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Regions

Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Description to Italy

Italy is one of the oldest wine-growing countries, with origins dating back at least to 1,000 BC. At that time, the Etruscans appeared in central Italy and settled areas of the four present-day regions of Abruzzo, Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria. The origin of Italian wine culture lies primarily in Greek colonisation, which brought Greek viticultural culture to the peninsula beginning in the 10th century BC on the island of Sicily as well as Campania and Calabria. The Greeks brought many of their grape varieties with them and named the land ideal for viticulture Oinotria (land of vines grown on stakes). Likewise, at this time, the Phoenicians (Punic), who later became a great enemy and established bases in Sicily and the Mediterranean, exerted an influence. From the 6th century BC, a lively trade began with the Celts in Gaul (France), who imported considerable quantities of wine from Upper and Central Italy.

Italien - Ausbruch des Vesuv Pompeji und Amphoren aus Apulien

The Romans willingly learned from all these peoples and brought viticulture and winemaking to a high art and blossom. By the 3rd century BC, grapevines were widespread throughout the peninsula and by the 1st century BC, wine culture reached a peak. The city of Pompeii was the wine trading centre and main supplier to Rome until its destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 BC. The most famous ancient wines at this time included Caecuber, Falerner, Raeticum and Surrentiner. The Romans planted vineyards in the newly won provinces in what are now France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and England. Wine became an import and export article and the Romans already made wooden barrels for it, having learned this from the Celts (Gauls).

Many Roman authors wrote very extensive works about viticulture and wine culture in the Teril, thus providing a very precise picture. The spectrum ranges from purely scientific (doctrinal) writings to poetic descriptions and descriptions of the eating and drinking culture. Of particular note is Satyricon, a portrait of the manners of the Roman upper class. The most important authors in chronological order are Cato the Elder (234-149 BC), Virgil (70-19 BC), Horace (65-8 BC), Ovid (43 BC to 8 AD), Columella (1st half of 1st century), Petronius (14-66), Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Palladius (4th century). Wine became a cultural medium of the first rank; in continuation of the Greek cult of Dionysus, the wine god Bacchus enjoyed great veneration. The Romans were very creative when it came to wine-making techniques. One speciality was flavouring to make the wine tastier and more durable.

Sparkling wine was already produced by storing the amphorae in cold spring water (interruption of fermentation). In the first century AD, people were intensively engaged in the breeding of grape varieties and tried to find the most suitable vine for the respective soil. Pliny recognised that above all the area and the soil, i.e. according to today's nomenclature the origin and the terroir, determine the quality of the wine and that, for example, Uva Rhetica (variety for the Raeticum) does not produce good wine outside its cultivation area, but only produces quantity. It was recommended that vineyards should be cultivated and vinified in single vineyards, so that the varieties could be better assessed. Many of today's autochthonous vines are descended from the ancient grape varieties cultivated at that time. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and the turmoil of the migration of peoples, wine culture fell into oblivion and was only cultivated by monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church through the production of mass wine.

There was a great upswing at the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century. In order to revive viticulture, Pope Paul III. (1468-1549) put French wine under ban and had surveys of Italian wine drawn up. As early as 1716, under Grand Duke Cosimo III. (1642-1723) from the Medici dynasty in Tuscany, the zone for Chianti was established, making Italy one of the first countries with a designation of origin. But it was not until the 19th century, when wine types such as Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti were created with French help, that a new beginning was ushered in.

Wine-growing regions

The soil is characterised by great diversity, but the climate has common influences despite local differences. The Alps shield against cold north winds, the Apennines form a 1,500 kilometre weather divide from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south. The Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west of the boot, as well as the numerous rivers and lakes, have a determining effect. The best regions have temperatures between 12 and 16 °C, sufficient snow and rainfall in winter and warm to hot summers with sunshine until late in autumn. Vineyards are planted from sea level up to 1,000 metres above sea level. The 20 wine-growing regions coincide with the political regional boundaries:

Italien - Serralunga d´Alba -Barolo - Piemont

Region (dt.)

Region (Ital.)

Capital

Hectare

Abruzzo (1) Abruzzo L'Aquila 33.000
Valle d'Aosta (2) Valle d'Aosta Aosta 500
Apulia (3) Puglia Bari 88.000
Basilicata (4) Basilicata or Lucania Potenza 2.000
Emilia-Romagna (5) Emilia-Romagna Bologna 53.500
Friuli-Venezia Giulia (6) Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste 27.000
Calabria (7) Calabria Catanzaro 8.900
Campania (8) Campania Napoli 25.600
Latium (9) Latio Roma 20.500
Liguria (10) Liguria Genoa 1.650
Lombardy (11) Lombardia Milan 24.700
Marche (12) Marche Ancona 16.000
Molise (13) Molise Campobasso 5.400
Piedmont (14) Piedmont Torino 44.000
Sardinia (15) Sardegna former Tinakria Cagliari 26.700
Sicily (16) Sicilia Palermo 119.000
Tuscany (17) Tuscany Firenze 60.500
Trentino-South Tyrol (18) Trentino-Alto Adige Trento 15.500
Umbria (19) Umbria Perugia 12.500
Veneto (20) Veneto Venezia 96.400

