Behind French wine, Italian wine may be the best-known in the world. It is one of the most ancient wine growing areas in the word, with vines being introduced by colonising Greeks as far back as 800BC and perhaps much further. Today, Italian red wines range in character from the fruity and easy drinking Valpolicella all the way through to the mighty Barolo. Chianti, meanwhile, has long been a favourite. Italian white wines have also become much more widely drunk in recent years, with Pinot Grigio edging out classics like Frascati and Soave in popularity. Italy is also known for its famous sparkling wine, Prosecco, which is enjoyed as a low-cost alternative to Champagne in many wine bars around the world.
The appellation system for Italian wine
Since 1963 there have been four classes of Italian wine. The first of these is known simply as Vini. This is the most basic Italian wine and the label only records the colour of the wine. Vini Varietali wines are next. These are still generic wines but must be made from at least 85% of the grape variety indicated. Grapes and vintage are recorded on the wine label. The third classification is Vini IGP. This wine refers to a specific region of Italy and must follow strict rules on grapes used and wine-making techniques. The final classification is that of DOP, although this itself has two sub-classes of DOC and DOCG wines. These are Italy's finest wines and must adhere to strict guidelines.
The geography of Italian wines
The unique geography of Italy lands variety to the characteristics of Italian wine. Many of the fine wine regions are in the north of the country, where the foothills of the Alps lend a cooler climate that is ideal for wine making. Moving south, we come to Tuscany and in these areas we find some of the great Italian wine appellations, such as Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino. The country then stretches south into the Mediterranean, with the backbone of the Apennines providing height to compensate for the warmer climates. The long coastline of Italy also moderates the temperatures, creating a more favourable climate for wine making.
A guide for Italian wine
Gilbert & Gaillard may have their roots in France but the wine guide is a recognised authority on Italian wine. Using the guide allows readers to easily compare wines from all the different appellations and make informed choices when selecting their Italian wines.