Italy Abruzzo Piedmont
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.
Situated in the north-western part of Italy, the region of Piedmont is known worldwide and is highly respected for the quality of the wines produced there. Many of the most successful sub-regions in Piedmont produce many of the world's finest red wines, such as those made from the excellent Nebbiolo grape varietal in areas such as Barolo and Barbaresco. However, the historic wineries which typify this region use a relatively wide variety of grapes, including Dolcetto and Barbera for their red wines, which are typically aged and have a delightful velvety character. Piedmont isn't all about beautifully complex red wines, though, as it is also famed for high quality, elegant sparkling wines, notably the Asti wines made with the white Moscato grape. The region benefits from a range of terroirs which are often well expressed in the sparkling wines, and a wonderfully consistent climate ideal for vineyard cultivation.