Italy is not only the largest producer of wines, but above all a producer of great wines.
Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in Italy before the Romans planted their own vineyards in the 2nd century AD. The Romans greatly increased Italy's area under vine using efficient viticultural and winemaking methods, and pioneered large-scale production and storage techniques such as barrel-making and bottling.
Important wine-relevant geographic characteristics of Italy include:
- The extensive latitudinal range of the country permits wine growing from the Alps in the north to almost-within-sight of Africa in the south.
- The fact that Italy is a peninsula with a long shoreline contributes moderating climate effects to coastal wine regions.
- Italy's mountainous and hilly terrain provides a variety of altitudes and climate and soil conditions for grape growing.
- Italy's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has documented over 350 grapes and granted them "authorized" status. There are more than 500 other documented varieties in circulation, as well.
Vineyards and Wineries in Italy
A vineyard is a plantation—of any size—that grows grapes meant to produce wine. A winery is a licensed property that makes wine. So, a vineyard can have a winery that produces wine from the grapes it grows, but it can also sell its grapes to outside wineries and purely act as a grape-grower
Italian Appellation System
Indicazione geografica tipica (IGT) was created in 1992 to recognize the unusually high quality of the class of wines known as Super Tuscans, used to describe red wines from Tuscany that may include the use of non-indigenous grapes, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. IGT wines are labelled with the locality of their creation, but do not meet the requirements of the stricter DOC or DOCG designations, which are generally intended to protect traditional wine formulations such as Chianti or Barolo.
Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) controlled designation of origin
Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita (DOCG) controlled and guaranteed designation of origin.
“Classico” is reserved for wines produced in the region where a particular type of wine has been produced "traditionally". For Chianti Classico, this traditional region is defined by a 1932 decree. Riserva (“reserve”) may be used only for wines that have been aged at least two years longer than normal for a particular type of wine.
Soil types of Vineyards in Italy
As the name suggests, this soil is born of volcanic territory which is extremely rich in Italy from the South to the North. This dark colored soil gives wine hints of acidity, freshness and mineral characteristics thanks to the presence of phosphorous, magnesium and potassium. This is ideal soil to produce wines such as the Soave from Veneto, Moscato di Pantelleria from Sicily or the Falanghina Flegrea from Campania.
One of the great prides of Italian viticulture is the limestone-clay soil which is particularly suited to producing wine of the highest quality thanks to the presence of potassium and phosphorus, as well as calcium, all of which are extremely rich in characteristics. The types of wines which are best produced from this soil are Vermentino di Gallura, Sardinia or Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.
This soil is a great example of the unique peculiarities of Italian land. This sandy clay soil is ideal for robust, structured wines, rich in color thanks to the iron present in this soil. This soil produces quite important wines such as the Great Tuscan Appellations, the Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Classico and the Brunello di Montalcino. In addition to the famous Sangiovese grape, these wines gain their robust characteristics from the sandy-clay soil on which their vines are grown.
This soil is one of the most difficult for grape-growing to produce wines. It lacks in vital minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium, all of which give wine body and structure. These minerals slowly wear away over time on sandy soil. This does not mean that wines produced on sandy soil are of poor quality, in fact it is quite the opposite. Sandy soils produce wines of great freshness and aroma which are pleasing to the olfactory glands. The Carignano in Sardinia grow very easily on sandy soils and are very popular wines. Sandy soil wines must be consumed within 2 years of bottling, as they are not made for aging.