One of the top two wine producing countries in the world (with France) and third in land under vine, it is also a major player in the export market (often the world’s leading exporter), selling almost half of its wine abroad.
Italy’s rich tapestry of soil types, climates and topography combined with a huge number (some put estimates at over 2,000) of indigenous grape varieties as well as international ones make for an interesting array of wine possibilities. Add in the fact that the wines can be named for the region (Chianti), grape (Pinot Grigio) or given a proprietary name (Tignanello) and the results can be quite confusing, to say the least.
The wines themselves, however, make the study worthwhile. Their enormous range, from light, crisp, aromatic, mineral scented whites such as Arneis, to big, ponderous, powerful reds made using dried grapes, such as Amarone, provide a huge palate of flavors from which to choose to accompany the equally wide range of foods found in Italy.
The Italian government places wines into categories for each region: Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC (started in 1963, modeled after the French appellation controlee laws); Denominazione di Origine de Garantita or DOCG (which began in 1980 and included the “guarantee” of having passed the judgment of a tasting panel); and Indicazione Geografica Tipica or IGT (from 1996 it allowed for non-traditional grapes and production methods that did not adhere to the laws of the region). New EU regulations allow for a voluntary new naming system.