History of Italian Wines.A classical Italian vineyard scene, with vines growing together with olivetrees. Although vines had been cultivated from the wild Vitis viniferagrape, it wasnt until the Greek colonization that wine-making flourished.Viticulture was introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Greeks,and was well established when the extensive Greek colonizationtranspired around 800 BC. It was during the Roman defeat of theCarthaginians (acknowledged masters of wine-making) in the 2nd centuryBC that Italian wine production began to further flourish. Large-scale,slave-run plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to suchan extent that, in AD 92, emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a greatnumber of vineyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.
The Steps:Harvest - The grapes are pickedwhen they are ripe, usually asdetermined by taste and sugarreadings.Stemmer Crusher - This removes thestems from the grape bunches, andcrushes the grapes (but does notpress them) so that they areexposed to the yeast for fermenting,and so the skins can better impartcolor to the wine.Fermentation - Yeast turn the sugarin the wine primarily into CarbonDioxide, Heat and Alcohol.Maceration - This is how long themust (juice and grape solids) isallowed to sit, picking up flavor,color and tannin. Too long and thewine is bitter, to short and it is thin.
Pumping Over - Skin and other solids float to the top, and need to bepushed back down to stay in contact with the must. This "cap" can bepunched down with a tool, or you can pump must form the bottomover the cap and submerge it that way.End of Maceration - The winemaker must decide if the must has satlong enough.Remove Free Run - The best quality wine is made just from the juiceportion of the must. It is removed and the rest of the drier must (nowcalled pomace) is sent to the press.Press - This squeezes the remaining juice out of the pomace. If you doit too hard, or too many times, you get low quality wine.Settle - The juice, now wine, needs to settle after this ordeal.Rack(ing) - Moving the wine from one barrel to a new barrel allowsyou to leave solids and anything that might cloud the wine, behind.Malo-Lactic Fermentation - This secondary fermentation can turn thetart malic acid (of green apples) into the softer lactic acid (of milk).Many, but not all red wines go through this step.
Oak Aging - Oak is expensive, if thewine is not meant to age for years,the winery may put the wine in oakfor only a short time, or not at all.Fining - A process that helps toremove anything that may bemaking the wine cloudy.Filtering - A process that removesany fining agents, or otherundesirable elements in the wine.Bottling - This is done carefully sothat the wine does not come incontact with air. Finer wines may bestored for several years in bottlesbefore they are released
Italian Wine Label InformationWith just four designations, the Italian wine classification system iscomparatively straightforward.DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita): the highestclassification for Italian wines, introduced in 1963. It denotes controlled(controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) winequality. There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines,most obviously the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, graperipeness, winemaking procedures and ageing specifications. EveryDOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To preventcounterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal acrossthe neck.DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata): a step below DOCG, theDOC classification accounts for the majority of wines produced in Italy.The quality control regulations are less stringent (but similar in style)than those applied to DOCG wines.
IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica):The IGT classification was introduced in 1992, to allow a certain level offreedom to Italys winemakers. Prior to 1992, many wines did not qualifyfor DOC or DOCG status not because they were of low quality, butbecause they were made from grape varieties (or blends) not sanctionedunder DOC/G laws. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin,rather than grape varieties or wine styles.Vino da Tavola (VDT): means table wine in Italian. VDT wines are typically of lesser qualitythan those labeled with IGT, DOC or DOCG, but not always; the SuperTuscans (see below) are often labeled as Vino da Tavola.
Typical Italian wine label image
Types of GrapesThe many regions of Italy are home to a variety of climatic conditions.Some 350 varieties of Italian grapes flourish in this beautiful land. Thetwo main categories of wine grapes are Rosso (red) and Bianco (white).Naturally, since these grapes are used to make wine, each Italian wine isas unique as the grapes that went into it.ROSSO:Aglianico – This southern Italian grape, mainly grown in Campania andBasilicata, produces strong, rustic wines. It is known for its spicy flavorand thick skin.Barbera – A northern Italian grape, primarily grown in Piedmont andLombardy. Barbera wines are very dark in color with cherry-likefruitiness. Wines from the Barbera grape are known for their low acidity.Barbera Superiore and Barbera Barricato are two quality wines of thisgrape.
