Italy has always been famous for its food and wine, both of which play an important part in the country’s identity and culture. It’s no surprise, then, that many of us enjoy tasting a glass or two of Italian wine.
But, drinking wine and understanding its roots are two different things. So, let us take you on a trip down viticulture lane to discover nine essential facts about Italian wine
1. Italy produces more wine than any other country
Wine production may have dropped significantly within the last year, but Italy still holds first place status (followed closely by their rival, France) in wine production.
As of this year, a staggering 39,300 hectolitres of wine have been produced by the country. We don’t recommend drinking that all at once…
2. Italian wine has a long history
Italian wine has been produced for over 4,000 years, and is considered the perfect environment to grow wine, largely due to the country’s climate (which is perfect for viticulture).
In fact, when the Greeks first stepped foot in Southern Italy, wine had already become a part of the Italian ‘everyday’ lifestyle. So much so, that the country was called ‘Oenotria’ (it’s translation meaning ‘the land of wine’).
3. Quality levels are kept exceptionally high
Italians take pride in their grape cultivation and wine production. As a result, two thirds of the country’s wine is of either DOP (39 percent) or IGP (30 percent) status. Both labels promise a bottle of wine’s authenticity and quality, however there are a few subtle differences:
- IGP (“Protected Geographical Information”) – this certificate ensures that at least part of the produce and production process were from, or took place in, the specified origin/region
- DOP (“Protected Designation of Origin”) – this certificate promises that all produce and means of production are carried out in a strictly defined area
4. There’s a ‘grape’ variety to choose from
Italy has an extensive grape variety, with the country growing and using more than 400 types of grapes to produce the eclectic range of wines they do today.
Italy’s top three grapes in terms of production levels by region, are:
5. Veneto: the heart of wine
Home to one of Italy’s most popular and romantic tourist destinations (Venice), Veneto is also prevalent for being the largest wine producing region in the country.
In 2016, the region produced over 10,000 hectolitres of wine, outdoing its closest competitors by thousands.
6. Italian wine and pasta are a perfect match
What could be more Italian than a glass of wine and a hearty bowl of pasta?
Fortunately, for those of you who struggle with food and wine pairings, the Italian rule of thumb is particularly simple: red for red, white for white. For example:
- A tomato based pasta pairs nicely with a medium-bodied red wine
- A cheesy pasta dish perfectly suits a full-bodied white wine or a light-bodied red wine
- Seafood pastas can be eaten with both light and medium-bodied white wines
- And vegetable (or herb) based pasta dishes are suited to light-bodied white wines
7. The birth place of prosecco
If you attend any celebration, party or social gathering, it’s likely you’ll be served prosecco in lieu of something a little more expensive. This sparklingly wine is the new, affordable and more popular Italian competitor of champagne and has taken the UK by storm.
So, for those of you who enjoy a glass or two of this iconic beverage, you’ll be wanting to thank the Italians!
8. Italian wine is a global phenomenon
During 2016, over 225 million cases of wine were exported across the world. The top three countries buying Italian wine were:
- The USA
- The UK
9. Italy has plenty of hidden treasures
We’ve discussed some of the biggest wine-producing regions in Italy, but ‘bigger’ doesn’t always mean better. In order to fully appreciate Italy’s offerings, it’s worth being adventurous and tasting great quality wines from varying backgrounds.
Eager to experience a taste of Italy?
Italy creates wine with passion, quality and the country’s historical roots in mind. However, the only way to truly understand the craftsmanship is to taste the wine itself.
If you’re keen to try more of Italy’s finest vinos, check out our online shop and try some of our recommended Italian wines
Here are just a few suggestions to whet your appetite:
2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Monte La Parte Selection from PiccoliOur favourite£45.00 Buy now
Our favourite Amarone: this concentrated, indulgent special selection from Piccoli goes perfectly with red meat, game or good conversation.
2011 Barolo, Vigna Mosconi from Conterno FantinoRich and voluptuous£65.00 Buy now
Our first choice for Vincarta: a rich, heady and modern-style Barolo from one of the region’s finest producers. Wine Spectator gave it 94/100.
2011 Recioto DOCG della Valpolicella Adone from PiccoliGreat with chocolate£31.00 Buy now
This half-bottle of desert wine is the perfect alternative to Port or a sweet Sauternes at the end of a meal. It pairs perfectly with cheese or puddings. The Italians drink it with biscotti and panettone but we think it works brilliantly with dark chocolate as well.
The Italians are some of the greatest wine artists in the world and, while nowadays much of it is mass produced, there are still many new experiences tucked away in the foothills for you to discover.