Italian Wines: What You Should Know
When you think of the finest wines in the world, what do you think of? Most people associate fine wine with the French countryside and elegant dishes like Foie Gras and Confit de Canard. However, there’s a new heavyweight contender on the block. Wine connoisseurs are starting to take notice of Italian wines and for good reason. Italy’s twenty regions bring to the pallet an array of fine wines for your dining pleasure.
Italian wine making enjoys tradition rich in both modern and rustic methods, although the majority of the country’s wineries now employ scientific and technological tools to create some of the finest wines in the world. The country’s wines are made primarily from two types of grapes, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. The Nebbiolo grapes are used in the northwestern part of the country, creating the red wines Barolo and Barbaresco. The Sangiovese grapes create one of the better-known Italian wines, Chianti, and are native to the central Tuscany and Umbria regions. And of course, The famous Brunello grape (Sangiovese Grosso) has its very origins and exclusive growth here. Brunello has become one of the most famous wines in the world, prized and praised by wine critics, wine collectors and wine lovers the world over.
Italian Wine Categories
Italy’s wines are divided into four categories based on origin, quality, and purity. When looking for a fine Italian wine, look for those with the designation of “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita D.O.C.G.,” which is awarded to wines with a solid reputation. This designation considers region, production yields, and a DOC of at least five years. DOC indicates the origins of a wine, the type of grapes used in making the wine, and the methods of production. DOCG is a designation following stricter guidelines than the DOC, which includes a guarantee of origin.
The five regions of the Northwest produce over a quarter of the country’s DOC wines, but only about twenty percent of the country’s total wine production. This, then, is a good place to begin when ordering your Italian wine, as most restaurants group their Italian wines by the region, whether in general terms, such as Northwest, or by specific region, such as Piedmont. Our wine list is grouped by specific region with the vast majority of our Italian wine selection coming from the Tuscany and Piedmont regions.
The Northeast region is home to two of Italy’s wine schools, and generates about a third of the country’s DOC wines. The three regions create about a fifth of Italy’s total wine production. Veneto, one of the regions, now produces the most wine of any region in the country.
Central Italy, comprised of six regions, accounts for about twenty percent of both wine production and DOC wines. While the tradition of wine making in this region can often be described as, well, traditional, the region is moving toward more contemporary wine making methods and the overall quality has improved. Some wine experts believe that this region will continue to make great strides in wine making, so for those who love red wine, this is an area worth watching. Tuscany creates the well-known Chianti wine, as well as a variety of other Tuscan reds.
The Southern region, which includes the islands, is comprised of six regions. These regions produce about forty percent of the total production, but only about fourteen percent of DOC and DOCG wines. The region is focusing on overall quality, and this, too, is a region worth watching. For those interested in consistent quality wines, many of this region’s production offers just that.
For those new to Italian wine or wanting additional information, there is an abundance of sources. As an Italian restaurant, we specialize in Italian wine and can provide suggestions based on your individual preferences. You can also do your own research and attend one of our wine tasting. The easiest way to receive notifications about our wine tasting dinners is to join our mailing list. That way, you can choose your wine on your next visit based on your style and preference.