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 the 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 white wines I encountered on this wine tour, but only after a quick summary of Italian white wines, as if such an endeavor was possible. Look for a similar article on Italian red 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 white wine. Of course the percentage varies widely from 84% in the central region of Latium to 9% in the southern region of Calabria. Many of the best-known Italian white wines come from northern Italy.
But 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. Not all of it is good. But not all of it is bad, and in fact some Sicilian white wine is excellent.
In chronological order we tasted a white wine from the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, the central region of Umbria, the southern region of Campagnia, the central region of Molise, the northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giuli, the southern region of Sicily, the northern region of Veneto, and finally the northern region of Tuscany while describing its neighboring region of Liguria. I was unable to find a Ligurian wine.
These eight 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 $6 (actually $8 for a one-liter bottle) to $20. Interestingly enough they all contained from 12% to 12.5% alcohol. They were all 2004 or 2005 vintages. In contrast, the grapes used varied widely, including both international and strictly Italian varieties. Some wines included multiple grape varieties, 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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