Ciliegolo – Native to Tuscany, this grape is now grown primarily in central Italy.Combine Ciliegolo with Montepulciano to create Torgiano wine.Corvina – The famous Venetian wines Amarone and Valpolicella are made fromthe Corvina grape. These wines are dark and fruity with high aging capacities.Dolcetto – Wild blackberry and herb flavors accompany the grape taste ofwines made with Dolcetto. This particular variety of grape is native toPiedmont.Gaglioppo – Full-bodied, high alcohol red wines are made from this southernItalian grape. These wines are strong, and are sometimes blended with a smallamount of white wine, or left to soften in the bottle for extended periods oftime.Lagrein – Deep and intense red wines with high acidity and low pH are madewith the Lagrein grape. Extended maturation removes some of the otherwisehigh astringency of this wine. A berryfruit and sour cherry finish can be foundin Lagrein wines.Lambrusco – Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy are home to Lambrusco. The fiveDOC wines made from this grape are Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro,Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, LambruscoReggiano, and Lambrusco Mantovano. The high-yielding Lambrusco grapeproduces frothy, slightly sparkling red wines.
Monica – Young red wines are produced from this famous Sardinian grape. Thefruity Monica di Cagliari and the dry Monica di Sardegna are products of thisgrape.Nebbiolo – Light fog covers most of the region in Piedmont where this autumngrape is grown, hence the translation “little fog.” Elegant and complex wines suchas Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme, Inferno, Sassella and Sforzato.Negroamaro – The spicy, dark red Salice Salentino is produced from this grapeprimarily grown in Puglia. The literal translation of Negroamaro is “black andbitter.”Nero d’Avola – This Sicilian grape produces robust, inky wines. It has been giventhe nickname “The Barolo of the South.”Pignolo – The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is the primary location of this red grapeused to produce Colli Orientali del Friuli. Plum and blackberry flavors can be foundin the rich, full-bodied wines of the low-yielding Pignolo.Teroldego – This spicy red grape, with hints of pine and almond, is known forproducing Teroldego Rotaliano. It is grown primarily in the northeastern parts ofTrentino-Alto
BIANCO:Arneis – This Piedmontese grape has been cultivated since the 15th century.It is known for its floral scent and crisp texture.Fiano – Pine and pesto flavors permeate through this herbal wine createdfrom the southwest Italian Fiano grape.Garganega – This northeastern white Italian grape is the key ingredient inSoave wines. The crisp, dry Soave wines are native to the city of Verona.Malvasia Bianca – This versatile white grape is grown all over Italy andproduces a wide range of white wines.Moscato – This Piedmontese grape is primarily used to create Moscatod’Asti, a sparkling, semi-sweet white wine.Nuragus – A southern Sardinian white grape that produces lightly tart wines.Pigato – This Ligurian white grape is extremely acidic, producing vinifiedwines.Pinot Grigio – This extremely commercial grape produces the best wineswhen it is properly harvested. A skilled wine-maker can expect to createcomplex and full-bodied white wines known for their crisp, clean taste.
Ribolla Gialla – Pineapple and must scents can be found in the wines producedfrom the Ribolla Gialla grape, cultivated in Friuli. Ribolla Gialla wines arecharacterized by their old-world nature.Tocai Friulano – This white grape produces the highest quality wines of Friuli.The wines are known for their peachy and mineral qualities.Trebbiano – The most common white grape in Italy. Trebbiano grapes areespecially concentrated in Abruzzo, and produce wines known for their palecolor and easy drinkability.
Italian wine regionsItalys 20 wine regionscorrespond to the 20administrative regions.Understanding ofItalian wine becomesclearer with anunderstanding of thedifferences betweeneach region; theircuisines reflect theirindigenous wines, andvice-versa. The 36DOCG wines arelocated in 13 differentregions but most ofthem are concentratedin Piedmont andTuscany.
