This is part three in our series exploring wine across the globe. To read parts one and two, click the links below.
Italy has long been a hub of culture and cuisine. Since ancient times, Italian artists, leaders, and thinkers have held worldwide influence, with winemakers standing tall in their ranks. While difficulty fell upon Italy’s wine industry, sometimes decades at a time, quality now reigns in a highly regulated and revered viticultural nation.
In honor of Italy’s perseverance and excellence in wine, we have chosen to feature Italian wine in our third installment of “A World of Wine”. Please enjoy the infographic and informative article below.
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Thanks to Great Wine Direct for their picture contributions to the infographic!
The History and Structure of Italian Wine
Prolific, professional, and renowned, Italian wine has been an industry staple for thousands of years. While wine production in Italy dates back to Grecian times, the true capacity of the region’s viticulture wasn’t explored until the rise of Rome in 200 BC. Coastal lands began to build massive plantations, spreading vineyards across the empire at a rapid degree. The Roman’s scientific approach to winemaking developed techniques that stood unrivaled for centuries.
Unfortunately, the late 19th century witnessed the spread of phylloxera across Europe, including Italy. The resulting carnage forced many growers to reduce their grape varieties and focus on sheer quantity. In turn, this resulted in Italy becoming one of the world’s foremost sources of low cost wine. As can be expected, the reputation of Italian wine suffered greatly, despite efforts by some to increase and improve regulations. The answer to these responsible few came in the form of official wine classifications in the 1960s.
The classifications, although in constant revision, can be separated into 4 distinct tiers:
Meaning “table wine” in Italian, the lowest official tier is Vino da Tavola (VdT). While certain winemakers in the 1970s and 80s produced several unique vintages under VdT, this category is considered the lowest rung on the ladder of Italian wines.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) is a similar classification, with many varieties remaining local and enjoyed with casual meals. Wines in this category are those typical to a specific region.
The primary class of wine in Italy is Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). It envelopes well over 330 unique DOC titles, each contained in specified and controlled regions with unique regulations, all in order to retain the quality and character of each wine. Generally seen as the Italian equivalent to France’s Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), this class is worth enjoying and analyzing.
The final and highest classification of wine in Italy is Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). It guarantees wine quality and controlled methods of production, creating the ideal storage, aging, and growth situation. To ensure the quality of each DOCG vintage, a government-licensed individual tastes and tests the wine. You will often find the most fascinating varieties inside this classification.
As it stands, only 20% of Italian wines pass the DOC and DOCG standards. However, the exciting truth is that a rising number of winemakers are striving to meet those standards, raising the bar for vineyards and wineries across the nation. International recognition has been won by wines such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s Pinot Grigio, turning many eyes to the growing industry and increasing quality of Italian wine.