Italy is one of the most fascinating of all countries to visit from a wine point of view. Italian wine has a seemingly infinitive amount of variety and mirroring the country, it remains extremely regional. Indeed the concept of a united Italy is, to a great extent only “political”; if you tour the Italian wine regions you will find that they have very distinct characteristics in culture and language, and, in the style of the food and wine.
Italy is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The Etruscans in present day Tuscany and the Greek settlers in the south produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards in the second century BC. It was the vineyards of the former Greek cities such as Falernum, Caecubian and Mamertine that became the prestigious crus. Archaeological evidence has shown recently that the Etruscan wine industry and trade to Gaul was very large scale. The Roman wine industry was well organised, pioneering large-scale wine production and storage techniques like barrel-making and even bottling.
2000 years on, and Italy is still one of the world’s most important producers, and is responsible for approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine production. To put this into some sort of scale – Sicily alone as an Italian wine region produces more than Germany and almost as much as Australia.
One of the great benefits that Italy enjoys, especially today when increasingly wine lovers are becoming disillusioned with standardised ‘Cabarnet’, ‘Chardonnay’ and ‘Sauvignon’ tasting the same wherever it comes from – is that Italy has an immense number of indigenous grape varieties, many of which are not grown outside of a specific region let alone outside of Italy. Whereas the varieties of Sangiovese of Chianti fame and Nebbiolo of Barolo and Barbaresco may be well known, delights as Ribolla Gialla, Lagrein, Uva di Troia, Marzemino, Negroamaro, Refosco dal Penuncolo Rosso remain to be discovered! – That is why wine touring in Italy can be so rewarding (plus the wonderful food, countryside, cities, opera etc etc).
Italy also has such a wide range of climatic conditions from the coastal Tuscan area of Bolgheri to the mountainous regions of Alto Adige, that every single style of wine is produced. These include some world class serious reds of Barolo, Barbaesco and Chianti; superb sparkling wines from the Franciacorta region; whites with great ageing potential from Friuli; the powerful reds of Puglia and Puglia; through to the exquisite sweet wines such as the Vin Santo of Tuscany and the intense ‘passito’ wines from the islands off Sicily.
Italy can be a little confusing region for wine consumers to understand, as many things are that are worthwhile. There is such a wide range of wines from a quality point of view – as an example Pinot Grigio can either be a bland nondescript wine or a wonderful wine with complex minerality. Part of the attraction of wine touring in Italy is dispelling many myths around the Italian Wine scene – such as the delight of clients on the Opera & Wine Tours to Verona who rediscover Soave and Vapolicella as serious world-class wines and not the jug wines of their student days. They often return home as avid consumers of Vapolicella Amarone and Soave Classico!
There is almost nowhere more rewarding for wine touring than Italy. we understand and love the country deeply. We run Wine Tours, Wine & Opera tours, Gourmet Tours and from time to time trips that cover all of these aspects of Italian culture plus history and even garden design! – Wine is a constant on these holidays, and because in Italy wine can never be separated from food, regional cuisines is paired with wine from the leading estates in whichever region of Italy you choose. We do hope that you can join us touring ‘la Bella Paese’ and please do explore our Italian tours below.