Valle dAostaThe Valle dAosta DOC (or Vallée dAoste DOC, in French) is anItalian denominazione di origine controllata located in the AostaValley of northwest Italy. The region is divided into three mainvineyard areas; the upper valley, Valdigne, the central valley(locally Valle centrale in Italian, Vallée centrale in French) and thelower valley, (locally Bassa valle in Italian, Basse vallée in French).To the south is the winemaking region of Piemonte. The ValledAosta is Italys smallest winemaking region both in terms of sizeand production with only about 330,000 cases produced annuallyin the region and only 36,000 cases produced under the DOClabel. Seventy five percent of the areas production is red winemade mostly from the Pinot noir, Gamay and Petit Rouge varieties.
Piedmont• Piemonte wine is the range of Italian wines made in the province of Piedmont in the northwestern corner of Italy. The best-known wines from the region include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. These wines are ideal for storage and a well-aged Barolo for instance may leave a feeling of drinking velvet because the tannins are polished and integrated more and more into the wine.• Other popular grapes used for red wine production are Barbera and Dolcetto. Wine made on the Barbera grape is often fruity and delicate with less tannin than wine made from the Nebbiolo grape. Dolcetto on the other side, is not as the name indicates sweet (dolce is Italian for sweet). The grape gives fresh and dry red wines with some tannin.
Liguria• Liguria is an Italian wine region located in the northwest region of Italy along the Italian Riviera. It is bordered by the Piedmont wine region to the north, the Alps and French wine region of Provence to the west.• Liguria has several Denominazione di origine controllata regions with the most notable being the Cinque Terre DOC from cliff side vineyards situated among the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre in the province of La Spezia. The DOC produces light white wines. In the west, is the red wine producing region.
Lombardia• Lombardia (Lombardy) wine is the Italian wine produced in the Lombardy region of north central Italy. The region is known particularly for its sparkling wines Lombardy also produces still red, white and rosé wines made from a variety of local and international grapes including Nebbiolo wines The wine region currently has 15 DOC, DOCG and 13 IGT designations. The main cities of the region are Milan, Bergamo. The region annually produces over 28 million gallons (1.1 million hectolitres) of wine.
Trentino-Alto• The Trentino-Alto area is an autonomous region located in north-east Italy producing wine in the two provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol. This Italian wine region is noted for the distinct German and Austrian influences on the wine industry.• Because of its unique history and location within the southern Alps and Dolomites, the Trentino-Alto grows a wide range of grape varieties that are unusually not seen in other parts of Italy.• It produces 7,00,000 hectoliters of wines in Trentino and 6,00,000 hectoliters in Alto
Friuli-Venezia Giulia• Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine (or Friuli wine) is wine made in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. There are 11 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and 3 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia area. The region has 3 Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designations. Nearly 62% of the wine produced in the region falls under a DOC designation. The area is known predominantly for its white wines.• It produces 1million hectoliters of wine anually.
Veneto• Veneto is a wine region in north-eastern Italy, one of a group of three highly productive Italian regions known collectively as the Venezie (after the ancient Venetian Republic) and the biggest DOC producer of the three. Although the Venezie collectively produce more red wine than white, the Veneto region produces more whites under DOC and is home to the famous Soave (sweet) wines.• The region is protected from the harsh northern European climate by the Alps, the foothills of which form the Venetos northern extremes. These cooler climes are well-suited to white varieties like Garganega (the main grape for Soave wines).• It produces 7milloin hectolitres of wine
Tuscany• Tuscan wine (Italian Toscana) is Italian wine from the Tuscany region. Located in central Italy along the Tyrrhenian coast, Tuscany is home to some of the worlds most notable wine regions. Tuscany is also known for the dessert wine Vin Santo, made from a variety of the regions grapes. Tuscany has twenty-nine Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and seven Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). In the 1970s a new class of wines known in the trade as "Super Tuscans" emerged. These wines were made outside DOC/DOCG regulations but were considered of high quality and commanded high prices. Many of these wines became cult wines.
