Italy is one of the oldest and most prestigious wine producing regions in the world. The Ancient Greeks even called Italy Oenotria, "the Land of Wine." Italy ranks alongside France as not only the major wine producer in Europe, but produces approximately 1/5 of the world's overall production. Italian wine is changing fast with international grape varieties, techniques and ideas merging with native ones.
Important wine-relevant geographic characteristics of Italy include the extensive lattitudinal range of the country permits wine growing from the Alps in the north to almost within sight of Africa in the south. Italy is a peninsula with a long shoreline, contributing moderating climate to coastal wine regions, and the extensive mountains and foothills providing a range of altitudes for grape growing and a variety of climate and soil conditions.
Historically, Italian wines were rarely pressured to be exported as local loyalties meant that people naturally drank wine from their own province. Chianti is one of the few exceptions as it has felt the pressures of the world marketplace similar to French Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne. In the 1980s and 1990s, winemakers began to adopt new attitudes and techniques due to the internationalization of wine and consumers increasing awareness of quality concerns.
Italy has 20 administrative regions with almost 300 denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) zones. Tuscany is Italy's most important quality wine-producing region and without a doubt the most dynamic. The region is known throughout the world for the red wines of Chianti, which in the 1960s acquired a bad reputation only to recover in the 1980s after innovations in Italian winemaking. The most important Chianti zone, Chianti Classico, is a smaller northern zone, which works closely with oenologists, which have dramatically improved winemaking techniques.
Tuscany has many important indigenous wine varieties. Sangiovese is a red wine grape variety, the pride of Tuscany. Its wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. It produces Chianti Classico, which uses Sangiovese as its dominant grape, blending it with red grapes of lesser character, like canaiolo and mammolo, and sometimes the two white grapes, malvasia and trebbiano. Trebbiano is the dominant white grape of central and Northern Italy. Malvasia, an ancient vine, is pale-skinned with pungent flavor and makes dry and sweet, dark and light wines in the southern half of Italy.
|Geographic Coordinates:||42° 50’ N, 12° 50’ E|
|Population (2006 est.):||58,752,000|
|Per Capita GPD:||$28,760|
|Bordering Countries:||Austria, France, San Marino, Holy See (Vatican City), Slovenia|
|Total Wine Consumption (2001):||30,500,000 hectoliters|
|Per Capita Wine Consumption (2001):||52.92 liters per capita|
|Total Wine Production (2001):||50,093,000 hectoliters|
|Total Vineyard Acreage (2001):||2,244,000 acres|
|Indigenous Grape Varieties:||Barbera, Malvasia, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Trebbiano|
|Cheers in Italian:||Cin! Cin! or Salute!|