The Greeks first grown grapes for wine production in Italy around 800 BC. During the Roman Empire, wine production flourished and was a major source of trade during Rome’s reign. Today, Italy is a major wine producer and leading exporter of wine world-wide. Italy is considered to be one of the most complicate and challenging countries to master their extensive wine assortment. Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry acknowledges that today, over 850 grape varietals are used to make Italian wines. Most are small production wines that never leave the country. Because of the great numbers of wines produced, Italy saw the need to implement a classification system. The goal is to standardize the grape varietals used in a vicinity’s wines (i.e. Chianti wine in the Tuscany vicinity must use between 75 – 100% Sangiovese grapes to gain DOC position) and to provide consumers with a quality grading system.
Italian wines have these four general classifications:
– VDT, basic Italian table wine.
– IGT, denotes wine from a specific vicinity in Italy, but not adhering to Italian wine laws.
– DOC, refers to specific appellations in Italy and only using grapes approved for use in that wine vicinity.
– DOCG, wines that have DOC position and are winners in blind taste tests, making them the highest quality wines of a vicinity.
Italy has 20 major wine regions. For red wines, the Piedmont and Tuscany regions produce the world-famous Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo (nick-named the King of Italian reds) and Barbaresco wines. The Sangiovese grape is used to make the Brunello wines of Tuscany, while the Nebbiolo grape is used to make the Piedmont’s noble Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
Italian White Wines
Other than Pinot Grigio, most Italian white wines are not in addition known as their more famous red wine cousins. Italian white wines tend to be soft, acidic and pleasant. They are great partners with food or enjoyed by themselves as good sipping wines. Northern Italy produces some of Italy’s best white wines. The three major regions are Veneto, Fruili-Venezie Giulia and Trentino Alto-Adige. Italian white wines are affordable, so give these wines a try:
– Soave – from Veneto, is dry and crisp with flavors of peach and apple
– Pinot Grigio – Italy’s most well known white, is light, dry and crisp with lemon and citrus notes
– Verdicchio – from Marche, is a medium-bodied, dry and crisp wine with distinct mineral and lemon flavors
– Orvieto – from Umbria, is medium-bodied, dry and crisp with aromas of apple and pear
– Gavi – from Piedmont, is medium-bodied, dry and crisp with notes of floral, melons, mineral and honey
– Arneis – from Piedmont, is light to medium-bodied, dry and has aromas of pear and almonds
– Prosecco – from Veneto, Italy’s famous sparkler, is slightly sweet with lemon, almonds, melon and honey flavors
Offering world-class cuisine, Italian wines were designed to be food friendly and approachable. Geography always plays a role in food pairings. As Italy is surrounded by water, many wines pair well with seafood and fish. Those include Pinot Grigio, Gavi, Soave, Arneis and Orvieto wines. Salads pair well with Prosecco and Pinot Grigio wines. Grilled chicken pairs well with Orvieto and Pinot Grigio wines. Light pasta dishes pair well with Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Arneis and Verdicchio wines. Verdicchio and Soave wines also pair well with basil/pesto sauce, fish and creamy risotto with vegetable dishes.
Italian Pasta Recipe
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)
Easy to prepare and tasty
1 lb Spaghetti
6 Tbsp Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup recently grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/2 cup recently grated Asiago Cheese
1/2 Tbsp Coarsely ground Black Pepper
Salt to taste
– In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add spaghetti and cook until al dente; drain but do not rinse.
– Place cooked spaghetti back into pot
– Add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream over the spaghetti while stirring in 1/3 of the two cheeses
– Repeat this course of action two more times (2 Tbsp cream and 1/3 of cheeses), until all the cream and cheeses are mixed
– Once the spaghetti is coated with cheese, sprinkle the black pepper and stir to mix
– Salt to taste
– move to serving bowl and Mangia!
The peppery character of this pasta dish calls for a fruity red wine, like Barbera.
Italian White Wine Picks
2009 Zenato Lugana San Benedeto 90 pts. R. Parker
2009 Tamellini Soave 88 pts. R. Parker
2010 Terredora Falanghina 88 pts. R. Parker
2008 Inama Soave Classico 89 pts. R. Parker
2010 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio Not in addition Rated, Quality Producer
2008 Broglia Gavi la Meirana 90 pts. R. Parker