region. Although famous for its austere, tannic red wines made from Nebbiolo, Piedmont's greatest success story in the past decade has been sweet, white, sparkling Moscato d’Asti. Piedmont is often described as the 'Burgundy' of Italy, a reputation due to its many small-scale, family wineries and a focus on quality.
Barbera, a dark-skinned variety from the Monferrato hills, is Piedmont's most widely planted grape variety. It has long been used to make everyday wines under a number of DOC titles, but is now behind a growing number of superlative wines. Piedmont's best Barberas are sold under the Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d'Alba titles.
Barbera d’Asti is one of the most famous wines from the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It became a DOC in 1970 and was upgraded to its DOCG classification in 2008, adding to Piedmont's impressive haul of DOCG titles (the highest level of Italian wine classification).
Barbera d'Asti wine must consist of at least 85% Barbera. The remaining 15% can comprise Freisa, Grignolino and Dolcetto. The bottles must not be released for sale before 1 March in the year after harvest and must achieve a minimum final alcohol level of at least 11.5% alcohol by volume.
Puglia is a long, thin wine region in the far south-eastern corner of the 'boot' of Italy. The region is responsible for almost half of Italy's total olive-oil production and has a long-held reputation as a prolific source of (mostly red) wine. Fifteen years ago only a tiny percentage of Puglian wine was of DOC quality; that figure is now climbing steadily and new DOCs are being introduced.
Sicily is Italy's southernmost region and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Once famous for sweet Muscats and fortified Marsala, the island's best known wines are now its dry table wines produced under the regional IGT title, Terre Siciliane.
Sicily's classic Mediterranean climate is ideally suited to the production of wine grapes. The warm, dry climate means that mildews and rots are kept to a minimum, particularly in well-ventilated areas which benefit from coastal breezes. This low disease pressure means that chemical sprays are hardly needed, so much Sicilian wine is produced from organic grapes.
Umbria, in central Italy, is a region of lush rolling hills, hilltop villages and iconic, historic towns. Its annual wine production is less than one third that of neighbouring Tuscany, and makes it the country's fourth-smallest wine-producing region by volume.
Northeastern Veneto is among Italy’s most productive wine regions, best known for producing its sparkling Prosecco wine. This white wine is produced north of Venice in a region called Valdobbiadene and is famously considered to be a less expensive substitute for Champagne, with lighter bubbles and less persistence on the palate. Prosecco is made primarily from Glera grapes, though other grape varieties can be incorporated in a small percentage. The region’s cool climate near the Alps helps grow some fresh and crisp white wines such as Soave, made from Gargenega grapes, and fruity Pinot Grigio. Around the warmer areas, close to the Adriatic and Lake Garda, notable red wines are produced such as Valpolicella, Amarone and Bardolino.
Main grape varieties by area
The Country can be divided up into three major areas, each with a different climate;
NORTHERN ITALY, CENTRAL ITALY AND SOUTHERN ITALY/ISLANDS
Northern Italy -High Acidity, tart fruit, and herb flavours cool climate
NORTHERN ITALY WINE REGION
Red- Petit Rouge
White- Petit Arvine
Red -Pinot Noir Valtellina
White- Pinot Grigio Franciacorta
Red- Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo
Red- Pinot Nero ,Merlot, Gewürztraminer
White- Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay
Red -Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon,
White- Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano
Red- Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Merlot
White- Garganega, Chardonnay
Red- Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo
CENTRAL ITALY -High acidity, ripe fruit and clay favours warm climate
Main grape varieties by area:
Red - Sangiovese, Bonarda, Barbera
White-Trebbiano, Malvasia, Ortrugo
Red –Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
White - Trebbiano, Pinot Gris, Moscato, Malvasia, Vernaccia
Red- Montepulciano, Cònero, Sangiovese
White – Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Malvasia
Red - Montepulciano
White - Trebbiano
Red- Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
White -Trebbiano, Grechetto, Malvasia, and Chardonnay
Red- Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
White- Trebbiano, Bombina
RED- Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano, Merlot
White– Malvasia, Trebbiano
Southern Italy, medium acidity, sweet fruit and leather flavours. Hot climate
Grape varieties by area
Red- Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, Primitivo
White -Bombino Bianco, Chardonnay, Greco Bianco
White- Fiano, Greco, Falanghina
Red – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvasia Nera di Basilicata, Montipulciano
White – Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata,
Red -Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Frappato
White - Muscat blanc, Catarratto (Chardonnay), Grecanico
Red– Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Castiglione, Nero d’Avola
White -Greco Bianco, Guardavalle, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia Bianca
Red– Grenache, Carignano del Sulcis, Malvasia Nera
White-Vermentino, Malvasia Bianca