Italy is well-known for its vineyards and that is no accident. Not only do its wine regions produce a large volume of wine, they are also extremely diverse and offer a wide range of grape varieties. Below is an overview of Italy’s vineyards to help identify the main producer regions and grape varieties.
What are the primary features of Italy’s vineyards?
Italy is the world’s leading producer of wine and also its main exporter country by volume.
Just like in France, Italian wines can be certified under appellations. There are three main categories:
- DOC or Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which is the equivalent of France’s AOCs
- DOCG or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which imposes strict rules, particularly due to the Gloria law
- IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which are similar to regional wines.
The vineyards of Italy boast distinctive diversity. As a Mediterranean wine country, Italy’s vineyards are extremely varied and spread over some twenty different wine regions.
The major Italian wine regions
Despite the large volume of wine produced by Italy and the number of wine regions across the country, most of the wines are grown in the Piedmont, in North-West Italy, Veneto in the North-East and Tuscany, in the Centre-West.
Sicily is a relatively low-profile wine region which produces quality wines. Over the past few years, however, its wine industry has developed, particularly the production of white wines in vineyards grown around the foot of Mount Etna.
What are the main grape varieties in Italy?
When a country has many different wine regions, this often implies many grape varieties and Italy is no exception to the rule. Here is a cursory glance at the best known grape varieties grown in Italian vineyards.
In the North-West, in the Piedmont region, Nebbiolo is grown. It produces age-worthy red wines divided into two categories – Barolo and Barbaresco. Asti Spumante, a sparkling white wine with relatively low alcohol, also comes from the region.
In the North-East of Italy is the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region where fruity wines like Colli Orientali Del Friuli are grown.
In Tuscany, in the centre of the country, the best known wines are Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montalcino, all three of them red wines classified as DOCG.
Farther South, in the Apulia region, wine growers mainly produce DOC-ranked wines such as Castel del Monte, Locorotondo, Salice Salentino, San Severo and Martina Franca.
There are also white wines from Sicily made from varieties such as Malvasia and reds from Nero d’Avola.
The variety of the Italian vineyards allows the country to produce both red and white wines, still and sparkling. Although most Italian wine is produced in three major areas, there are vineyards in around twenty different regions altogether, each with its own specific characteristics mainly due to differing weather patterns.