A Tour of Italy was the theme for our Fine Wine Divas February event and Acqua al 2 in DC, my favorite Italian restaurant here and in Florence, was the perfect spot for it.

Italy, which is slightly smaller than the state of California, is one HUGE vineyard, stretching from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south. It is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, and has overtaken France as the world’s largest wine producer. There are over one million vineyards in the country! This great map from De Long is an incredible resource that captures it.

Some other great Italian wine region facts…

  • Italy is divided into 20 wine-producing regions that are subdivided into almost 100 provinces and 8,100 communes.
  • There are over 2,000 varieties of Italian wine – far surpassing any other country in terms of variety.
  • There are over 1,000 different grape varieties, most of which are indigenous. 100 of these varieties have shown capacity to make great wine.

Wine in Italy dates back to Etruscans and Greek settlers. Ancient Greeks called their Italian colonies Oenotria, the land of wine. Romans started their own vineyards in the 2nd Century B.C. The Romans developed techniques still used today, like large-scale production and storage like barrel-making and bottling leading.

Italian Wine Classifications

Many wine country’s classifications system can be confusing. Here’s how to make sense what you’ll find on Italian wine labels.

  • Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG):  Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin includes the most famous wine producing areas. Similar to DOC but wines must pass government analysis.
  • Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC): Denomination of Controlled Origin is modeled on the French AOC system. This classification is based on geography, grape varieties and production methods.
  • Vino a Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): Typical Geographic Indication is a less strict classification. These wines use the geographic name of a zone to designate a wine made there, like Toscana (Tuscany) or Sicilia (Sicily). At least 85% of the wine must come from the named geographic zone.
  • Vino da Tavola (VdT): “Table wine” can be produced anywhere in Italy and usually designates cheap bulk wines. However, some of Italy’s best wines have been produced under this classification.

Additional designations you will see…

  • Classico: Classic, refers to a more restricted production area that is held to be particularly suited for product and historically recognized as such.
  • Superiore: Superior, refers to a higher alcohol content.
  • Riserva: Reserve, refers to the longer aging period used.

On our tour of Italy, we enjoyed six Italian wines from five regions across Italy, from north to south: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Piedmont, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Campania.

  • Fantinel Spumante Prosecco Extra Dry NV (IGT)
  • 2011 Bruni Plinio Vermentino Maremma Toscana (IGT)
  • 2011 Tenuta La Cipressaia Chianti Classico DOCG
  • 2007 Visconti Della Rocca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva DOC
  • 2010 Damilano Barbera d’Asti DOCG
  • 2001 Serpico dei Feudi di San Gregorio Irpinia Anglianico
The resounding favorites of the group were…

Fantinel Spumante Prosecco Extra Dry NV (IGT)

  • VarietyGlera (formerly known as Prosecco) from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region
  • AromaGolden apple, pear, honeysuckle
  • Taste: Crisp and fruity with undertones of spice and nut
  • Price: $16, available on winedeals.com, wallywine.com
  • My Thoughts: This is an excellent Prosecco that everyone enjoyed and commented about how it was the perfect balance of dry and fruit without much sweetness. Prosecco is my favorite bubbly and a great economical bubbly option.

2010 Damilano Barbera d’Asti DOCG

  • Variety: Barbera from the Barbera d’Asti region in Piedmont
  • Aroma: Sour cherry and earthy
  • Taste: Sweet jam, berries, light tobacco or leather
  • Price: $16, available  on wineaccess.com
  • My Thoughts: This is a big wine and was our 5th of the evening. Everyone was impressed with it’s complexity and for such a great price!

There are so many wines to explore in Italy. Grape Occasions has many articles on Italian wine, and in the next few articles, we’ll highlight some other Italian tastings we’ve done in the past few months to help in your Italian exploration.

Share with us YOUR favorite Italian!

Saluté to the wonderful world of Italian wine!