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Introduction to Italian Wine

We have to start somewhere with every complex topic, and Italian wine can certainly be placed in the category of complex. Thousands of grapes, hundreds of regions and centuries of history make for a topic with both breadth and depth.

Lets start by looking at a couple notable grapes and a few notable regions, and focus on the big ideas that are pertinent to understanding, explaining and selling wines from Italy.

DOCG's are the highest classification level for Italian wine.

If we were to learn just 2 grapes to start, those would be Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. These red grape varieties are responsible for some of the greatest red wines in Italy, and represent their growing area as well as any indigenous grape variety around the world.

Nebbiolo is found in Piedmont, a region in the northwest area of the country. There are many small sub-regions that make fine examples of Nebbiolo, no more so than Barolo and Barbaresco.

Sangiovese is the most revered grape in Tuscany, being the main grape in the blends of Chianti and the sole grape in the wines of Brunello di Montalcino. The history of wine production goes back thousands of years in Tuscany, and the passion for wine is palpable when visiting the region.

As for the geography of Italy, there really isn't a country in the world that is set up for agriculture the way Italy is. With so many microclimates and moderating features, the peninsula is perfect for growing certain agricultural products.

The Piedmont and Tuscany regions, along with their famous wines in Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, respectively; are joined by a few other wines of note one should be familiar with. Amarone della Valpolicella, a Corvina based red blend from the Veneto region, is a favorite among Italian wine drinkers. Pinot Grigio from the northern areas of Friuli and Alto Adige are also sought after by those looking for light and bright white wines. For some really quality examples of whites, look to Campania in the south (Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina & Greco di Tufo), as the cuisine leans toward seafood and the wines are made to match.


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