I recently finished a wine tour of Italy’s twenty administrative regions, briefly describing each region prior to tasting a representative wine with food, and at least one imported Italian cheese. I enjoyed this experience so much that I plan to repeat it, but only after doing something similar for France and perhaps a few other countries. I am happy enough with Italian wine to continue to drink it for the rest of my days, but there are other wine-producing countries out there, and other wines to drink. I am going to give you a bit of a report on the red wines I encountered on this wine tour, but only after a quick summary of Italian red wines, as if such an endeavor was possible. Look for a similar article on Italian white wines.
You wouldn’t be alone if you immediately think red when the subject of Italian wine is raised. In spite of extreme variations in climate, soil, elevation, and other geographical conditions, every single one of Italy’s twenty regions produces red wine. The percentage varies widely from 91 % in the southern region of Calabria to 16% in the central region of Latium.
The reality of Italy wine is more complex than first meets the eye. Who would have thought that Sicily, a southern Italian region if ever there was one, produces almost as much white wine as red wine? Considering that Sicily holds first place for Italian wine production that’s a lot of white wine. In fact, Sicily’s annual white wine production is greater than the total wine production of all but five Italian regions. But this article is about Italian red wines, not Italian white wines.
In chronological order we tasted a red wine from the southern region of Calabria, the central region of Latium, the northern region of Piedmont, the southern region of Sardinia, the central region of Abbruzzi, the northern region of Lombardy, our only rosé wine from the southern region of Apulia, the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige, the central region of Tuscany, two Vino Novellos (new wines) one from the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige and the other from the northern region of Veneto, the southern region of Sicily, the central region of The Marche, the southern region of Bascilicata, and finally the northern region of Piedmont while describing its neighboring region of the Aosta Valley. I was unable to find a wine from the Aosta Valley. I am in the process of tasting a Riserva (longer-aged) version of this last wine, and will write an article when I have finished it.
These sixteen wines varied in classification from basically unclassified table wines to IGT, DOC, and DOCG. In short, all Italian wine classifications were represented. IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which may be translated as Typical Geographic Indication, in other words a wine that typifies its specific location. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin. DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin.
The wines varied in price from $8 to $38 but only three bottles cost more than $21. Their alcohol content varied from 11.5% to 15% but only one bottle exceeded 13.5%. The vintages varied from 1999 to 2006, with slightly more than half in the range 2002 to 2004. The grapes used varied widely, including both international and strictly Italian varieties. Some wines included multiple grape varieties, while others did not. And now for the question that you’ve been waiting for, what about the quality, and in particular the quality as a function of price? That too varied widely, there were both positive and negative surprises. We overpaid and there were definitely some bargains. Which was which? Read the articles.
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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com .
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