When it comes to wine with food, there is one place that always stands out for producing great quaffable wine that tastes good with food without overpowering it with overly rich flavours - Italy.
When you think of Italian wines, you inevitably think of pasta with rich meat or cheese sauces and little bistros with great atmosphere and a soupcon of romance.
The Italians are passionate about many things: Food, football, politics, pasta, family, and wine. Traditionally, most of the fine wine produced in Italy remains in the country, and this is still true to this day. Italy is one of the oldest wine producing countries of the world. The Romans were famous for their prolific wine making and their love of the drink. Hand in hand with this passion for wine is the commitment to local style. This makes Italy one of the best producers of idiosyncratic individual types of wine.
Italian wine is classified by a special system. It divides the wines into four different groups, which are in turn divided into two sections: Vino de Tavola (table wine) and a European Union category which denotes specific regions that the grapes are grown in. Italy has 20 wine regions (all 20 regions of Italy grow their own wine) and uses over 350 different types of grapes in its many wines.
Red wine is the type of wine that most people associate with Italy, and perhaps the most famous is chianti. Chianti is produced from the Sangiovese grape, and it is this grape that also produces many of the other well-known Italian wines. Other well-known red wine producing grapes that are cultivated in Italy include: Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Negroamoro and Aglianico.
Italian white wine used to be less well known in other countries until the commercialisation of Pinot Grigio. This wine has become something of a monster, replacing Chardonnay in bars and pubs across the UK. Pinot Grigio can be a satisfying and flavourful wine, but has of late been harvested too early, due to commercial demand, leading to a host of lack lustre wines.
In addition tot his well-known variety, Italian wine is also produced
from other grapes, including Moscato, Trebbiano and Garganega. Italy also cultivates non-native grape varieties, and so produces wine from Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Riesling grapes.
Italy is also well-known for producing a sparkling wine known as prosecco. Prosecco isn’t limited to white in colour. It comes in rosé and red as well, and is a good wine for those who like wine to be light in the alcohol content, as it usually comes in about 11%.
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Fiona Muller is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years. For a great selection of Italian wines, including information on fine wines and tips for tastings, go to www.laithwaites.co.uk
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