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Italy is home to some of the world’s favorite wines with 20 regions producing their unique vintages; which counts for almost every region in the diverse nation. The varying climatic conditions, soil types and local preferences have produced a vast range of wines; with the average vineyard being a mere 5 hectares in size, containing only about 2000 vines!
Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont are among the most famous wine growing regions, although every region’s wine has its own merits. Each year, the 46,000 individual wine producers that are scattered throughout the country, produce an average total of about 50 million hectoliters. A hectoliter is a special metric unit which is used to measure wine and beer production, and is equal to 100 standard liters.
Whether you are an Expat or a tourist in Italy, wine tasting in Italy is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime.
What Are The Major Wine Growing Regions In Italy?
There are many regions in Italy that grow grapes, almost every single one in fact; however some stand out for the quality of their wine, the popularity of the grapes used as well as the variety of their wineries output. Some of the prominent wine producing regions in Italy include:
The most popular wine producing region in Italy that has an absolutely prolific output, both in terms of varieties of wine and the quality of the grapes. Best known for its red wines, including Sangiovese, Chianti, Trebbiano, Merlot (from France), Cabernet Franc (from France), Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Malvasia and the beloved Super Tuscans.
Tuscany also produces some white wines but it specializes in red wines due to the region’s climate and soil.
Piedmont is another top wine producing region and is often nicknamed ‘Italy’s Burgundy’ after the wine producing region in central France. It’s most famous wines are the Moscato, a sparkling rose or white wine, and the Barolo, a rich tasting red wine.
This is one of the largest wine making centers in Italy, located in the North, and is particularly well known for its Franciacorta wine, Chiavennasca, also known as Valtellina Enediol, and a range of sparkling wines.
Wine production in Veneto is centered around the capital, Verona, in North Eastern Italy. It’s famous for its beautiful white wines including Soave and Prosecco but it also produces the deep flavored Amorone and Valpolicella red wines.
The island found off the Southern coast of Italy, Sicily, is home to the lovely Nero d’Avola red wine and popular white wines including the Inzolia and the Grillo. Some of the region’s spectacular wines are grown on the steep slopes of the active volcano, Mount Etna in the dark, fertile, volcanic soils.
Marche and Abruzzo.
These two neighboring regions in the central territories of the country are best known for the delicious Montepulciano red wines and the Verdicchio white wines. Also, in recent times the regions have been producing a newer variety of wine known as Pecorino.
With its capital of Bologna, the central region produces popular wines including the sparkling red Lambrusco, the widely used Barbera red wine, Trebbiano and the well loved Sangiovese wines.
When Is The Best Time To Travel To Italy For Wine Tasting?
Depending on what aspect of the wine industry you are most interested in there are different times of year during which you should plan your visit. Italy has a climate with four main seasons: autumn, winter, summer and spring. Growing wine is completely tied to the seasons of the year, with short windows for planting, harvesting and making the wine that is based on thousands of years of history and local practices.
January – Time To Meet The Winemakers
If you want to avoid the main rush of tourists and other visitors then the best time of year to plan a wine tasting tour is during January, when the season is much slower, there’s less going on at the vineyard and owners are happy to supplement their income showing visitors around. When you visit in the quietest time of the year you will not only get to taste the wine but you’ll also be able to meet and talk to the owners, the master winemakers and other members of their team. Having the opportunity to speak with the producers yourself gives you a fascinating insight into what really goes into the making of their wines.
April – The VinItaly Wine Exhibition.
Taking place in Verona, in April, the VinItaly is the largest wine exhibition in the world. Each year, if you are a wine professional or connected with the industry, you have the opportunity to meet the winery owners, master winemakers and other highly qualified staff that are behind the incredible wines of Italy. Featuring wine competitions, awards and much more, the incredible exposition features more than 3000 wines from all over the world, including of course, Italy.
May – Wine Tasting Trips.
The best time of year for wine tasting is during May, when the amazing nationwide Cantine Aperte wine festival takes place. This is Italy’s largest wine festival that takes place right across the country, with most major vineyards and wineries taking part. ‘Cantine Aperte’, literally meaning ‘open cellars’, is when wineries invite visitors to come and taste their unique wines! As mentioned, all major wineries take part, but excitingly, many smaller winemakers who don’t otherwise invite visitors also open their doors for wine tasting sessions!
September – The Production Of Wine.
If you’re more interested in seeing the production process of winemaking then you should plan for your trip for mid September. This is the month when wineries are harvesting their grapes, fermenting and bottling their wine, as well as undertaking all aspects of production and quality control. This is the perfect time to get a real idea of what it takes to make the wine you love to taste, and naturally, while you are learning about the process you can also taste wine produced by the winery in previous years!