Abruzzo• Abruzzo (Abruzzi) is an Italian wine region located in the mountainous central Italian region of Abruzzo. It is bordered by the Molise wine region to the south, Marche to the north and Lazio to the west. Abruzzos rugged terrain, 65% of which is mountainous, help to isolate the region from the winemaking.• Today more than 42 million cases of wine are produced annually in Abruzzo, making it the fifth most productive region in Italy, but only 21.5% of which is made under the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) designation.
Calabrian• Calabrian wine (Italian Vino Calabrese is Italian wine from the Calabria region of southern Italy. Over 90% of the regions wine production is red wine, with a large portion made from the Gaglioppo grape. Calabria has 12 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) regions but only 4% of the yearly production is classified as DOC wine. The region is one of Italys most rural and least industrialized with per capita income less than half of the national average.
Some Italian Wines Red Wines Banfi, Chianti Classico Riserva 2000 (DOCG Chicanti Classico) 29 June 2007 Rich and spicy, with leather, tobacco, and tar notes and firm tannin. Big and very smooth. $17.50 / bottle Castello Banfi, Chianti Classico Riserva 1998 (DOCG Chianti Classico) 27 March 2002 Bold fruit impression followed with a strong spicy flavor. Very strong and long finish, with moderate astringency. Very dry. Has wood flavor closer to incense than oak. Good. $16 / bottle Castello Banfi, Col di Sasso Toscana 1999 (IGT Tuscany) 27 March 2002 Fruity and spicy, somewhere between merlot and cabernet in flavor, but fruitier. Dry, long finish, and rather astringent. Medium body. This is a young wine and is sonewhat soft. Blend is 50/50 sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. $10 / bottle
Ruffino, "Modus" 2007 (IGT Toscana)9 June 2011 Powerful and bold fruit with nice chewy tannins. Hints of cherry,currant, incense, and vanilla. Sangiovese/Cabernet/Merlot in 50/25/25 ratio.$28 / bottle Notalusa, Nero dAvola 2007 (IGT Sicilia)7 July 2011 Potent fruity plums and incense. Young peppery tannins with cigarsmoke and tobacco on the finish. Feels headier than it is. Like an unsubtleRhone-varietal wine.$10 / bottle Gaetano DAquino, Valpolicella 2010 (DOC Valpolicella)8 August 2011 Pleasant potpourri, figs, and tea notes. Slightly stemmy finish.Very smooth and mellow.$7 / bottle Piccinini, Rosso Toscana 2009 (IGT Toscana)16 July 2011 Plump fruit with tones of peppers, tobacco, and barbecue smoke.Not terribly sophisticated but very pleasant and easy-drinking.$6 / bottle A Mano, Primitivo 2006 (IGT Puglia)16 July 2011 Dark cherries and blackberries with sawdust and vanilla. Robusttannins and a whiff of incense on the finish. Powerful.$12 / bottle
Michele Chiarlo, "Le Orme" Barbera dAsti Superiore 2002 (DOC Barbera dAsti)14 October 2007 Round fruit, moderate stemmy tannins with light leather andraisin notes.$12 / bottleCastello di Fonterutoli, "Foggio alla Badiola" 2002 (IGT Toscana)?? Bloody yet smooth, fragrant woods over ripened grape skin. Soft and wellstructured.$15 / bottleVilla Doria, Barolo 1997 (DOCG Barolo)27 March 2002 Spicy earthy and very floral flavor, like roses and tulips. Long dryfinish with oak aftertaste. Very complex. Excellent.$20 / bottle Tedeschi, "Capitel dei Nicalo" Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2003 (DOCValipolicella Classico Superiore)27 March 2008 Dark fruit, with plums and cherries. Mellow smoky flavors oftobacco. Very drying.$22 / bottleTommasi Viticoltori, "Vigneto Rafael" Valipolicella Classico Superiore 2000 (DOCValipolicella Classico Superiore)2004 Sharp and bloody attack, with tar and leather. Very drying. Moderate finish.$13 / bottle