Grape varieties and vineyards

At the beginning of the 1990s, the area under vines was still well over one million hectares, but this has been reduced by around 200,000 hectares due to subsidised grubbing-up programmes by the European Union and subsequently other measures. In 2014, 44.3 million hectolitres of wine were produced from 690,000 hectares of vineyards. This puts Italy in the top league worldwide (see under wine production volumes). Wine is grown from the north of the country (Trentino-South Tyrol) to the deepest south (Sicily) and on the islands in the Mediterranean. However, the more than 400 DOC and DOCG zones account for only about one fifth of wine production. There are around two million grape producers, 340,000 cellars and 45,000 wine bottlers. With over 2,000 different grape varieties, Italy has the most in the world, quite a few of which are of ancient (Greek) origin. Of these, however, "only" 400 are officially authorised. The grape variety table in 2016 with the top 50 (statistics Kym Anderson):

Grape variety

Colour

Synonyms / Italian name

Hectare

Sangiovese red Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, Nielluccio 68.428
Trebbiano Toscano white Trebbiano di Cesena, Tália, Ugni Blanc 35.441
Montepulciano red Cordisco, Morellone 32.724
Catarratto Bianco white C. B. Comune, C. B. Lucido 28.563
Merlot red - 24.057
Chardonnay white - 19.769
Glera white until 2009 Prosecco, Teran Bijeli 19.730
Trebbiano Romagnolo white T. della Fiamma, T. di Romagna 19.059
Pinot Gris white Pinot Grigio 18.821
Barbera red B. Amaro, B. d'Asti, B. Dolce 15.006
Pinot Gris white Pinot Grigio 17.281
Cabernet Sauvignon red Cabernet 14.240
Nero d'Avola red Calabrese, Niureddu Calavrisi 14.129
Tribidrag / Zinfandel red Primitivo 13.896
Muscat Blanc white Moscato Bianco, Moscato Reale 13.334
Negroamaro red Abbruzzese, Purcinara 11.431
Aglianico red Aglianico del Vulture 9.627
Malvasia Bianca di Candia white M. Bianca, M. di Candia, M. Rossa 9.028
Garganega white Grecanico Dorato 8.522
Syrah red - 7.693
Nebbiolo red Chiavennasca, N. del Piemonte, Picotèner 7.551
Grillo white Ariddu, Riddu, Rossese Bianco 7.382
Vermentino white Favorita, Pigato 6.703
Lambrusco Salamino red Lambrusco Galassi, Lambrusco di Santa Croce 6.228
Corvina Veronese red C. Comune, C. Gentile, C. Nostrana, Cruina 6.222
Bonarda Piemontese red Balsamina, Bonarda 5.926
Lambrusco Maestri red Grappello Maestri, Lambrusco di Spagn 5.610
Cabernet Franc red Cabernet Frank 5.590
Garnacha Tinta red Cannonau, Tai Rosso, Vernaccia Nera 5.421
Pinot Noir red Pinot Nero 5.057
Inzolia white Ansonica, Insolia 4.740
Verdicchio Bianco white Trebbiano di Lugana, Trebbiano di Soave 4.674
Gaglioppo red G. di Cirò, Galloppo, Lacrima Nera 4.626
Dolcetto red Dolcetto Nero, Nibièu, Nibiò, Ormeasco 4.381
Sauvignon Blanc white Pellegrina, Sauvignon Bianco 3.935
Falanghina Flegrea white F. Beneventana, F. Flegrea 3.634
Rondinella red Nessuno Conosciuto 2.683
Croatina red Bonarda, Nebbiolo di Gattinara, Neretto 2.678
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo white T. Abruzzese, T. Campolese, T. di Teramo 2.630
Nero di Troia red Somarello, Uva di Troia 2.512
Sauvignonasse white Friulano, Tai, Tuchì (formerly Tocai Friulano) 2.503
Cortese white Corteis, Cortese Bianca 2.405
Pinot Blanc white Pinot Bianco 2.337
Trebbiano Giallo white Greco di Velletri, T. dei Castelli, T. di Spagna 2.275
Fiano white Apiano, Fiano di Avellino 2.087
Greco Bianco white Greco Bianco di Cosenza, Pecorello Bianco 2.050
Viognier white Viognier Blanc 1.827
Grechetto di Orvieto white Grechetto Bianco, Grechetto Spoletino 1.824
Nerello Mascalese red Mascalese Nera, Nerello Calabrese 1.805
Ancellotta red A. di Massenzatico, Ancellotti, Lancellotta 1.700


