T he label of an Italian wine tells you everything you need to know about its pedigree. You’ll find the name of its winery (where the grapes were processed) or sometimes its vineyard (where the grapes were grown). If you are looking at the label of an estate wine, that term means a single organization owns the winery and all the vineyards contributing to the wine, and that the whole process, from seed to bottle, takes place on-site in a controlled geographic area. You’ll also see on the label the wine’s region, grape, vintage and level of quality control. SoWhich Is the Good Stuff? OldWorld producers takewine very seriously,and strict laws are in place to keep just anyone from calling their sparkling wine “Champagne” or marketing swill as a vino da meditazione (a “wine to meditate over”). There are four levels of quality assurance in an Italian wine.They are: • Vino da Tavola, or “table wine,” is the simplest designation. This wine comes from any grape or region, and the journey from grape to bottle has few restrictions or guidelines. There is nothing wrong with table wine! This is your go-to bottle, and a fine way to keep wine in your life even when you can’t afford the stuff in the locked case. • IndicazioneGeograficaTipica, or IGT,denotes awine that comes from a very specific area, though it doesn’t necessarily follow the set and inflexible legal guidelines for grape variety and production method. If you see something like Toscana IGT on the label, for example, you’ve found a Tuscan wine.This category exists because some growers began producing top-notch bottles using creative new methods, and describing these standouts as mere table wines would have been an injustice. IGT was the compromise worked out between growers and the Italian government. • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) means that a wine is made from specific types of grapes from specific, well-defined regions. As you might have noticed, each of these designations increases the precision of the wine. The goal is to reach the platonic ideal of what a wine from its region should be. • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is the apex of the Italian wine pyramid. Region, grape, production methods—even bottle size—are regulated to preserve traditional winemaking practices. Wines labeled DOCG are analyzed and tasted by government-licensed personnel before being bottled, and the tops of said bottles are sealed with official, numbered tape. (If you’ve ever seen an official-looking, computer-printed label affixed across or near the cork of an Italian wine, you were likely looking at a DOCG).There are only 74 such wines in all of Italy. Where ItalianWines Are Born Italy produces more wine by volume than any other country in the world.The country’s 20 wine regions grow over 370 unique varieties of grapes. Regions matter, because when you are drinking wine, you are drinking the Earth itself. Every year, weather, temperature and soil chemistry vary and produce what are sometimes dramatically different wines from precisely the same place. Because these wine regions have been cultivating their fields for centuries, and sometimes millennia, they each bring distinct characteristics to the barrel, and later, the bottle. Here are the wine regions of Italy, and what manners of magic you can expect to find there.

Northern Regions

Piedmont Nestled in the Po Valley and at the foot of the snow- capped Alps is the Northern Italian region of Piedmont. It is known for the city of Turin and for two of the great red wines of Italy: Barbaresco and Barolo. Both DOCG wines have a characteristic gentle ruby color,a reflection of the area’sNebbiolo grapes that are used in the winemaking. Barbaresco wines are usually lighter tasting and less tannic than Barolo. Of the Barbarescos, our Sommelier suggests Fontanafredda and Chiarlo; of the Barolos, go for Prunotto and Gaja. Piedmont has more DOCG designated wines than any other region in Italy, and is known also for the sparkling sweet wines Asti Spumante and Moscato D’Asti, both of which are made from sweet Moscato grapes. For a memorable Asti Spumante, our Sommelier suggests Gancia and Cinzano; for a good Moscato D’Asti, try Stella Rosa, Chiarlo, Risata, Luccio, Ruffino or Cavit. (Or try all six!)

Emilia-Romagna It’s hard to believe one region could produce so much good food and drink, but Emilia-Romagna has found a way. It is where Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Modena Balsamic Vinegar are produced.The region’s best-known wine is Lambrusco, a semi-sparkling (“ frizzante ”) red. Lambrusco accounts for five percent of the total wine produced in Italy. Our Sommelier suggests Riunite, Cella and Bellagio Lambrusco. Liguria The coastline of Liguria is perhaps better known as the Italian Riviera, famous for its beaches and colorful villages. It is also home to over 100 varieties of grapes and eight DOC wines. In 1972, Rossese di Dolceacqua was the first wine to be classified as such, and it is considered the region’s best grape.


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