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Classical Italian Wine

Early inhabitants of North Central Italy, the Etruscans, left remnants and indications of how they were able to make wine. When the Greeks settled in Southern Italy, they too were quick to find ease in producing wine, and even dubbed Italy with the name ‘Entoria’, which means the land of wine. It truly is the land of wine. Italy’s climate and soil combined with the old traditional technique of viticulture has contributed to Italy taking its place as a key natural wine-producing nation. The wines produced are as diverse as the people who inhabit this land, and as different as the colors of a spectrum.
For centuries, the Italian farmers have grown and cultivated grapes for wine production. Agriculturally, grape cultivation is the leading industry in Italy, with a large portion of the population engaged and devoted to the vineyard and wine industry. With the growing conditions as they are in Italy, there is hardly an area or region, on this peninsula, that could not ripen a grape with the quality needed to produce wine.

Wine is as much a part of Italian culture, as is there food, art, and religion. You can hardly enter the home of an Italian without the offer of a glass of wine. It is a way to conversation, a way to hospitality, and a way to social customs. Today, most of Italy’s major wine production is done in wineries. However, you can still find in local villages, smaller family run vineyards, which still use the old method of treading the grapes with bare feet, squeezing out the juices; and still believe this ancient method yields the finest wine. The Italians have managed to stay true to the roots of wine making, roots which go back some four thousand years, resulting in Italy having more grape varieties than any other wine producing country.

Italian wines stand out from the rest because of the robust flavor, which is truly unlike any other. The wines are distinct, fruity, fragrant, fresh, and clean and crisp. Italian wines are often characterized as acidic, dry, subdue in flavor, and with an earthy aroma, which makes it a wonderful accompaniment with food. Whether you choose a red, a white, a sweet, your palate will be treated to a warming friendship with Italian wine. One does not need to be a connoisseur to appreciate the tasteful experience held within a glass of Italian wine.

The classification of Italian wine is similar to the system used for French wines. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata et Garantita are classification placed on wines which are considered to be high grade and quality wines. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) has been used to classify the lower quality wines. There is also the lowest classification called Vino di Tavola, and is used for table wines. It is important to note, that while these classifications can be helpful in your efforts in choosing a wine, do not let it steer you away from trying those wines in the lower classifications. Your palate may be treated to a delicious surprise purchased at an enjoyable price.

In Italy, vintages are less important because the climate is usually good, therefore one year is as good as another. White Italian wines are considered at their best when they are one to two years old. When choosing a wine to accompany your Italian cuisine, the wine rule is the same, red wines with dark meat, and white wines with poultry, seafood, and egg.

Understanding wine, in general, can be a complex task at best. Lending to complications is the fact that, Italy grows many different varieties of grapes, which is why there are so many varieties of wine available. By looking at some of the Italian varieties available, it will hopefully assist you in choosing a suitable wine.

Red Wine (Rosso):

  • Sangiovese - This variety is found plentiful throughout Italy, but well known in the Tuscany, Umbria, and Emilia-Romagna regions. It is the major grape in Chianti Classico, Montefalco Rosso, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, and many others. Sangiovese grapes produce a medium body wine, strong tannin, high acidity, cherry fruit flavor, and an earthy cedar aroma.
  • Nebbiolo - The most noble of Italian grape varieties. Its name meaning ‘little fog’ was coined for the fog that often blankets the region where it grows, Piedmont. Barolo and Barbaresco are two well-known wines derived from this grape. With its elegant bouquet, full-bodied, high acidity, and strong tannin, these wines will treat the palate to the flavorful essence of mushrooms, truffles, strawberries, tar, and roses.
  • Barbera – Another variety grown in the Piedmont region, it contributes to a more robust red wine. This is a lighter grape, with little tannin, but high acidity. The cherry fruit flavors are more pronounced, color is dark, and it makes for a food-friendly choice of wines.
  • Merlot – Typically grown in the North Eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, this grape creates a very popular red wine. This wine has a medium body, and flavorful hints of berry, plum, and currant.

White Wine (Bianco):

  • Pinot Grigio- This variety of grape is grown in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, and in France is known as the Pinot Gris. These wines are crisp and clean, dry light-bodied, high acid, and generally, delicate and mild. It carries the hinted flavor of peaches.
  • Trebbiano- The most abundantly planted white wine grape in Italy, but more specifically in Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo regions. It produces an easy to drink crisp wine, a dry medium-bodied wine, and is better paired with shellfish.
  • Tocai Friuliano- Grown in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, it produces a dry medium-bodied wine. Known for its crispness and acidity, and fruitfully peachy taste.
  • Verdicchio- These grapes are produced in the region of Marche. Wines produced from these grapes are dry medium-bodied, crisp, and high acidity. Your taste buds will be mingled by hints of lemon, with an aromatic perfume of sea air.

It must be noted that these varieties are only a glance into what Italy has to offer in ways of wine. With so many choices available, one will surely find a favorite amongst them. Besides the typical red and white wines available and produced throughout Italy, there are also dessert wines, which are sweeter like that of Marsala, and Moscato. There are also sparkling wines, such as Prosecco, Asti, and Spumante. Prosecco is often used to make the Bellini, which is an Italian cocktail made with Prosecco and peach nectar juice.

So, whether its red or white you’re choosing, enjoy, and Salute!

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