Italy Abruzzo California
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.
The ancient region of Abruzzo in central Italy has been an important center of wine production for millennia, with most archaeologists agreeing that the first vines cultivated in the excellent soils of the region were probably planted sometime in the sixth century BCE. Indeed, legend has it that Hannibal was given Abruzzo wine after he brought his elephants over the Alps, whilst on his way to sack Rome. As with many historic wine regions of Italy, Abruzzo's reputation was heavily tarnished in the mid 20th century, and it became known as a region more concerned with bulk and quantity than quality. Today, this couldn't be further from the truth, and wineries in Abruzzo are once more using their traditional techniques to make wonderful, characterful wines from their native grape varietals, and finding new successes and new fans all the time.
California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.