Wine law

Until after the Second World War, the emphasis was more on mass. Then, from the 1960s onwards, a profound change took place. The first area where the "Italian wine miracle" made itself felt was Chianti-Classico in Tuscany, where a radical break with the past was made. The Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli wineries in this region and later Ca' del Bosco in Lombardy, among others, made a decisive contribution to this. In the last third of the 20th century, Italian wine underwent extremely positive changes. With a new wine law, the new quality designation "Denominazione di Origine Controllata" (DOC) was introduced in 1963, which contributed decisively to the improvement of quality. Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first DOC wine to be designated in 1966. It was not until 1980 that the highest level "Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita" (DOCG) followed. Further changes were made in 1992 with the "Goria Law" named after the Minister of Agriculture Giovanni Goria (1943-1994), which introduced the IGT level.

Wine categories / quality levels

In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation became valid for all member countries with fundamental changes to the wine designations and quality levels. There are the following new designations or quality levels (see also in detail under Quality System):

  • Vino (formerly Vino da Tavola or table wine) = wine; without and with indication of grape varieties and/or vintage
  • IGP or the alternative old designation IGT = local wine
  • DOP or the alternatively possible old designations DOC and DOCG = quality wine

In April 2010, the new national wine law came into force, replacing Decree No. 164 of 1992. It was not content with merely adapting to the new EU law, but made a few substantial innovations. The old and new designations may be used alternatively or together. The reason for this choice is to avoid a "flattening" of DOCG to DOC, since both would be standardised if PDO were used exclusively and DOCG is still to be placed above DOC in terms of quality. In summary, there are now stricter and more clearly formulated regulations.

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) or
IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta)

Country wines must be subjected to an analytical test (a sensory test is only carried out for DOC/DOCG wines). The wine must have a typical, geographically determined characteristic. The requirements are lower than the DOC/DOCG or DOP level. The areas are usually much larger and sometimes encompass entire regions. From the 1980s onwards, the high quality of some IGT wines from Tuscany led to the term Super Tuscan. There are a total of 118 IGT/IGP wines with about 30% of the production. A range can cover an entire region such as Tuscany.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or
DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)

These quality wines with a controlled designation of origin must be made from specified grape varieties and vinified according to fixed quantities and methods (see below). Some DOC zones produce only one wine, others several in different colours, grape varieties or types. The German-language equivalent for South Tyrolean wines is the designation QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete). The 332 DOC wines account for around 25%

DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)

These quality wines with a controlled and guaranteed designation of origin represent the highest Italian "class of honour", which guarantees the authenticity of particularly highly esteemed wines. The 74 DOCG wines account for only about 5% of production. For a complete list, see below.

Additional quality designations

Three terms are used to designate a special quality in quality wines. The term Classico designates traditional areas of origin or core zones within a DOC/DOCG or DOP area that are qualitatively better or favoured due to the soil and climate. For example, there is a DOCG area Chianti and a DOCG area Chianti-Classico. With higher alcohol content, lower yield limits and/or longer ripening periods, the terms Superiore and/or Riserva are permitted.

Production regulations

The regulations vary greatly depending on the DOC/DOCG area.

Grape varieties

For DOC/DOCG or DOP wines (quality wines), only the respective authorised grape varieties may be used. For IGT/IGP wines (local wines), varieties under experimental cultivation are also permitted. They must be named in the regulations, whereby this can also be done in percentage terms with a 1% tolerance (previously only the composition in the vineyards was prescribed). Table grapes may also be vinified; the previous prohibition has been lifted.

further regulations

In addition to grape varieties, these include bottle shape, minimum maturation times in barrels and bottle, minimum values for alcohol content, acidity and total extract (dry extract), as well as colour and aroma. A sensory and analytical test is carried out before the wine is marketed.

Information on the label

It is also possible to indicate the subzone (sottozona), municipality (comune), district (frazione), microclimate zone (microzona), winery (fattoria, cascina or podere) and vineyard plot (vigna) for wines of exceptional quality. This further emphasises the importance of origin.

