Ahhh … Italy! Home of renaissance literature, philosophy, science and some of the most heart warming food in the world. From North to South it would be a fair guess to say the only thing outnumbering churches and Vespa’s are the vast areas of vineyards.

One thing is certain, you’ll never run short of choice!

First Records of Wine Production – Go back millennia!

Founding Figures – The Greek colonisation marked a shift from vine grown in the wild to planned viticulture around 800 BC the Romans dramatically expanded production around 200 BC. The Italians never looked back!

Area Planted – Around 700,000 hectares making around 19% of the world’s wine!

Number of Wineries – Soave alone is made by 3,500 producers. That’s around the same number of wineries as in all of Australia! From gargistes to industrial scale conglomerates every Italian has a winemaker in the family.

Established Regions – Every region in Italy produces wine! The most prestigious region Piedmont is home to the stunning Nebbiolos of Barolo & Barbaresco. The Chianti and Brunello of Tuscany following hot on Piedmont’s heals. These are just a drop in the ocean!

In typical Italian style the classification systems of each region vary and are often skewed by influential persons with much to gain over the quality of the industry. As always we need to rely on our taste buds as the ultimate decider of quality!

Most Common VarietiesIn his book ‘Native Wine Grapes of Italy’ Ian D’Agata documents around 500 Italian grape varieties, by no means the complete set! Around 350 of these have been granted authorized status. There’s plenty to try! We’ve seen a push to save some of the notable, rare varietals like the white Nascetta and Arneis from Piedmont. 

Whilst we have seen an ingress of French Varietals, the most notable being the Cabernet Varietals + Syrah used to make the Super Tuscans, the Italians have, by and large stayed true to their roots.

White – Whites of note: Arneis (Piedmont), Cataratto (Sicily), Fiano (southwest coast), Friulano (Friuli), Gargenaga (Veneto – the Soave grape), Greco di Tufo (southwest coast), Malvasia Bianca (throughout Italy), Moscato Blanc (Piedmont), Pecorino (Abruzzo), Pinot Grigo (Why?), Ribolla Gialla (Friulli), Trebbiano (Abruzzo), Verdicchio (Marche) and Vermentino (Sardinia, Tuscany and Liguria).

Red – Aglianico (Campania), Barbera (Piedmont), Corvina blended with Rondinella to make Amarone, Dolcetto (Piedmont), Malvasia Nera (Puglia), Montepuliciano (Tuscany), Nebbiolo (Piedmont), Negaromaro (Puglia), Nero d’Avola (Sicily), Primitivo (Puglia), Sagrantino (Umbria) and Sangiovese (Tuscany).

Up and Coming Regions – Beyond Barolo and Barbaresco, around the world we have seen Amarone, Chianti, Soave, Prosecco, Verdicchio and the wines of Puglia gain strong recognition. In recent times the increasing cost of Barolo in particular has seen exploration of Nebbiolo from Alto Piedmonte and Valtellina. At the opposite end of the country, in part due to the investment of heavy hitters like ‘Barolo Boy’ Marco di Grazie (Terre Nere) and Andrea Franchetti (Passopisciaro) the Nerello Mascelese (red) and Carricante (white) wines of Etna, Sicily have become world recognised. Nerello Mascelese being described as some as the Barolo of the South or a cross between Nebbiolo and Pinot. I prefer to call it delicious!

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