Vineyard Italy: Oenotria or the land of trained vines

The whole of Italy is a vineyard. Italy has the largest area under vine in the world, despite having decreased its vineyards by half as a result of EU grubbing up schemes, and generally vies for first place with France for volume of wine produced, depending on the vintage. Italian vineyards can be found in all twenty regions of the country and are as diverse as they are numerous.

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Some vineyards in Italy are amongst the most prized in the world. Wine lovers seek out the great red DOCGs from Piedmont and Tuscany such as Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Barbaresco, whilst others quaff Chianti, Soave and Pinot Grigio in restaurants and bars across the globe. Italy has a wide spectrum of styles of wines thanks to its varied terroir and climate.

The long, thin peninsula of Italy’s boot extends from the Alps in the north to the sun-baked island of Sicily in the south. Northern Italy’s climate is continental, whilst the centre and south is Mediterranean. The sea is never far away from Italian vineyards and they profit from cooling sea breezes, moderating the extreme summer temperatures in the centre and south of the country. Italy’s other dominant feature is the Apennines, the central ridge running right down the country to the toe of the boot. The Alps, the Dolomites and volcanoes, both extinct, dormant like Vesuvius or active like Etna also provide elevation to help grapes retain their aromatics and acidity in Italy’s hot climate.

As well as excellent climatic conditions, Italy also offers a wide range of terroirs and soils. However many of its most prestigious wines come from from the calcareous soils of Piedmont, Tuscany, the hills of Friuli and Salento in Puglia.

Some vineyards in Italy are amongst the most prized in the world. Wine lovers seek out the great red DOCGs from Piedmont and Tuscany such as Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Barbaresco, whilst others quaff Chianti, Soave and Pinot Grigio in restaurants and bars across the globe. Italy has a wide spectrum of styles of wines thanks to its varied terroir and climate.

Piedmont is most famous for its fickle, late-ripening Nebbiolo, stately in the guise of Barolo and Barbaresco, grown in the vine-clad hills of the Langhe, where it seems there are vines wherever you turn. The other red wines of the Piedmontese trinity – Barbera and Dolcetto – generally play second fiddle to Nebbiolo, but are increasingly producing juicy, structured wines. Asti Spumanti and Moscato d’Asti find their home here too. Cortese also thrives in the limestone soils around Gavi where it produces refreshing, crisp white wines. Sangiovese is prized in Tuscany in the prestigious DOCGs of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. The hillside DOC of Friuli Colli Orientali serves up taut, fresh whites from Friulano, Malvasia Istriana and Ribolla Gialla, whilst Salento in Puglia weighs in with the red Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera as well as producing some excellent rosato.

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The other dominant soil type is volcanic, which can be found in Soave, Castelli Romani, Campania’s interior, Basilicata and Sicily. Sicily’s still active Etna has some of the highest vineyards in Italy, producing Carricante for Etna Bianco and Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio for Etna Bianco. The picturesque Aeolian Islands, the archipelago which includes the uber-active Stromboli produces the luscious sweet Malvasia delle Lipari, whilst Pantellaria, closer to Africa than mainland Italy, is home to the unctuous, aromatic Passito di Pantelleria. Soave and the Castelli Romani, the most famous of which is Frascati, produce crisp, light whites principally from Garganega, and Malvasia and Trebbiano, respectively. Campania’s big names include the whites Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo and the weighty Aglianico del Taburno and Taurasi, both produced from the Aglianico variety. Italy’s poorest region contributes with its own heavyweight, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, produced on the slopes of an extinct volcano.

At Wine Paths, our team of local experts can help you explore the terroir and vineyards in Italy.

 

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