DOCG wines

DOCG wines generally represent the absolute pinnacle of Italian wines. When wines have maintained their quality for at least five years, they are awarded DOC status, and DOCG status after a further five years at the earliest. Theoretically, a single, excellent branded wine can also achieve DOCG status if it "does Italy honour", but this has not yet happened. The very first wine classified as DOCG was Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Tuscany in 1980, followed in the same year by Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino. It took a relatively long time before the first white wine to be crowned was Albana di Romagna from Emilia-Romagna in 1987. The first sparkling wines were Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti from Piedmont in 1994. The list of 75 DOCG:

DOCG area (alternative name)

Colour

Main grape variety

Region

Aglianico del Taburno red Aglianico Campania
Aglianico del Vulture Superiore red Aglianico Basilicata
Albana di Romagna white Albana Emilia-Romagna
Alta Langa white, rosé Chardonnay, PN Piedmont
Amarone della Valpolicella red Corvina, Corvinone Veneto
Asti (Asti Spumante) white Moscato Bianco Piedmont
Bagnoli Friularo (Friularo di Bagnoli) red Raboso Piave Veneto
Barbaresco red Nebbiolo Piedmont
Barbera d'Asti red Barbera Piedmont
Barbera del Monferrato Superiore red Barbera Piedmont
Bardolino Superiore red Corvina Veneto
Barolo red Nebbiolo Piedmont
Brachetto d'Acqui (Acqui) red Brachetto Piedmont
Brunello di Montalcino red Brunello Tuscany
Cannelino di Frascati white Malvasia varieties Latium
Carmignano red Sangiovese Tuscany
Castel del Monte Bombino Nero red Bombino Nero Apulia
Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva red Nero di Troia Puglia
Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva red Nero di Troia Puglia
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva white Verdicchio Marche
Cerasuolo di Vittoria red Nero d'Avola Sicily
Cesanese del Piglio red Cesanese Latium
Chianti red Sangiovese Tuscany
Chianti Classico red Sangiovese Tuscany
Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto white Pignoletto Emilia-Romagna
Colli di Conegliano white, red various Veneto
Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio white Moscato Veneto
Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit white Picolit Friuli
Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco white Glera Veneto
Conero (Rosso Conero Riserva) red Montepulciano Marche
Dogliani red Dolcetto Piedmont
Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba red Dolcetto Piedmont
Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore (Ovada) red Dolcetto Piedmont
Elba Aleatico Passito (Aleatico P. dell'Elba) red Aleatico Tuscany
Erbaluce di Caluso white Erbaluce Friuli, Veneto
Fiano di Avellino white Fiano Campania
Franciacorta white, rosé Chardonnay, PN Lombardy
Frascati Superiore white Malvasia varieties Latium
Gattinara red Nebbiolo Piedmont
Gavi (Cortese di Gavi, Gavi di Gavi) white Cortese Piedmont
Ghemme red Nebbiolo Piedmont
Greco di Tufo white Greco Bianco Campania
Lison white Tai/Friulano Friuli, Veneto
Montecucco Sangiovese red Sangiovese Tuscany
Montefalco Sagrantino red Sagrantino Umbria
Montello Rosso red Merlot, Cab. Franc Veneto
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane red Montepulciano Abbruzzo
Morellino di Scansano red Morellino Tuscany
Moscato d'Asti white Moscato Bianco Piedmont
Moscato di Scanzo red Moscato di Scanzo Lombardy
Nice red Barbera Piemonte
Offida white, red different Brands
Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico white, rosé Pinot Noir Lombardy
Piave Malanotte (Malanotte del Piave) red Raboso Piave Veneto
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale red Primitivo Apulia
Ramandolo white Verduzzo Friuli
Recioto della Valpolicella red Corvina, Rondinella Veneto
Recioto di Gambellara white Garganega Veneto
Recioto di Soave white Garganega Veneto
Roero white, red Arneis, Nebbio Piedmont
Rosazzo white Friulano Friuli
Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato red Ruchè Piedmont
Sforzato di Valtellina (Sfursat) red Chiavennasca Lombardy
Soave Superiore white Garganega Veneto
Suvereto red various Tuscany
Taurasi red Aglianico Campania
Terre Alfieri white, red Arneis, Nebbiolo Piedmont
Terre Tollesi (Tullum) white, red Montepulciano a.o. Abruzzo
Torgiano Rosso Riserva red Sangiovese Umbria
Val di Cornia Rosso (Rosso della Val di Cornia) red Sangiovese, CS Tuscany
Valtellina Superiore red Nebbiolo Lombardy
Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva white Verdicchio Marche
Vermentino di Gallura white Vermentino Sardinia
Vernaccia di San Gimignano white Vernaccia Tuscany
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona red Vernaccia Nera Marche
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano red Sangiovese Tuscany


Institutions, bodies and personalities

Influential Italian wine writers and critics are Burton Anderson, Daniele Cernilli, Giancarlo Gariglio, Fabio Giavedoni, Luigi Veronelli and Franco Ziliani. They work or publish in many wine magazines and wine guides such as Gambero Rosso, Slow Wine and Veronelli-Guide. The most important international wine fair is Vinitaly.

Pompeii: By MapMaster - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Amphorae Apulia: By AlMare - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Map: By TUBS - Own work, edited elements from Bergamo, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Barolo: By M^3 - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

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