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Italian wine regions

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Did You Know…?

  • In most years, Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine.
  • The Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Italy is the world’s No. 1 exporter of rose, with more than 40% of that market.
  • There are roughly 350 official varieties of wine grapes in Italy.
  • Italy produces almost 63 million bottles of Chianti annually.

The grapes of Italy

Wine is made in every region of Italy, and the products are reds, whites, roses, cooking wines, vermouth, plus liqueurs including amaretto and grappa. Adding focus to a wine-lover’s visit, wine festivals dot the country, as do food fairs that generally include segments devoted to wine.

The dedicated oenophile may plan an itinerary focused on the wines he or she wishes to study, taste and buy. But, because one is never far from a vineyard, the less-involved fan may choose a vacation destination first for its touristic attractions, or for the date of a wine or food festival, then add wine-related activities. Even the wine fanatic is well advised to stop and enjoy Italy’s medieval towns, view art treasures or spend time hiking or cycling the countryside.

It’s all a matter of taste, literally, but the general consensus is that three regions — Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto — produce the best wines. It doesn’t pay, however, to shortchange other areas.

The following are sample destination choices, but this list barely touches the surface:

  • Piedmont’s scenic Langhe area produces the Nebbiolo grape used in fine Barolo, Barbaresco and other reds. Turin, site of the 2006 Olympics, is the gateway to Langhe. The Moscato d’Asti sparkling whites and Dolcetto reds also come from Piedmont.
  • Tuscany, home to Florence, Pisa and countless medieval hill towns, is a wine star for its Chiantis, based largely on the Sangiovese grape. Tuscany also produces whites, some based on the Trebbiano grape.
  • Veneto is home to the Valpolicella wine district, hailed for its red blends and for white wines called Soave. Other Veneto districts produce Bardolino, a light red from the Lake Garda area, and Prosecco sparkling whites. Verona of “Romeo and Juliet” fame is Valpolicella’s gateway city, but Venice is Veneto’s top tourist city.
  • Abruzzo, on the Adriatic Coast, grows the Montepulciano grape, producing the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
  • Sicily is the place to try a red called Nero d’Avola. Also, reds and whites from the Mount Etna zone are considered comers.
  • Umbria, home to Assisi and other hill towns, is known for a white blend, Orvieto, named for one of those hill towns.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Head to Marino outside Rome the first October Sunday for the rowdy Sagra dell’Uva Festival, which concludes with fireworks and drinkable wine flowing from the town’s main fountain. Or, find a festival that includes wine barrel races.
  • Attend the five-week International Alba White Truffle Fair. The autumn event, besides including wine tastings, invites visitors on daily truffle hunts led by an experienced truffle hunter and his dog.
  • Hike or cycle through Italian wine regions. Such journeys can last several days and involve quite hilly terrain.
  • Head to Tuscany for a course in wine appreciation emphasizing tastings. Or, take your wine studies to a higher level if really passionate about the subject. Understand wine classifications and winemaking procedures. Wine courses are available in other regions, too.
  • Help with picking grapes and making wine at a vineyard in Puglia. Or, look for similar opportunities elsewhere around Italy.
  • Make yours a self-guided wine and culinary tour in Sicily, including the wine region on the side of Mount Etna, a still-active volcano.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Taste local wines everywhere. Look for local wine shops, called enotecas.
  • Schedule your visit to the medieval village of Greve, in Chianti country, in September to coincide with the region’s most important wine festival. Or, if traveling in October, make Poggibonsi your destination for the annual celebration of the area’s ancient grape-crushing technique.
  • Include an olive oil tasting, too, for a broader appreciating of Italy’s food-and-wine products.
  • In Piedmont, combine a winery visit with bird-watching. The birds are valued partners because they eat insects that may damage crops.
  • Take cooking classes and wise up about food-and-wine pairings.
  • Book an overnight stay at a winery. Some have rooms and/or apartments for rent.

Things to do for Authentics

  • In Piedmont, do your wine tasting on the world-renowned Barolo and Barbaresco estates.
  • Have lunch in a wine cellar.
  • And, buy wine in a producer’s cellar for shipment home.
  • Book an escorted group tour that focuses on food and wine, with tastings included.
  • For an informal way to sample wines, order only local wines at every lunch and dinner.
  • Schedule time for the historically important castles, churches, forts and walled hill towns in any region on your itinerary.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Italian Government Tourist Board at www.italia.it and choose your language if necessary.