Our Top Italy Wine Regions
When it comes to Italy, it’s all about food and wine (in addition to thousands of years of history, monumental art and architecture, and unbeatable Mediterranean scenery and weather).
But today, we’re going to focus on Italy’s incredible wines, specifically the Tuscany and Puglia wine regions.
Italian Wine Designations
Before we jump into specifics, we should cover a few important classifications that govern Italian wine production. Beginning in the 1960s, the government established criteria to protect the authenticity of the country’s wines. You’ll probably see labels on the necks of Italian wine bottles that indicate their designation.
DOCG—which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita—designated wines meet the strictest criteria regarding production techniques, types of grapes, alcohol content, aging, and taste. DOC wines—Denominazione di Origine Controllata—are more common, as their rules tend to be less strict. And finally, IGT—Indicazione Geografica Tipica—producers don’t meet the above criteria but are still crafting excellent wines.
When you think of Italian wine country, you’re probably picturing Tuscany. Cypress trees lining dirt roads, vineyards hugging the curves of rolling hills, and centuries-old stone villas perched above it all. Wine production has thrived in the region since the time of the ancient Etruscans, over 3,000 years ago.
About 80% of Tuscany’s wines are red, and Sangiovese is the major grape varietal of the region. Sangiovese grapes offer an extremely versatile flavor profile, from tart berries to earthy peppers and tomatoes, which accounts for the great variety across Tuscan wines.
The major wines produced in Tuscany include Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Super Tuscans. The Chianti Classico region is located in the center of Tuscany, stretching from Florence south to Siena. Chianti is probably Italy’s most famous wine on the global stage; its popularity abroad dates back to the 17th century.
To the south and east of Siena are the towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano, Cortona, and Arezzo, which are famous for producing Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello’s complex flavors make it ideal for aging. Super Tuscans are a category of red blends known for their experimental spirit; many of them are designated IGT wines.
While it may not have the name-brand power of Tuscany, Puglia is actually Italy’s most prolific region—it produces about 17% of the country’s wine, more than any other region. Located on “the boot” of Italy, Puglia’s sunny climate, cool Mediterranean breezes, and fertile soil are ideal not only for grapes, but also for olive trees. Half of the country’s olive oil is produced here.
The most common grape varieties in Puglia are Primitivo and Negroamaro, which produces the popular Salice Salentino wine. These red wines are full-bodied, fruit-forward, and make an ideal complement to Mediterranean food. While the region was originally known for producing inexpensive wines for export, the quality of production has increased dramatically over the last few decades. There are now 29 DOC zones in Puglia, and renowned winemakers are crafting elegant wines that are quickly gaining an international reputation.
Embrace the Italian lifestyle and visit to enjoy these wonderful wines yourself!
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