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Wine, a way of life

Italian Wine, a way of life

Italy has one of the most varied, complex and interesting wine industries in the world. Over thousands of years wine has been drunk as the natural accompaniment to a meal, and in some of the poorer areas instead of a meal, so it is steeped in tradition that only in recent years has lived an extraordinary change. Innovation, care, experimentation, have brought a wonderful array of wines to the market to suit all tastes and pockets, always maintaining their overall characteristic of being fairly acidic making them ideal with a meal.


It is easy to lose ones way in the innumerable varieties of wines and grapes produced all over Italy, whose range in taste is really amazing. In general red wines still predominate over whites except in the North East. Wines are not usually distinguished by grape variety but by name. For example Chianti is made mainly from Sangiovese grapes but this is not mentioned on the label. Often on the back label you will now find grape variety and serving suggestions to help you match the wine to your food. If in doubt it is always best to drink local and often in a restaurant the house wine, sometimes served in a carafe, is very good.

Regions and wines

Piedmont: in the north west produces great red wines, with full bodied Barolo and Barbaresco, at the top, followed closely by strong Nebbiolo, soft Dolcetto and bitter-sweet Barbera. Although predominantly a red wine region it is also the home of Asti and Asti spumantethe sweet sparkling white and the tasty Gavi.

Veneto and North east: the north east instead is dominated by whites. Reisling, Pinot grigio, Pinot Bianco, dominate the scene and Soave and Valpolicella, whose fame worldwide was not always matched by quality, are a novel revelation. Lesser known Lugana; Franciacorta and Bianco di Custoza merit their rise. Reds are Merlot and Pinot rosso.

Tuscany and the centre:Tuscany is famous for its reds,Brunello di Montalcino, considered the best Italian wine, rivaled only by Barolo, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Chianti is produced in 7 zones of which

Chianti Classico is the original and most prized area, between Florence and Siena. Chianti Riserva has to be aged at least 3 years in oak and be at least 12°.

South and islands: the traditional producers of cheap bulk wines are becoming thanks to the hot climate and innovative wineries a hub-bub of oenophile interest. Warm full Salice Salentino, Copertino, Squinzano, Aglianico and Carignano.

Further South you will find some interesting whites like Orvieto from Umbria, Frascati and Verdicchio from Rome.

What happened to the fiasco

Strangely enough wine consumption in Italy has halved in the past thirty years and with it the use of the straw covered bottle, "il fiasco", so typical of Italian representation. This 1.5 litre container was used mainly for table wine and has all but disappeared, partly due to the fact that it is more difficult to transport than a bottle in a case, and partly because it was associated with gluggable wine rather than the higher quality which has supplanted it. I feel some nostlagia!

Wine facts

Over 1 million estates,
60 million hectolitres average annual production
850.000 hecters surface area covered by vineyards
xxx grape varieties
Wine classification:
14 DOCG wines (Controlled and guarranteed origin),
270 DOC wines (Controlled origin),
115 IGT (Typical Geographic indication).
Vino da tavola, table wine
Riserva, aged in oak for 3 years.

Bubbly, Sparking, fizzy wines

"Frizzante","spumante" or mosso" indicate a sparkling or mildy fizzy wine. Can be both sweetish like Asti spumante from Piedmont or dry like Prosecco from Veneto, or tasty like Lambrusco, another comeback. Mosso refers to a naturally effervescent wine that froths slightly, like Barbera.

New wines

Super Tuscans are the more famous of the new wines. Why have these been produced. The DOCG and DOC rules are very stringent on grape varieties, vinification procedures, planting and vintage methods, area of production and labelling. For the innovative wineries who wanted to experiment oenologically, this straightjacket was too tight. So they preferrred to forgo the security of the classification and invent new wines with new blends. Most of these are in classified as Vino da Tavola, the lowest category but their taste and price are amongst the top. New wines are also emerging in all the other wine growing areas, from Veneto to Sicily, and will soon be as famous as their Tuscan cousins.

Some of aperitif and dessert wines

  • Vin Santo
  • Malvasia
  • Passito
  • Moscato.

Grape varieties

  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon
  • merlot
  • nebbiolo


DOCG means ‘ Vino di origine controllata e garantita’  or wines of ‘ Controlled and Guarranteed Origin" . The top category for Italian are 14 wines, but the list goes on and on.

Albana di Romagna,
Asti spumante, Moscato d’asti,
Brunello di Montalcino,
Montefalco Sagrantino,
Torgiano Rosso riserva,
Vernaccia di San Gemignano,
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.





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