Riunite, Lambrusco NV (IGT Emilia)14 May 2010 Fizzy and effervescent with sweet grape, rose, and Robotussinnotes. A thirst-quencher.$6 / bottleWhite WinesBollini, Pinot Grigio 2001 (DOC Trentino)?? Moderate grassy flavor with light citrus fruit. Sharp acid. Pleasant.$10 / bottle Casalfarneto, "Fontevecchia" Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore2002 (DOC Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore)14 October 2004 Very crisp and clean, with light apple, melon, and apricotflavors . High acid but pleasant.$13 / bottle Ricossa, "Antica Casa" Moscato dAsti 2009 (DOCG Moscato dAsti)2010 Sweet peaches, melons, and effervescent tropical fruit. Very good!$15 / bottleLuisi, Moscato dAsti 2009 (DOCG Moscato dAsti)31 December 2010 Bright and very crisp with fruit citrus and peaches. Sweetbut not sticky finish, with light honey flavors.$14 / bottle
Rashi, Moscato dAsti 2005 (DOCG Moscato dAsti)12 September 2007 Sweet and fruity nectarine, orange, and honey flavors.Pleasant.$13 / bottleRashi, Moscato dAsti 2007 (DOCG Moscato dAsti)24 October 2009 Sweet peach and citrus with a slight touch of honey.Minimal effervescence.$14 / bottleArnaldo Caprai "Grecante" Grechetto del Colli Martani 2006 (DOC ColliMartani)13 September 2007 Heady and lively tropical flavors. Dry and crisp.$17 / bottleRuffino, Orvieto Classico 2008 (DOC Orvieto)25 June 2010 Crisp and acidic, with grapes, citrus, and pears. Short mineralfinish.$10 / bottleLamura, Bianco di Sicilia 2008 (IGT Sicilia)19 June 2010 Crisp attack with surprisingly plump mouthfeel. Slightly headycitrus and green apples. Made from organic Catarratto grapes.$10 / bottle
Risata, Moscato dAsti NV (DOCG Asti)23 December 2009 Light fruity peach-melon sweetness with a faint floral taste.Nearly clear and minimal effervescence.$17 / bottle Bartenura, Moscato 2008 (IGT Provincia di Pavia)13 November 2009 Sweet and effervescent, with a slight hint of peach. Somewhatthin.$15 / bottle Bartenura, Moscato 2006 (IGT Provincia di Pavia)26 June 2007 Effervescent peach and honey, thin fruit, short finish.$13 / bottle Bartenura, Moscato 2005 (IGT Provincia di Pavia)31 December 2007 Light and fizzy, faint and simple fruit and moderate sweetness.Short finish.$12 / bottle Bartenura, Moscato dAsti 2003 (DOCG Asti)24 July 2004 Light and fizzy, with very sweet peach and apricot with a touch ofmineral.$12 / bottle Bartenura, Moscato dAsti 2001 (DOCG Asti)2002 Very melony fruit, very sweet, almost syrup in texture. More like a gooddessert wine.$10 / bottle
Sparkling Wines Bartenura, Prosecco Extra Dry NV (VSAQ)27 May 2011 Fizzy pear jelly with a creamy mouthfeel. Pleasant butundistinguished.$20 / bottle Cinzano, Prosecco NV (DOC)26 October 2011 Crisp and refreshing with jelly and pear, with apple and citruson the finish. Fruity.$16 / bottleTenuta Santome, Prosecco Brut NV (DOC Treviso)2010 Crisp and effervescent citrus with a strong mineral finish.$14 / bottle Primo V, Prosecco Extra Dry NV27 February 2010 Bright and off-dry with strong pear flavors backed by a hint ofapple. Fun.$15 / bottle Banfi, Brut (Metodo Traditionale Classico) 1997 (Piedmont, Italy)1 May 2002 Effervescent, prominent toasty beer-like yeast flavor. Smooth andcreamy, with light pear and citrus flavors. High acid, long finish.$18 / bottle