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.
Pinot Gris :Of similar origin to Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris owes most of its American popularity to Oregon winemakers (though the Willamette Valley version bears little resemblance to Italy's Pinot Grigio!). It is much less perfumed that Gewurztraminer, with very little aromatic quality. It makes up for that with its food versatility and rich extract of tree fruits such as peaches and pears. Pinot Gris exhibits and exciting spicy quality and acidity in the mouth.
Pinot Gris is generally found wherever Pinot Noir is grown, especially in France where it is to be found in Burgundy, but nowadays it is better known in Alsace. There are plantings in Germany, Italy and in Central and South-East Europe, in U.S.A. where small plantings have been established in several states, and in Australia.
In Australia, although a variety bearing that name was introduced in 1832, it is only in the 1990s that the true variety has achieved recognition by growers and consumers, with the most important but small plantings located in Victoria, and Tasmania and South Australia.
In Australia the varietal label Pinot Gris will usually indicate a wine made in the full-bodied style of Alsace in France and Germany, whilst the label Pinot Grigio will usually indicate that the wine is made in the dry, lighter, Italian-influenced style.
Despite being one of Italy's smallest wine regions, the central Italian region of Umbria is a vitally important one, and home to many of the country's finest and most historic wines and wineries. The reputation of Umbrian wines may have suffered in the 1970s, along with the produce of much of the rest of the country, but the 1980s and 1990s saw significant efforts made by vintners when it came to improving their produce and overall image. By consulting international oenologists, the wineries of Umbria were able to update their traditional techniques, and produce considerably finer wines from their Sangiovese grapes, as well as from imported varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Indeed, the barrel fermented white wines of Umbria, now made with a blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto varietal grapes, has gone on to be something of a flagship product for the region, and is regarded as one of the best and most characterful white wines in Italy.