Italy

Cirò: Calabria's Ancient Wine from the Toe of Southern Italy's Boot

The region of Calabria is the proverbial toe in the boot shape of Italy with a long history.  Its first name was, in fact, Italia most likely derived from the Italic tribes who inhabited the region.  They in turn most likely took their name from the word vituli which was the local word for the numerous caves which dot the mountainous area.  The Greeks then came to the area bringing the art of winemaking.  They called the area Enotria which meant “land where the vine is cultivated high above the earth.”  There are records from the 4th century B.C. which indicate a vineyard in this area was worth six times the value of the same size field planted with grains.  In fact, there is a group of people living today called the Grecanici who allegedly trace their roots back to Odysseus and the survivors of the Trojan War.  The area was named Calabria in the 7th century by the Byzantines. 

Italy's Aosta Valley (Valle d'Aosta): Regional History & the Buzz About Petite Arvine

In the northwest corner of Italy is the Aosta Valley.  The region, known in Italy as Valle d’Aosta, borders France to the west, Switzerland to the north and the region of Piemonte to the south and east.  This Aosta Valley is a part of the Alps mountain range.  The Valley first was inhabited by the Celts around 900 B.C.  The Romans moved thru around 25 B.C naming the land after Augusta.  Today, Valle D’Aosta is better known as a tourist destination for hikers and skiers. 

Le Marche's Le Terrazze: Bob Dylan, Chaos & Some Great Italian Wines

Le Marche (pronounced lay Mar-kay) is a region in central Italy that borders the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Apennines to the west.  Le Marche borders Emilia-Romagna to the north, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio to the west, and Abruzzi to the south.  The terrain is mostly hills and mountains once you get away from the coast.  The area has a long history matching most of the historic conquests of Italy: it was occupied by the Gaul’s, colonized by the Romans, later it was invaded by the Goths and Lombard’s, then by Charlemagne.  It was then mostly a papal state before finally being annexed in the mid-1800’s by the kingdom of Italy. 

Salice Salentino: A Drinkable, Affordable Red Wine from Italy's Apulia Region

Apulia (also called Puglia) is the region that makes up the southeast corner of Italy including the heel of the boot of Italy. Historically, Apulia has been a very large producer of wine often leading Italy in terms of quantity of wine produced. The wines produced there were rugged, rough and deeply colored, and not of high quality. Much of the production went into cheaper jug wines or was blended into generic wines. Often, the wines were scandalously blended into wines from the more premier wines of the north giving those wines deeper color and a bit of texture. Nevertheless, the locals liked their local wines. These wines, however, were rarely tasted outside their homeland as a serious individual bottle of wine.

Aglianico del Vulture: The Basilicata Region Produces One of the Great Undiscovered Wines of Italy

All the way down at the southern end of Italy, in the arch of the boot, is the region of Basilicata. It is sparsely populated with sturdy peoples of very old traditions. The people who reside there often call their region by the ancient Roman name of Lucanta. The wine making and drinking traditions there predate Rome. One of the oldest and best wines made there is from the Aglianico grape. It is called Aglianico del Vulture. In fact, it is one of the great-undiscovered wines of Italy. This is most likely due to the isolated position of Basilicata and lack of tourism.

Italy's Molise Wine Region: Where Di Majo Norante Shines

Perhaps the most obscure wine making region in all of Italy is the region of Molise. Molise is surrounded by Abruzzo, Lazio, Campania, and Apulia. Until 1963, the region of Molise was part of the same political region as Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was discussed in a previous article). In fact, the food and traditions here are closely associated with Abruzzo. Yet, its closeness to both Apulia and Campania lend it a bit of a southern influence.

The wines of Molise achieved their own independence in the 1980’s with the creation of two DOCs: Biferno (named after the largest river in Molise) and Pentro di Isernia. These hillside areas receive wonderful sunshine and are sandwiched between the Apennines Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Biferno wines can be red, white or rosé. The whites are predominantly made from the Trebbiano grape along with the Bombino in smaller proportions. The reds are a blend of mostly Montepulciano with some of the Aglianico grape. Wines from Pentro di Isernia can also be red, white or rosé. The whites are the same Trebbiano-Bombino grape blend, while the reds (and rosé’s) are usually a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

More recently, in 1968 a DOC also called Molise was created. This DOC encompasses the region and allows for white, red, rosé and even sparkling wines.

Lambrusco: The Effervescent Wine of Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region

With one last column before Christmas and New Years, I would like to continue talking about the wonderful sparkling wines of Italy. This four part series started with the wines of Asti in the Piemonte, then we explored the Franciacorta’s of Lombardia, and the last column discussed the ubiquitous Proseccos of the Veneto. All of these will make tasty and affordable additions to your holiday festivities.

In this article, I want to explore a wine that may be one of the most misunderstood wines not only in Italy, but anywhere. That wine is Lambrusco.

DOC, DOCG, IGT and VdLT: Wine Label Alphabet Soup

This may be a good time to take a step back from discussing the specific wines of Italy and discuss some of the terms that others and I have been bandying about in these articles. More importantly, this discussion will be useful when trying to read the label on a bottle of Italian wine that you may be contemplating either buying or drinking. Specifically, I would like to address the Italian wine laws that create classifications for wines based upon geographical location.

Italian Wine Regions: An Introduction

Italian wine regions and areas can be classified multiple times over, depending on the area, the climate, the history, the grapes, and through an infinite number of other ways. The following description of 7 Italian regions is meant to provide a basic guide, which will be supplemented in articles to come. The 7 regions consist of Veneto and Piedmont (to the North), Tuscany, Campania, Apulia, and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily (to the South).

A Feast of Bread and Wine: Travels Through Italy’s Wine Country

I’ve taken my column’s title from Michelangelo, who once wrote, “I feast on bread and wine, and feasts they are.” Tuscany’s most famous sculptor had his heart in the right place. Wine has been part of Italian culture since the ancient Romans began to write.
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