It’s common knowledge that Italian wine is some of the best wine you’ll drink, but we often don’t seem to know where the wines specifically come from and how that affects its flavor.
Do you know how many Italian wine regions there are?
There are a lot — twenty to be exact.
Within those twenty Italian wine regions, there are more than one million vineyards.
Each wine region often has its own particular grape that they tend to use and a signature wine that it’s famous for.
For example, a Pinot Grigio from Trentino-Alto Adige: that’s an exceptional wine. A Pinot Grigio from Sicily? Probably still good, but not the same. I encourage you to read this article and learn about the different wine regions of Italy so that the next time you go to buy a bottle of wine, you know without a doubt that it’s going to be a treat.
Italian Wine Regions and the Wine Classification System
Before diving into the specific regions, it is important to familiarize yourself with the Italian Wine Classification System. Italy originally modeled their classification system off of the French system. The two labels from this system that you should be aware of are “DOC” and “DOCG.”
DOC stands for Denomination of Controlled Origin. This means that wine given this mark are ones that have been made following certain winemaking practices that produce good quality wine.
This does not necessarily mean you will enjoy the wine since everyone’s tastes are different, but know that when you drink this wine, it will be of outstanding quality and not a cheap table wine.
DOCG stands for Denomination of Controlled Origin Guaranteed and is one tier above DOC. Similarly, a bottle of wine that is given the DOCG label has been produced under winemaking practices that guarantee the wine is of the best possible quality.
The winemaking process is more regulated for wines of this quality than for DOC.
The other lower-tiered labels are IGT and VdT. While you could still very well enjoy these wines, know that it is not up to the same standards as DOC and DOCG wines.
Some regions produce more DOC and DOCG wine than others. Knowing what these terms mean can be helpful when you’re stuck between ordering two different glasses of wine, and if you see a DOC label on one and not on the other, go with the one with the DOC label because you know it is of a certain quality.
While there are twenty wine regions, some of them are more famous, more unique, or produce more wine than others. We will focus on eight of these regions.
Piedmont is a region in northern Italy that is known for producing the most DOCG wines. Because of their Barbera grapes, Nebbiolo grapes, and Dolcetto grapes, they are recognized for their deep reds, such as the Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Regarding white wine, Piedmont’s most famous is their Moscato.
Piedmont’s rival, Tuscany also produces many DOC and DOCG wines. Tuscany, located in central Italy, provides many different kinds of wine, but there is one in particular that stands out. The Chianti made from Sangiovese grapes is an extremely popular, classic red wine.
Located in northeast Italy, Veneto is not a very large region, but it’s a region that produces some of the most wine. The Glera grape turns into Veneto’s popular Prosecco, and the Garganega grape makes a rich white wine called Soave. For red wine, the Corvina grapes turn into a wonderful Amarone.
Lombardy is in northern Italy. This region produces many great, light red wines, but it’s their whites in particular that grabs people’s attention. Franciacorta and Lambrusco are two sparkling white wines that bring fame to Lombardy.
Umbria, in central Italy, is famous for their reds. In particular, the Sagrantino is one that is a special of the region. Umbria also produces a lot of red wines from Sangiovese grapes. If you want to try a white from Umbria, try one that is made from the Grechetto grape that is fairly unique to the area.
In the Alps of northern Italy lies Trentino-Alto Adige. This region is best known for their whites, mainly Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Additionally, their sparkling wine made from a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is trendy and worth trying if you enjoy Champagne.
Sicily is the most southern wine region of Italy, but more importantly, it is an island. Because it is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has a unique climate compared to the other Italian wine regions, resulting in wines that are very fruity and rich. Sicily is most famous for its Nero d’Avola, a very dark and decadent red wine.
Like Sicily, Sardinia is a wine region that is an island. For a long time Sardinia was ruled by Spain, and because of that, the wine is very Spanish-influenced. Most popular wines from Sardinia come from the Cannonau and Carignan grapes that produce red, fruity wines.
While the regions listed above are some of the most interesting, famous, and largest Italian wine regions, there are so many more to explore. Abruzzo, Campania, Lazio, Marche, Puglia, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Molise, and Valle d’Aosta all have specialties that make them unique and are worth checking out. If you’re interested, it could be a fun game with friends to try and compare Pinot Noirs or Moscatos from all different regions and see which ones you like the best! And if you are lucky enough to be traveling around Italian, remember to bring a wine case.
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