Italy is still the largest producer and exporter of wine in the world with annual production of more than 50 million hectolitres of wine.
Wine was probably grown in the country as early as 800BC and the Romans added significantly to wine production of the age.
There are more than 900 different wines produced with the DOC classification system, which is the equivalent of the French AC system. DOCG is the top classification and stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. Wines with a DOCG label must meet all DOC requirements and be bottled ion the region of production with a rubber stamp from a Ministry of Agriculture taster – what a great job!
After DOCG comes the ubiquitous DOC classification, with wines subject to controls on yields, grape varieties, region produced etc.
Then comes IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) which was introduced in 1992 and is similar to the French Vin de Pays.
Finally comes Vino da Tavola, or table wine.
If you fancy a bit of a language course, check out the following translations, which will help you decipher some of the Italian wine labels:
Bianco – white
Rosso – red
Rosato – rose
Secco – dry
Dolce – sweet
Annata – vintage
Fattoria or Tenuta – estate
There are more than 1,000 grape varieties used in the production of Italian wines, which could cause the student of Italian wines major headaches. Fortunately there are only a handful of common grapes, which make up the most popular Italian wines.
There are three popular wine producing regions in Italy (but plenty of smaller ones not covered on this website – apologies):
Italian vintage wine guide, year by year, can be found here.