Important Tips For Your Wine Tasting Trip.
When you’re planning your wine tasting trip to Italy there’s a few things you do to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible!
While travelling around vineyards and tasting wine you should always dress comfortably; so certainly worry about any formalities! Dress in accordance with the time of year that you are visiting.
For instance, the winter months in Italy, including January, can get very chilly so you’ll want to bring a few jumpers and a warm, weatherproof coat. During the spring and summer months temperatures can get pretty hot, particularly if you’re out and about visiting vineyards, walking around the properties and travelling during the day. If you’re sensitive to the sun then you will need a hat!
Of course, if you want to though, you can also bring some nice smart clothes for the evenings when you’ll have the chance to eat out in local restaurants and even, on occasions, at candle lit dinners on the vineyards.
Carefully Plan Your Budget In Advance.
A wine tasting tour will find you in the lap of luxury but by the same token it can get pretty expensive pretty fast – depending on the tour you are taking! You’ll need to set aside money for accommodation, for eating out in the evenings as well as paying for the tour, the wine and other extras that you have along the way. In Italy, when you visit a winery, an average price for a tasting can be anywhere between 20 and 50 Euros per person.
Decide What Wines You Want To Taste In Advance.
There’s a vast range of wines that are grown in Italy, varying not only from region to region but also from vineyard to vineyard. This huge variety is part of what makes the wine of Italy so unique and well loved around the world but it also means that you’ll have to do a little research to get the most out of your trip.
If you are wondering about the types of wine that you prefer and haven’t had a lot of experience in tasting wine, then there’s a few things you can do before you plan your trip to help you decide which region to visit.
Firstly, you can start buying new and different wines at the local store to try them for yourself. When you are buying wines though you should be prepared to pay at least $20 per bottle, if not a little more, so you get a good quality vintage. If you find something you really like then make a note of it and move on to another type of wine the next time you go by the store.
Secondly, you can join a local wine tasting club where you’ll get to taste the whole gambit of wines and, in most cases, you’ll also learn about the vintage, the grapes and much more besides. This is the perfect way to dip your toes into the world of wine tasting before you take a trip to Italy to experience the magic of winemaking in it’s homeland.
Lastly, if you want to taste some different wines for free then you can keep your eye out for complimentary tasting sessions at your local wine store! Staff will be on hand to explain about the wines you are tasting and it will be free as well, so keep this handy trick in mind.
Follow The Wine Tasting Etiquettes.
When it comes to tasting wine and really experiencing the flavors and aroma of fine vintages it’s not just a matter of drinking it by the glass! There’s five preliminary steps to take before you finally taste a small amount of wine in your mouth.
- Firstly, start with a clean, clear wine glass with a good round body that will capture the aroma of the wine.
- Secondly, pour a small amount of wine into the glass. You shouldn’t be filling the glass by any means and instead putting between 10-50ml of wine in your glass to taste.
- Next, spend a few moments appreciating the color of the wine. This will give you an indication of its depth, body and the type of flavor it may have.
- Now it’s time to swish the wine around the glass several times by moving the glass in a circular motion. This will help to release the flavors and aroma of the wine.
- Lastly, before tasting, you need to put your nose over the rim of your glass and breathe in smoothly. You’ll smell the aromas wash over your senses and you’ll really get a feel of the wine’s flavor.
Eat Food That Pairs Well With The Wine You’re Drinking.
Once you’ve learnt to properly taste wine and appreciate its essence you should always eat food that goes well with the wine! For instance, certain white wines go particularly well with certain types of white fish while steaks and other meats are traditionally eaten with a full bodied red wine.
Of course, as with all personal preferences there are no strict rules but when you’re first exploring the qualities of wine it’s usually better to go with the traditional advice!
Always Ask Plenty Of Questions.
When you’re learning about wine, wine tasting and how it pairs with food, never be afraid of asking lots of questions! If you’re at a vineyard the winemakers will be more than happy to tell you all about their creations and what the foods are that go best with it.
Experience The Wonder Of Italy’s Culinary Heritage For Yourself.
When you’re planning a trip to Italy to experience the winemaking traditions it’s advisable to book a tour with an established company. They will handle all the arrangements as well as arrange your transport from one vineyard to the next.
Alternatively, if you plan to go it alone it’s highly advisable to hire a driver to get you around because the last thing you want to be doing is trying to drive on the windy, narrow roads of Italy after a few glasses of wine!
Whatever you decide though, it’s an extremely enjoyable and fun journey to learn about the wines of Italy; and once you have found some personal favorites you’ll be able to savor them back at home, and for the rest of your life!