Wednesday Wisdom: Italian Wine
Italy: home to gelato, Maserati, and 20 regions that produce wine. With over 370 wine grapes indigenous to Italy and over 1.5 million acres of vineyards, there is no shortage of wine or its history.
The history of winemaking in Italy goes back thousands of years. While producing wine there is a lifestyle, it wasn’t Italians who originally started the winemaking process in Italy. The Greeks brought their winemaking skills to southern Italy and Sicily, while the Etruscans started producing wine in central Italy. Then the Romans took the process and ran with it. As population increased so did demand; they began to export wine throughout Europe and soon other regions adopted their winemaking process. Though, that process has evolved through the ages, as wine today is not nearly as high in alcohol content (they used to mix in water to cut the alcohol), nor is it as sweet. It also has to go through stricter regulations so it can become the Italian wine we’ve all come to love and admire. Wine has evolved with time, but it will always be part of their everyday life.
There are four major wine areas in Italy: Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Tuscany, though, as aforementioned, these are certainly not all the wine-producing regions. Because there are so many different regions and so many different wine grapes, Italy is home to world-class red, white, and sparkling wines. In Umbria, you’ll find the white wine of Orvieto (located around the town of the same name) and in Abruzzi, you’ll find the red wine of Montepulciano (not to be confused with the vino nobile found in Tuscany). There are the white wines of Sicily and the red of Calabria.
Located on the Italy, France border at the base of the Alps, Piedmont is best known for Barolo and Barbaresco. That being said, they also produce Barbera, Dolcetto, Moscato D’Asti, and Nebbiolo D’Alba (Barolo and Barbaresco come from the nebbiolo grapes) wines. The grapes of Piedmont include the abovementioned nebbiolo, barbera, bonarda and vespolina, arneis, cortese, and moscato.
Veneto, the region home to Venice and Verona, produces wines ranging from Prosecco to Merlot; however, the most well known wines to come from Veneto are Soave, a white, and Valpolicella, a red. A few of the grape varietals that can be found in this region are: chardonnay, pinot blanco, pinot grigio, vespaiola, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, corvina veronese, and rondinella. And if you’re looking to plan you’re Italian wine-tasting road trip, make sure it’s during Vinitaly – the largest wine fair held in Verona each year.
Home to many of Italy’s vibrant whites, Friuli-Venezia Guilia is a small region, around 3,000 square miles, but growing over a dozen grape varietals. The whites that come from Fruili are often made from pinot grigo [gris], pinot blanco, and sauvignon blanc. While this region is known for its white, wine, red wine is also heavily produced here. There’s the native grape, schioppettino, as well as merlot and cabernets franc and sauvignon.
Often viewed as the most visited wine-producing region, Tuscany is best known for the sangiovese grape and the wines that it produces. Chianti (cue Silence of the Lambs quote), Chianti Classico, brunello di Montalcino, and vino nobile di Montepulciano are four of the most important Italian red wines. It is also home to the Super Tuscans; this is a wine that is made up of blends containing sangiovese, merlot, and cabernet grapes. If you drive along the Tuscan hillsides, you’ll find vineyards along the rolling hills; it’s a sight to behold.
Italy is home to so many wines it would take you years to try them all. It’s a place where you can take a road trip across the country and consistently find yourself in a region that makes wine. The vineyards seem endless and are beautiful, and the wine that comes from them seems the same. Italy is a wine region that is in a league of its own.