Italy is a world wine leader, producing and consuming more wine than any other country in the world. There are 1.2 million Italian growers, and per capita consumption is 26 gallons per person (versus about 2 gallons per person in the U.S.A!). Italian wines comprise 60% of wine imports into the U.S.A., and much Italian wine is exported to Germany and France.
The scope of Italian wines is staggering, both from the sheer quantity of grape types and different styles of wines. Interest in the world of Italian wines is growing, and although it is a world that can tend to be confusing, the rewards are there for those who persevere! Consumers looking for new wine adventures and for wines that pair well with food. are turning to traditional Italian varieties such as sangiovese, barbera and pinot grigio. American bottlings of the most popular Italian varietals, particularly the "Cal-Itals" of California, have also done their part to draw attention to the unique pleasures of Italian varietals. Several growing areas in California, including Napa Valley, Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills, appear well-suited for producing the Italian grapes varieties which thrive in warm climates and thin soils.
ITALIAN WINE LAWS
Like the French, the Italians have a system of wine laws to regulate the industry. These modern wine laws were established in 1963 to give structure to an often haphazard and unregulated wine industry. The system does have some quirks, but can be a useful point of reference for consumers attempting to understand the immense Italian wine industry.
Basic laws regulating yields, grapes used for specific wines, area restrictions for growing, viticultural practices and maximum and minimum alcohol strengths were set forward at that time. Three categories were established:
Vino da Tavola, or table wine, typically, but with some exceptions, everyday wines-simple, pleasurable and inexpensive. Ironically, this category also represents the often not-so-inexpensive "Super Tuscan" wines.
DOC wines (initials stand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata ), a translation of the French Appellation d'Origine C'ntrol'e. There are about 250 DOC zones, and approximately 700 Italian wines bearing this classification. However, only a small percentage of these have any commercial viability. Twenty DOCs account for close to 45% of the country's total DOC production.
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wines, first classified in 1980 with the intention of adding a quality classification to the top of the wine pyramid. The 14 DOCG wines indicate the highest quality (wines not only "controlled" but "guaranteed"). DOCG wines include such famous names as Barola, Barbaresco, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Additional wines are petitioning for DOCG classification, so the existing group of 14 will continue to grow.
In 1992, among many changes made, the Goria laws were passed to bring greater flexibility to production, and add a broad new category. IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), became a new classification under law, replacing vini tipici as the base of the quality pyramid. Ironically, some of Italy's most highly esteemed and expensive wines, previously sold as vino da tavola, could now in many instances "upgrade" to IGT.
CENTRAL/SOUTHERN ITALY :
The Marches, Umbria, Latium, Abruzzi, Apulia, Campania, Sicily