There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it. As historically one of the most important regions in the world regarding trade and experimentation, it comes as no surprise to discover that Veneto has always been a well respected and innovative wine region. This area of north-easterly area of Italy benefits greatly from a continental climate tempered by the Alps, and plenty of influence from the Germanic countries it is near to. Veneto is most commonly associated with beautifully elegant white wines, such as those of Soave, and has over ninety thousand hectares under vine. Impressively, within that area, over a third of the vineyards in the Veneto region have been granted official AOC status, and many of the sub-regions and appellations of Veneto have gone on to be world-famous in regards to quality. One such example is Valpolicella, where some of Italy's finest and most complex red wines are produced.
The northeastern most region of Italy is home to three important wine regions once known as Tre Venezie (Three Venices) because they were all part of the Venetian kingdom. Veneto is third in production after Apulia and Sicily, and the home of some of Italy's more recognized wines. Wines from the area surrounding the town of Verona include the white Soave, the sparkler Processo and the reds Valpolicella, and Bardolino.
Wines labeled Valpolicella are among Italy's lightest and fruitiest, blended from corvina, rondinella and molinara grapes. Passito is the Italian term for dried grape wine, and Valpolicella has two versions. Recioto della Valpolicella is made from raisined grapes in a sweet style. The dry version, one of Italy's most full-bodied wines, is called Amarone.
Bardolino uses the same basic grapes as Valpolicella. It may be light and red, or pink (a style called chiaretto). The white wine Soave, is made from garganega and trebbiano grapes, and although generally dry and still, does exist in sweet (recioto) and spumante styles. Soave is second only to Chianti in volume among DOC wines, and Prosecco is the second most requested sparkler after Asti. The area Breganze, with some vineyards in the foothills of the Alps, and some on the gravelly plain to the north of the city of Vicenze, produces a variety of international and Italian grapes.